Andrew Keen on the future of HR in the tech age

Andrew Keen on the future of HR in the tech age
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Andrew Keen is one of the world’s best known and controversial commentators on the digital revolution. He is the author of four books: Cult of the Amateur, Digital Vertigo, and his international hit “The Internet is Not the Answer”. His latest book How To Fix The Future has been called “[a] bracing book” by Walter Isaacson and Fortune Magazine described it as “the most significant work so far in an emerging body of literature…in which technology’s smartest thinkers are raising alarm bells about the state of the Internet, and laying groundwork for how to fix it”.

Andrew Keen is a headline keynote speaker at UNLEASH World Conference & Expo in Amsterdam next week. Based upon our recent conversations with Andrew in the run up to next week’s show, please enjoy a sense of the topics he will be getting stuck onto, in his own words.

On technology and the Future of Work

The idea that technology sucks our humanity out of us, I think is probably a little dramatic, but certainly a lot of the concerns about the impact of technology on our culture and society are relevant. I would say it is particularly important and interesting in terms of the future of work because what we are doing is inventing algorithms / machines that replicate much of what we do.

The algorithm can drive cars of course, and the algorithm can serve fast food and the algorithm can replace the personal secretary. But, more interestingly in terms of this conversation, the algorithm can replace the lawyer, the doctor, and the engineer in many ways, because that sort of aggregation of knowledge, that ability to number crunch is something that we as humans can’t compete with.

The value of soft skills

So of course, the important question here is what’s left for us as humans? Where do we stand? And that’s I think where the issue of the soft ideas that most of us associate with humanity comes in – compassion, concern, care, the ability to empathize, the ability to talk to one another, the ability to exist in that grey area between the algorithm and the world. I think that’s the great challenge and opportunity, building economic value and meaning around those things.

So it’s the soft skills I think that are going to be more and more valuable. That doesn’t mean everyone becomes a therapist, but I do think that this issue of what it means to be human in the age of the algorithm is not just a kind of philosophical question, not just an existential question, although it is one, but also an economic one. The two come together.

What future for HR and talent?

HR needs to up its game, but corporations also need to invest more in HR and reward HR. I mean it’s a chicken and egg thing. How do you get better HR people? You need to pay them better. You need to reward them. And the discovery of talent is the most valuable thing within a company because companies are made by people and in the age of the algorithm when everyone has the access to the same incredibly sophisticated technology, what will distinguish a successful company from a failed company is its people, not its technology.

I think companies and HR people need to understand that the idea of tracking talent and using it, and hiring it, and keeping it for 40 years is also out of the question. They need to be able to build bridges with talent. So HR needs to be in the business of partnering, rather than hiring in some ways. The same is true of individuals. They need to rethink their relationship with corporations. You can’t have your cake and eat it. In a world of insecurity, I mean, I’m not saying everyone should become Uber drivers, which itself carries a lot of problems, but you know, it goes both ways with security. If corporations don’t give security, then we can’t expect loyalty and vice versa.

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