So here’s the deal… most HR conferences in Canada are lame.  Nothing seems to change… same topics, same booths, and often the same people from year to year.  As well, they cost a fortune.

Last year I started seeing tweets from HR folks I was following in the States on #HRevolution. I did my research, tracked down their website, and learned a lot about this mystery un-conference. To quote the organizers:

“HRevolution is an event for human resources professionals, recruiters, and business leaders to come together and talk about the problems facing businesses today. This is where thought leadership and action meet. The format for HRevolution encourages interaction and every participant has the opportunity share ideas and opinions in an open manner.”
In 2011, the conference will be held on April 29 & 30 in Atlanta, Georgia. Last year it was held in Chicago – I know… CHICAGO. I found out a few weeks ago that the folks over at Nobscot would be having a scholarship competition for free airfare, and (for those that know me) of course I had to enter!

They provided three options for topics:

  1. In what ways can new technology help HR evolve to have an even greater impact on business success?
  2. How can using technology for exit interviews, new hire surveys or mentoring program administration make these HR processes/activities more successful than handling manually.
  3. Get Creative – Describe HR in the year 2050! (Fictional story format acceptable.)

Based on my recent participation in McMaster University and Strategic Capability Network’s “FOCUS2040,” I decided to go with option #3. Blog post on my involvement in the past competition is here, and video of my presentation here (part 1, part 2, part 3).

Wish me luck!


From January to March 2010, I competed in “FOCUS2040,” a competition designed for business students across Canada to envision how work will look in the year 2040.  The 3 phases of the competition were: the workforce of 2040, the work environment of 2040, and the work systems of 2040.  After strong critique from business professionals across Canada, I made it through all three rounds and was invited to present my vision to a panel of business experts.

In the workforce of 2040, I discussed a more diverse workforce, family-centric focus, socially responsibly behaviours, and flexible work schedules. In the work environment of 2040, I took it further generating discussion on power distance, immigration rates, a bilingual society, unemployment rates, new currency policies, and nanotechnology. I concluded with the work systems of 2040, which focused on the concepts of social capital theory, social capital indexes, transformational leadership and a movement to an ethics of care model.

The outcome? I didn’t place top 3 [some brainiac graduate students did ;)], but I had the opportunity to meet fabulous people and share my vision.  What was my intention going into the competition? To show that a young HR professional is committed to the future of work and to get the workforce talking.

But wait… how did I get the workforce talking? I texted. I tweeted. I blogged. I created a Facebook Fan Page. I held focus groups. I committed myself to the topic. Reflecting back on the competition, I began to wonder. Will all those initiatives I discussed actually happen in the year 2040 – let alone 2050?

How can we have a bilingual workforce if today’s incoming Generation Y only knows one language? That gives them 30 years to get up to speed. It’s not going to happen.  How will we train leaders today on social capital theory? No one cares. Not everyone is a HR keener like myself.

One year later, I can offer you a refreshed perspective on the future of work…

When I think of the year 2050, I get excited.  No it’s not terrifying nor a strange world. To me, the difference between now and 2050 is that we will be far more productive.

I am 26 years old and sometimes I completely question my mental capacity. My mind works in 6000 directions all day long. I sit in meetings (completely engaged in the topic too!) thinking about the file that’s on my desk, a lunch date with a boy a few days later, or if an internet friend has tweeted me back. When totally bored out of my mind, I think about nail polish colors, analyze my latest horoscope (I’m a Gemini by the way), and dream of all the places I intend to see in this big bad world.

It’s not that I’m bored (well… sometimes), it’s that I can learn faster than many of my more ‘established’ peers.  Communicate the change in process or improvement quickly, provide a real life example, and finito – I get it! I thrive in quick paced environments. I’m more productive and I love it.  My mentors have taught me that their is a fine balance between a quick pace and losing quality of work. I get that… but why not push the limits?

10 year olds today have a regular school curriculum (perhaps they’re learning a few languages too), after school activities multiple times per week (dance, hockey, gymnastics), regular TV programming to catch up on, iPods to update, friends to talk on the phone to, parents to argue with, and sleepovers to schedule. One of the favourite 10 year old girl, Paige, does intensive dance 6 times a week. That is practically a part time job.

Society is grooming the next workforce, Generation Z (early 1990s to early 2000s), to be busy. They have high expectations for advancement and success. One might say, are they willing to work for it? In my opinion, that’s still debatable.  What do we know though? They thrive in a tech savvy environment. They are also self-directed and extremely individualistic. As sad it sounds, they think about themselves.

When I imagine a workforce of Generation Z… I realize how grateful that they will be mentored to success by Generation Y.  I truly believe that I have been set up for success. I had a mom raise me to know the importance of community and giving back. I have had opportunities to continually develop my skills and becoming the accomplished young lady that I am today. Lastly, I am keen on seeing future generations succeed and developing HR as a practice (not a requirement) in the workplace.  I feel that Generation Y’s skills as leaders in 2050, coupled with the brains, excitement and energy of Generation Z will create one of the most productive workforces of all time.

So I bet you’re thinking… did she really push the limits in discussing the future of work? Where are the aliens? What about technological implants in employee wrists and iris scans?

I’ve learned a lot in the last year. Most importantly I’ve learned that the majority of organizations are slow to change.

Let’s do an exercise…
  • Raise your hand if you hate your file management procedures.
  • Raise your hand if your supervisor keeps on telling you your bikini does not fit the corporate dress code.
  • Raise your hand if you too sit in long, drawn out meetings, which become ineffective after the first hour.
  • Raise your hand if you too want a $10,000 raise.
  • Raise your hand if you started teleworking from home and just couldn’t make it work with operations.
  • Raise your hand if you would love your organization to utilize iPhone’s instead of Blackberry’s.

Change is hard. I believe that people and technology will change immensely over the next 40 years. I don’t believe there will be as drastic of a change in the workplace.  Workplaces worldwide will adapt to employee preferences and technological requirements. Corporate surveys will reflect changes in workforce demographics. Project teams will be created when new software should be implemented.

Work in 2050. What’s your opinion?

This is Jillian Walker’s entry into the 2011 Nobscot HR Evolution Scholarship Competition. Nobscot Corporation is an HR technology company specializing in key areas of employee retention including exit interviewsonboarding surveys, and corporate mentoring programs.

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1 Comment

  1. jenn March 1, 2011

    Good luck girlie!

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