The New Laws of HR Transformation in the Age of Exponential Change
Understanding what the pace of technology change looks like today will help you to create a competitive advantage through HR transformation in the coming decade. If you’re not aware of how fast technology moves now, you might be caught off guard in the coming years.
This applies to staffing companies as well. As you think through your technology strategy for 2020-2030, make sure you’ve grasped the exponential rate of change and how it can impact your business. If you’re skeptical about the rate of change, consider the quote below.
The Wright brothers and linear technology change
The Wright brothers’ first successful flight was in 1903. A few years later Wilbur Wright said, “No airship will ever fly from New York to Paris. That seems to me impossible.” Then, in 1927, Charles Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris.
From “impossible” to “it happened” in less than 24 years. A 100 years ago, the pace of technology change was already so fast that it flew past the expectations of the very people responsible for creating it.
This rate of change has only sped up due to Moore’s Law. Over the last 5 decades, computers have become twice as powerful at a regular rate. Today we have computers 30 million times more powerful than they were 50 years ago and much cheaper.
So what? Well, a rising silicon tide raises all boats. Computing power increased exponentially, through integrated circuits. So did everything else, from DNA sequencing to magnetic storage to fiber optics and more…
From linear change to exponential change
The speed of technology change was linear before. Now, it is exponential. We need to throw out our old models on the speed at which we adopt new technology and change processes. These models were based on a linear perception of change that no longer applies.
In his book, The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil writes, “Most long-range forecasts of what is technically feasible in future time periods dramatically underestimate the power of future developments because they are based on what I call the “intuitive linear” view of history, rather than the “historical exponential view.”
The faster tech changes the faster everything changes
Uber is a great recent example of how a small technology improvement transformed an industry, created a new workforce, and transformed consumer behavior. When’s the last time you used a cab? And how often do you use the word “uber” as a verb? No worries, I’ll uber home.
Uber launched in 2011. 3 years later they were active in 8 different countries and we were all done calling for taxis in most major cities. By 2016, they had self-driving cars on the road picking up passengers in Philadelphia.
For reference, the app store had just launched in 2008. You couldn’t even have apps on your smartphone until after July in 2008. Then just 8 years later you could order a self-driving car from it.
Compare that rate of change with the speed of flight and the Wright Brothers. It took 24 years back then to get an airplane to go a bit further and most people didn’t even think Lindbergh would make it. Now, after just being active for 4 years, people happily jump into self-driving cars.
Some of them even trust the technology so much that they fall asleep while it drives them. Furthermore, how many people do you know that drive uber on the side? Would they have ever considered driving a cab on the side?
Technology changes the world, the workforce, and the workplace
To succeed in a world-changing at an exponential rate, HR organizations and staffing companies need to increase their rate of change as well.
In HR and staffing, rapid changes in consumer technology create changes in the perception of the workforce on candidate experience and employee experience.
Rapid tech changes create changes in the meaning of work and the relationship an employee has with an employer. Finally, rapid tech changes create exponential changes in the strategies and jobs that HR, recruiting, and staffing professionals engage in.
Change is happening right now. Very very quickly. It’s hard to grasp this. As humans, we have a hard time understanding exponential change. Did you know that if you fold a piece of paper 50 times it goes to the moon and back?
Physicist Albert A. Bartlett said it best, “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”
Approach digital transformation in a changing world
Overcome this shortcoming and switch to an exponential view rather than a linear view on the rate of change we’re experiencing. Think through how you’re approaching digital transformation at your company.
HR leaders, what are you doing to make processes more efficient? How are you dealing with the changes in the workforce? How are you adapting to the changing nature of work?
Staffing leaders, what are you doing to create a competitive advantage? How are you creating a more consumer-like experience for candidates? How are you leveraging the exponentially more powerful technology of this year to gain an advantage over competitors who still plan using a linear mindset?
It’s time we stopped laughing off the rate of change and accounted for it in the way we approach digital transformation. Things are changing faster than ever before, and they’re only going to change even faster tomorrow.