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Ep 600: Did We Predict The Future?

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I launched Recruiting Future nine years ago to attempt to understand the future of talent acquisition. Back then, social media was the biggest driver of change, and we were starting to realize how much new technologies would change the world.

Predicting the future is always risky; however, if you approach things correctly, you can spot the trends that will stick and get a sense of what is likely to happen.

I’m actually launching a short digital course next month to teach you some tools and techniques to do this. You can join the VIP waitlist for early access and a discount by going to mattalder.me/course

Back to the 600th episode. To celebrate this landmark, I invited my long-time collaborator and co-author, Mervyn Dinnen, to a studio in London to explore just how accurate some of the predictions we made in a whitepaper back in 2016 about the future of work were and to discuss what we think will happen over the next decade. There is also a video version of this podcast that you can find by following the link in the show notes.

In the interview, we discuss:

• When I first told Mervyn I was launching Recruiting future

• Tasks, not jobs, in a skills-based future

• How the pandemic accelerated trends that were already there

• Is “return to the office” HR’s version of the culture wars

• Why we thought recruiting would be “Tinderized.”

• The long-predicted demise of the resume

• Talent Marketplaces

• What does the next ten years look like

• Total Talent Thinking

• Where is the humanity in the AI-driven future of work?

• What is going to happen over the next 12 months

Watch the video version of this episode on YouTube

Follow this podcast on Apple Podcasts

Transcript:

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[Recruiting Future theme]

Matt: Hi there. Welcome to Episode 600 of Recruiting Future with me, Matt Alder. I launched Recruiting Future nine years ago to attempt to understand the future of talent acquisition. Back then, social media was the biggest driver of change, and we were starting to realize how much new technologies would change the world. Predicting the future is always risky. However, if you approach things correctly, you can spot trends that will stick and get a sense of what’s likely to happen. I’m actually launching a short digital course next month to teach you some tools and techniques to do this. You can join the waitlist for early access and a discount by going to mattalder.me/course.

Back to Episode 600, to celebrate this landmark, I invited my longtime collaborator and co-author Mervyn Dinnen to a studio in London to explore just how accurate some of the predictions we made in a white paper back in 2006 about the future of work were, and to discuss what we think is going to happen over the next decade. There’s also a video version of this podcast episode that you can find by following the link in the show notes.

Matt: So Mervyn, welcome back to the podcast.

Mervyn: Thank you, Matt. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Matt: So, Episode 600, I thought about who can I have on the show? And I thought it has to be you because you’ve been on the show more times than anyone else. I don’t even know how many times you’ve been on Recruiting Future, but as ever, it’s great to have you on the show. Now for anyone who might be listening and also watching, because we’re doing this one on video-,

Mervyn: We are.

Matt: -Could you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?
Mervyn: Okay. My name is Mervyn Dinnen. I’m an author. I co-author books with Matt. I co-author research reports with Matt. I’m an analyst, a speaker, I have an HR podcast called HR Means Business, which is part of the HR Happy Hour Network. And I speak at events. And I’m apparently an influencer. I always say apparently because I know that to certain people, I’m not an influencer, like my family.

Matt: Now, it’s tradition at this point, whenever we do a video together that I make a comment about your excellent taste in shirts. So, I’m going to say I love your shirt. Well done for being a shirt influencer, [laughs] if nothing else.

Mervyn: Thank you. Well, I did think long and hard this morning over which shirts have I worn before when I’ve been on camera with you.

Matt: [laughs] Now obviously, I’m very used to doing audio and don’t do video more often. Looking to do more video moving forward as we kind of get into the future episodes of the show. Now when I kind of look back, so celebrating 600 episodes of the podcast. Been running the podcast for nine years now. But really, I had the idea about 10 years ago. So, this is a kind of a 10-year celebration. And other than my long-suffering wife who had to put up with hours and hours of me choosing theme tunes and talking about graphics and everything I was going to do with the podcast, you were the first person I told that I was starting a podcast. Do you remember that conversation?

Mervyn: I do. It was in Starbucks in London, in Holborn, actually, for those who know London. And we were talking about, I think, writing our first kind of report together. And you told me that you were starting a podcast, and I said, “What’s one of them?” [Matt laughs] And you explained to me, and I said, “Who’s got time to listen to all of that?”

Matt: Well, absolutely. Now, I was very lucky that lots of people do, and I can’t really go any further without thanking everyone who has supported and listened to the podcast over the 600 episodes. I feel very, very grateful and thank you very much for continuing to listen. If you didn’t listen, there wouldn’t be 600 episodes. But interesting, I mean, you’ve got your own podcast now, so that’s how far things have moved on.

Mervyn: Indeed, indeed. It became apparent to me a couple of years ago that this was the medium now. When you mentioned it, the only podcasts I really knew were football fans and not very literate football fans who just used to seem to jump on a couple of microphones and burble away after a game. But now, of course, it’s everything. I mean, it’s how I find out my politics, my sport, what’s going on in the world, what’s happening in the world of HR, what’s happening in the world of talent. It’s music. It’s the way we consume now.

Matt: So, we’ve been working together for about 10 years as well. In fact, that conversation in Starbucks, we were probably talking about some of the work that we wanted to do together. As you said, “We’ve written two books, Exceptional Talent and Digital Talent. We’ve done a lot of research papers for various organizations and a lot of speaking as well in various places all around the world. So, it also kind of occurred to me that it would be good to sort of reflect on those 10 years and also reflect on how things have changed over that 10-year period, because Recruiting Future is about the future. Every week I ask people for their predictions and I thought maybe a bit of accountability. Let’s kind of look back and see what we were talking about 10 years ago and what’s come to pass, what hasn’t come to pass, what can we learn from that? And what might the next 10 years look like now?

Now, what’s helped us a lot in this is we were talking in a pub last night, which is where we do most of our planning, and you remembered that we wrote a white paper about eight or nine years ago, better not name the organization. For whatever reason, they decided not to publish it. Now, I think it was to do with a direct change in direction of their content strategy, rather the quality of what we wrote.

Mervyn: It was definitely that. [Matt laughs] It was definitely that. I’ve checked back today on emails and it was all going swimmingly, but then there was an email saying about kind of a change of direction.

Matt: Yeah. They paid us for it, so they must have thought it was okay, but it was all about the future of work. So basically, in this white paper, we predicted what the future of work would look like in 2026. Now it’s 2024, so logic would dictate that we should be fairly far along with these predictions. So, I thought it would be good to reflect on that and pick out a few of the things that we talked about in the white paper. So, I found it this morning and I sent it to you. I think you read it while you’ve been at a conference. What did you think when you reread what we wrote eight years ago about what would be happening kind of right now and over the next two years?

Mervyn: My initial thought was that we could have written this a few weeks ago if somebody had said, “Can you write us a white paper summing up kind of where we are at the moment? how things have changed over the last few years. I was surprised how, in some respects, spot on were.” And that’s not– I don’t mean to kind of make us sounds too visionary or anything. But yeah, I think we– because we did, we spent a long time talking to each other, bouncing ideas off each other, what the future might be, and challenging each other, like, “Well, if that’s going to be the future, how do we get there and what do we need?” I know the paper, the draft went down well. And not having thought about it for a good few years, I was surprised reading it earlier today that some of the conversations we’re having now and that I’ve been having as you saw] I’ve been at an event this afternoon where we’re looking at kind of, in some respects, how the last 10 years [unintelligible 00:10:59] recruitment, talent acquisitions evolved over the last 10 years, and we were predicting some of that stuff.

Matt: Yeah. I was quite shocked when I read it, [laughs] to be honest. I was like, “Some of this is quite uncanny. Some of it’s a bit way off, and it’s only fair that we draw attention to some things without doubt–”

Mervyn: Oh, yeah. Because they may happen still in the future.

Matt: Well, we’ve got two years left. That’s the thing. That’s the ultimate get out of jail guard with this. I think there’s something interesting there about trends and how you predict the future, which I’ll kind of come back to later in the conversation. But before we get there, let’s actually talk about some of the things that we talked about in the white paper. So just kind of looking at my notes, the first big one, which was kind of the first section, was it was all about jobs and all about how people would do work. And really it was about focusing on tasks, not jobs. So, people using their skills to do various parts of roles, not necessarily focusing on job descriptions or those kind of things anymore. We also talked about the death of the degree, that degrees would become more and more unfashionable when it came to deciding who was fit to do a job, apart from obviously very specific vocational qualifications. And we talked about continuous learning. Now, reading it, it sounded like a bit that you wrote. [laughs] So tell us, what were you thinking then? What do you think now? What’s happened in between?

Mervyn: Well, at the time, I was say, trying to forecast the future, and it became, I suppose, some of the conversations I was having at the time, breaking it down to the first bits that tasks, which I believe that nowadays what is fractional. I wouldn’t have thought that word 10 years ago. But that in terms of projects, in terms of even a basic thing like creating a report, it wouldn’t necessarily be the one or two people creating a project. There would be lots of input from people, you would get specialists in who maybe were specialists in certain areas that you might not have the right level of skill at. So, it’d be a lot more collaborative, a lot more people probably inputting into projects and people would–

There was this kind of, not nomadic, I was involved in a simulation last year with an organization that was trying to look at future work patterns. And some of that was around the future workforce and working from anywhere and not doing projects, but just inputting bits of things. I’ll do that. I’ll research that bit for you. There are people who are making a career out of this now. This is my specialization. You’re the go to person on X, and you know X inside out, and people will go to you because they want to hear about X. But the fact you might not know that much about Y and Z doesn’t matter that much because they can speak to somebody who knows that much about Y.

Matt: Yeah. I think it’s interesting, and certainly, as you say, with things like fractional hiring and some of the innovation that’s going on in what we would previously have called contract recruitment? That’s certainly the case. Do you think this happening in the– Because I think one of the things about this white paper is we’re very broad brush about it. We sort of come up with these predictions and seem to imply that everyone will be doing this. And I think that eight years on, we would always be much more nuanced about how these kind of changes would kind of spread through the working population and things like that. So we’re kind of very much, this is what everyone’s going to be doing. How much do you think that has changed in full-time work in the employers that you speak to, how are they looking at skills and tasks and those kind of things?

Mervyn: I think that skills have been kind of top of mind, I would say, over the last year or two we talk about the skills, agenda, we talk about skills based, we look at people developing skills-based assessments, and I think that the emerging generation in the workforce, they understand that their roles are going to be chopping and changing. They have lived through a number of changes and they know that they have to be top of mind with, I think, specific skills, specific areas of knowledge. But the thing is that they want the information, so they want access to the knowledge and information as and when they need it. And I think that we would have looked at, I suppose, learning as opposed to training as something slightly more, I suppose, global. I don’t mean in terms of region, but you learn all about a topic, whereas I think what we’re seeing are people who are very specialist in certain areas and their knowledge is very deep in certain areas within a topic, but might not be that strong in other areas.

I suppose a bit like in [unintelligible 00:16:29] the medical profession. I mean, you’ve got people who specialize in very specific areas of medicine who probably know enough to tell you, “Look, you’ve got a headache because of this, and this is what you take.” But ultimately, they’re the people you go to for very specific problems, and those are their areas of specialization. And I think in terms of what we do now, in terms of the world of work and how it changes, we are developing people who are very specialists in certain areas of knowledge, certain capabilities when it comes to AI, when it comes to programming the tech and whatever. So, yeah, we possibly didn’t predict that, but we saw something like that coming. Reading it again today.

Matt: Yeah. I think that’s interesting. And there’s a few things, I’m actually doing a research project into where employers are with skills-based thinking at the moment. And I’ll talk about that a little bit more when we talk about the future. But what is interesting and what’s very apparent at the moment is we talk about skill shortages, but what we’re also seeing is the shortening of skills. So, I’ve had various conversations with chief people officers and heads of learning and development, heads of capability TA leaders in the last few weeks. And what really comes across is this very short shelf life of skills and how that affects everything from learning development to talent acquisition. I asked people to actually put a time on it. In some cases, we’re coming back as six months. It’s like we have skills that are only valid for six months before they go out of date.

And I think what’s interesting and what we did say in the white paper was it’s about recruiting people based on their ability to learn, and their ability to have that self-directed learning and learn those new skills. And I think that’s very much what we’re seeing right now. I mean, in the white paper, for some reason, we’re talking about new skills that people might need, and there’s a whole bit about Zumba, yoga in there.

[laughter]

Matt: Which– is it yoga? I don’t even know what it is. Is that even still a thing? I’m not sure.

Mervyn: Yoga is a thing in fact.

Matt: Is Zumba still a thing.

Mervyn: Oh, Zumba ah possibly.

Matt: Possibly, possibly.

Mervyn: In fact, the conference I’ve been at today had sessions of desk yoga for people to learn, practice for when they’re sitting at desks. We had neck massage in a chair. So, these things are very, I mean, the whole well-being, that’s probably something we didn’t foresee 10 years ago. But the rise of, I think, wellbeing and the need for organizations to support the wellbeing and the mental health of their people. I mean, that’s been a big–

Matt: Yeah.

Mervyn: I know it’s another area, but that’s obviously been a big growth thing, particularly over the last four to five years.

Matt: Absolutely. And we’ll circle back to that in a minute because I think that could be really relevant to the conversation about the future. Moving on to the next topic, which was called where people will work. And this feels like the big slam dunk because we talk about remote work and people not being in the office and working from home or working from anywhere and all those kind of things. Now, in fairness, that was not us being amazing soothsayers because it was very much based on a trend that we were seeing at the time. Both of us work flexibly and work from home. So it wasn’t a stunning prediction, but obviously the pandemic has sort of accelerated that beyond the place that I think we could have reasonably thought that it would get to.

Mervyn: Yes. Back in 2014, I gave a presentation at a conference, funny enough, the same conference I’ve been at today, but it was the version 10 years ago. And in it I showed pictures of a webinar that you and I did for an HR magazine, which you were sitting at your home in Scotland. The magazine we were obviously sitting in their offices, and I was sitting on the terrace of a hotel in Mexico. [Matt laughs] I did the entire webinar with you and nobody knew I was in Mexico. At the very end I said, “Actually, I’ve been doing this from Mexico.” And there’s some comments online, like shock. But I mean,–

Matt: Disbelief.

Mervyn: Yeah. And so it’s again, it’s not something that’s brand new, but I think that it’s something that’s obviously been crystallized and it’s something that’s a bit of a– There’s almost, it’s HR’s version of culture wars [Matt laughs] about the work from home, remote, hybrid, flexible, asynchronous working. But we could see that then, certainly. I’ve been working from home for 10, 11 years, effectively working from home, as have you. I think what’s interesting is we also did some research in 2017, 2018, where we surveyed 14,000 job seekers if you remember, across 10 European countries. And one of the areas we asked them questions in was about remote working. We actually wrote a report on it, which didn’t get published, but I still have–

Matt: As a theme. There’s a theme. [chuckles]

Mervyn: Yeah. Well, no, I think it might have been published, called is The Future of Work at home. And we wrote that in 2018. I take stats out of that when I’m speaking now and say the pandemic didn’t create this. All it did was accelerate trends that were already there and actually put it much higher up the agenda for discussion. But there’s still, this debate will go on and on.

Matt: Yeah. And I think there’s two parts of that. I think that the debate about, “Are we returning to the office, are we working from home?” All this kind of things, as you say, HR’s version of the culture wars, and we’re starting to see some figures around productivity and those kind of things, employees pushing back against return to office mandates. So this is going to run and run and run. I think that the emotive part of this is the use of the word home because it implies some kind of reward. It implies that you’re taking the day off, that you’re sitting in front of TV working, and everyone knows that’s not the case.

And I think if we talked instead about people working from the best place, working in the best environment for them to do the work they’ve got to do, I think that might shift the debate slightly because it might take that kind of emotion out of it. The other point really comes down to what we said in the report, which was, we talk about virtual working. That was the phrase that we use. And there’s a line in there saying that it will need a different skill set from workers and from managers in terms of how they work together, how they collaborate, but also how they maintain their culture, how they train new people. And I think what’s interesting, because we took such a big shift with the pandemic, that bit, we’re still rushing to catch up with that bit.

And I think that’s still part of the big unanswered questions about how this pans out, because we haven’t had time to develop those skills or think about solving some of those problems. And the shortcut that lots of people use is let’s get everyone back in the office, because everything was great when people were back in the office, and that’s not the case. So, it’s kind of interesting from that perspective.

Mervyn: It was. I mean, everything was great when people were back in the office, for certain people, probably for managers and leaders, but I’m sure there are plenty of workers 10 years ago thinking, I could sit at home and do this, I don’t need to do the commute. And I think that there is a big, I always point to do with connection, and certainly people who are newer into the workforce, they learn a lot from interaction, from being with people, from connection, just being able to ask somebody who’s more experienced. Also, you’ve got the question, which never gets spoken about, a dedicated space. So you, I, we work from home, we’ve got a room, we can shut the door, nobody disturbs us.

You go into a home with maybe I keep saying younger, not younger, but flat sharers all working from home, and they’re the group that spend the day working in their bedroom, the night sleeping in their office effectively. So, it’s a very different thing. And I think how we bring the collaboration in, and it isn’t always Zoom calls. So there is a need to, I think, collaborate and get together socially as well as over work. So, there’s still a lot to iron out. But yeah, we did foresee that people who are doing primarily and we have to say they’re obviously for the majority, something like 62%, 63% of the workforce in the UK certainly, working from home is not an option. They have very location-based working. But for those, the noisy minority who can have locational flexibility about their work. Yeah, it’s obviously something which is very top of mind and it’s almost like a right that they’ve won through the pandemic that they don’t want to give up.

Matt: Yeah, exactly. It’s like once you kind of let this out of the box.

Mervyn: The genie is out of the box.

Matt: You can’t– box, bottle, whatever it is, you can’t put it back in. And it’s interesting you say that as well, because one of the things that we talked about was this whole idea. I mean, at the time, social networking was the new big thing. We’re all-

Mervyn: Social recruiting.

Matt: -social recruiting, Facebook, Twitter, as was. That was the kind of the main topic of conference conversation. In this white paper we talked about the face-to-face social network, that need for connection. And it’s interesting, we kind of cite WeWork at the time as somewhere where people could gather and build that kind of face-to-face connection in a kind of a meaningful and thoughtful sort of way. And I suppose it’s really interesting to me in terms of how that sort of pans out over the next few years with companies. I think we’re seeing some interesting things. Companies having set days in the office, remodeling their offices to give people the space to do what it is they come into the office to do.

And yeah, I think it’s something that it will be interesting to see how that develops. Moving on to kind of the third point that I want to pick up from the white paper before we talk about the future. And that was about recruitment. It was about how people would be recruited. So, looking at my notes, there’s a few things that we said. We were talking, obviously, a lot about skills. We were very much of the opinion that people would win digital badges for their skills. They would be rated by their peers. [chuckles] And we talk about the recruitment market being tindered, that people would swipe left or swipe right and make instant decisions about people. So that’s interesting. I don’t see recruitment Tinder [laughs] popping up in quite that way.

Mervyn: No. But I will say that historically, and Tinder was obviously relatively new, and it obviously had certain connotations because of how it was used. But if I think back and I’ve been in and around the recruitment sector for most of my working life, you would get somebody be in an agency or a hiring manager in a business with a pile of CVs just no, no, no, no. So they weren’t swiping, but they would look at no, hasn’t got the right experience from just reading a few lines on a CV. So that’s kind of always been there. But the tinderization [Matt laughs] of recruitment in the popular use of the word Tinder obviously hasn’t happened, thankfully.

Matt: It’s interesting. It’s probably the bit that we’ve still got two years left-

Mervyn: Yeah.

Matt: -and we’ll talk about the future in a second, but it’s probably the area. That bit is probably where we were kind of most off in terms of what was going to go on. I’ll talk about the bit that we might have got right in that in a second. But we also talk about the death of the CV. Now, I first wrote a blog post called the Death of the CV in about 2003, and here we are. It still lives on and looking to the future again. We’ll talk about this in a second. I think we might have finally reached the point where we’re getting towards that, but to the point today where CVs are still used, we’ve got all kinds of great assessment tools and new ways of thinking about talent and recruiting that are kind of knocking on the door and may well revolutionize things in the next 10 years. Why do you think we’re still stuck with this CV? And why do you think some of the fundamentals of recruiting haven’t changed? Even though everyone complains about them, predicts their imminent death and agrees that they’re not as efficient, they’re not necessarily the best way of selecting people.

Mervyn: I think it’s because historically, the way we begin to assess or to shortlist or whatever when a role comes up is by– It’s a bit of like a child’s blanket really, a comfort blanket. This is a list of what people say they can do. Obviously, it can be where they’ve worked, it can be the achievements they say that they’ve done or the skills they specifically have. But we are some way, although having said that, we’re having this discussion at a time when AI is the only thing you can talk about and how it’s going to change the word and recruiter less recruiting, human less HR and all of that. The CV still remains, I suppose, the skills portfolio, not for everybody. There’ll be lots of people working in lots of creative sectors who will have a portfolio, as opposed to a list of skills, achievements and things that they’ve done.

But unfortunately, the way of hiring still comes back to that. And the way you apply, you tend to have to fill in either places you’ve worked or things you’ve done or skills you’ve got or projects you’ve worked on. And at the moment, there’s no way. Maybe AI will just read all our phones or something. At some stage they’ll say, “Find me somebody who lives within 50 miles of here, who’s done all these things at work, and there’ll be some piece of code that will go to everybody’s phones, can see all our emails, can see all our WhatsApp messages and say, “No, no you don’t want to speak to this lot because they say they’ve done it, but they haven’t.” Because I’ve seen all their messages and I’ve seen their daily conversations and stuff, these people are doing it. It could be some dystopian future where something like that happens.

Matt: Well, more on that in a minute as we make our predictions for the next 10 years. The one thing in the recruitment section that did really ring true though, is we talked about talent marketplaces. We talked about marketplaces for skills and marketplaces for talent. And that’s certainly something that we have seen, whether that’s the gig marketplaces or marketplaces for fractional talent, marketplace thinking when it comes to talent and skills. I mean, that is definitely a trend that is growing stronger at the moment.

Mervyn: Yes. Yeah it is, because I suppose most roles now, I won’t say boiled down to, but I mean, when there’s a new role or they need to bring somebody in, I think more organizations are now thinking about– It used to be we need someone who’s done this, this, this in an organization like ours. And now a lot more conversations are we need someone with these skills, and it’s going to be about how we assess those skills or how we determine how strong those skills are.

Matt: Absolutely. So, let’s talk about the future. So, let’s talk about the next 10 years. So, we’re looking forward to 2034. So, in 10 years’ time, if there’s such a thing as podcasts still, we can sit in another studio and look back on the things that we talked about. I think it’s really interesting because I think we are at such an interesting moment. I think to me, 2024 is the start of the cusp of some significant, much quicker change, the acceleration of some of the trends that we’ve already spoken about. We mentioned AI once in the report, kind of in passing. We mentioned it in the same sentence where we said that when we were talking about remote work all our meetings would be in virtual reality, which, despite Mark Zuckerberg’s best efforts and billions of pounds, we’re not quite there yet.

So we mentioned AI once, but AI is obviously this massive kind of force accelerator. And I think the reason that I think 2024 is the cusp of some very, very fast change, particularly in talent acquisition. I think there’s four reasons for it. Obviously, the first one is the technology. In the last 12 months, we’ve seen with generative AI and everything that’s happened, just how quickly things are moving forward and how much it’s reset our expectations about what’s possible, the sheer amount of money that’s now being invested into the AI space, from the big tech companies, from new startups, from governments. It’s inevitable that we’re going to see some massive technology leaps forward that we can’t even guess or anticipate at right now. So that’s kind of one of the forces.

I think the other force is talent, as I kind of said earlier in the conversation, this kind of not just skill shortages, but this shortening of skills, and that’s only going to get more acute. And I think that makes employers pause and think about the talent in their organizations and what does talent actually mean and how do we get those skills that we need. So that’s the second one. I think the third one is productivity. And I’ve noticed that this has become a very big theme. It’s becoming a bigger theme this year with lots of organizations. You’ve got people like McKinsey’s writing about it. It’s kind of cropping up all over the place that we’re at such kind of a difficult economic time. But we’ve got this huge revolution in AI, lots of organizations are looking at increasing productivity as a way of growing, and part of that is via things like automation and rethinking jobs and skills. That’s another force.

And I think the fourth force is the job seekers themselves. We’re seeing lots of very annoyed people talking about just how bad the recruitment process is. I noticed something on the social media today about someone going on TV and saying it was the right thing to ghost interviews and not turn up because employers don’t treat candidates properly. So why should you turn up to their interview, which seems a little bit kind of self-defeating, but it’s interesting that that’s a mainstream conversation. But the critical thing is AI is for everyone. And if you’re looking for a job, there are already AI tools on the market that will allow you to bulk apply in a very, very targeted way. And there’s scenarios that breaks recruitment systems in terms of things like being able to select on CVs and things like that. So, lots and lots of change coming up in those sort of four forces. So, let’s make some predictions. Where do we think we’re kind of going in those 10 years? So, I suppose starting with that skills bit and the way companies think about skills and talent, what are your thoughts on that?

Mervyn: It will evolve. Everything evolves at the moment. There’s a trillion-dollar tech industry that thrives on everything evolving and changing and iterating, so it won’t go back. I sometimes joke with a couple of people I know who just had enough of all this world say, you want to wake up one morning, you find it’s all over. There are no smartphones, there is no Internet and kind of it– and somebody said, “Oh, that would be great.” But for the majority of people on the planet this is the way of life. And for probably two, if not three generations, it’s all they’ve known. It’s all they’ve known from adolescence. So, I think this isn’t going to change.

Whether or not at some stage there is some settling down where all of the knowledge, all of the stuff we can do is done and it’s a way of how we integrate it into our daily lives. I don’t know. But at the moment, yes, there is always a rush for the next thing, what’s going to come next. And we need someone that’s future facing or someone that understands this. Somebody can develop with us. There will always be the need for that. If I think back to earlier days in my career as I started life as an accountant, as I say in some interviews, that was a bit of a mismatched career for me. No, I did okay, but I mean I was bored. You had people who were very happy just doing that and built whole lives out of just doing bookkeeping and stuff. But I think now there is a bit of a– we’re more restless, I think in this simulation I did last year where we’re looking at Gen Z or the Alpha Gen or whatever they’re going to be called, it was like rootless and stateless. It was kind of, they can work from anywhere in the world on anything. They have no particular loyalty to a place, to an organization, to a specialism. It’s their loyalty is to their skills if you like and their knowledge and kind of how they want to live their lives.

And so, I think there will be an element of people who are doing part of a project, but you don’t meet them, you don’t know where they are. They’re just filing it in, shall we say, in the old journalist vernacular, I think it’s quite an exciting time because so much is changing all the time. But I think at the moment, we’re talking about AI and what it can do all the time. But this is almost like the first or second iteration of it. We don’t know what it’s going to be doing in five years’ time.

Matt: Yeah. I think that’s the thing. I listened to a really interesting podcast interview between Bill Gates and Sam Altman talking about AI. And Sam Altman says something about the next 5 to 10 years, we’re going to see this rapid development in AI and what it can do. So, if you’ve got more than five years left in your career, this is going to affect you, which I think is an interesting way of thinking about it. In our book Digital Talent, we wrote about something that we called Total Talent Thinking, which was kind of the next sort of thought process along from this thinking about skills and work and jobs and things like that. And Total Talent Thinking is all about how all of the disparate silos of HR come together to think about talent and skills holistically within the organization. There’s no delineation between full-time workers, gig workers, fractional workers. There’s a sense that not all the skills will be provided by humans. And actually, HR, talent acquisition look kind of very different in that model. Do you think that’s something that we’re going to see accelerating in the next few years?

Mervyn: Without doubt. I mean, Total Talent Thinking we wrote about, as you say in a book two years ago now, as at the time of this conversation. But now, to me, it is the main thing to talk about. I mean, I was talking about it today. Every time I speak about whether it’s an event or on a webinar, I bring it in, because it’s very much of the moment. It’s very much bringing, as you say, almost the disparate parts of skills, knowledge, capability together, whether it’s full time, part time, whether it’s AI, whether it’s about output. It’s about how we get the skills together to create the output we need. And I suppose the historical employment structures don’t really fit it.

Matt: Now, we’re starting to run short time, because if we don’t stop soon, this interview will go on for 10 years, [laughs] and then we can see what we predicted at the beginning and whether it’s come true at the end. There’s just one more thing I want touch on before I kind of ask you a final question and ask myself a final question. Being human, you talked about wellbeing earlier, we’ve talked about AI, we’ve talked about automation, we’ve talked about people becoming disestablished from companies and cultures. Where’s humanity in all of this? Where’s humanity in work in the future? How do we be human? And what role can employers play in that?

Mervyn: Interesting, because I had a podcast conversation in America a few months ago, and we were talking about this kind of if we’ve got recruiter less recruiting, we’ll have human less HR. And I said that HR’s role was to put the humanity back into it, and we’re still people. And yes, it might be people, we might be collaborating on a project with people we’ll never meet, never see, but there’s still each person. We are living, breathing beings. Humanity is important. We aren’t machines. We aren’t bits of code. And I think that’s, for most organizations moving forward, that’s going to be a very defining factor in if people want to work with them. And it’s not even down to how much people earn from it, how much you’re going to pay me to do this project or anything. How am I going to feel?

Are you an organization that I feel I can be associated with, that I feel I want to give my time to? There’s a lot of stuff you’ve seen in a presentation we both gave in the US last year. I was talking about moral burnout and that the emerging generation in particular don’t want to work for organizations who they feel don’t conduct themselves in the right way, who don’t stand for the things they believe in. And so there will be, I think, a lot more of the– for HR, it’s the humanity. I can only explain it as that. It’s always not bringing the human into it, but understanding people. And that is recognition, that is supporting wellbeing, that is doing things like mental health, that is just knowing that productivity is key. And productivity underlines all of that. Because if some of the other areas aren’t right, then productivity isn’t. And it’s almost freeing people of the shackles of some of the day to day, not structures, but some of the day-to-day things they do around work, almost freeing them from that, to be able to do their own work, feel that sense of achievement and not feel under pressure.

Matt: Yeah. I think that’s interesting. And going back to the white paper from eight years ago, we talk about humans being this concierge, this kind of guardian of the experience, the role that they will play, and that obviously feeds very much into what you’re saying there. So final question sort of topic. It’s quite easy to sit here and talk about what things will be like in 10 years’ time, because first of all, we’ve got 10 years for it to happen. And then, as we’ve done today, you can kind of look back and post rationalize everything and all those kind of things. What’s very difficult is to predict exactly what’s going to happen in a year’s time or over the next year. Now, in about 12 months, Episode 700 of the podcast will drop. Unless I go up to three episodes a week or five episodes a week, then it might be a bit quicker. But let’s work on 12 months. How far do you– and I’ll answer this question as well, because that’s only fair. But you can go first because it’s my podcast.

[laughter]

Matt: How far do you think we’ll have come on this journey in the next 12 months?

Mervyn: Honestly and obviously, I’ve got to look back at this in 12 months’ time, further than we think, but not as far as we– or further than we hope, but not as far as we think we could go. Because I think there are factors that hold us back that are cultural. I think that it’s an interesting time because we have people staying in the workforce for longer are choosing to stay in the workforce for longer, which is something that we probably have not had before. I mean, historically, certainly our parents and more recent cohorts, you work hard, do save as much as you can, however you do it, to get to that point where it’s, “Oh, I’ve retired now. I’ve got– time is mine.” But most people are not interested in retiring.

Most people, and there was stuff in the FT, like last week about this, about how people are choosing to work on it. And some who have, particularly in the pandemic, some who took the opportunity to say, “You know what I can pull out now, are now going back to work.” Not 9 to 5 in an office, obviously, because we now have these fractional ways of working, but can lend their knowledge, lend their insight, lend their skills and actually enjoy it. So, I think that it will be a fractured workplace in that respect, is there will be lots of different– the skills, the knowledge, the actual way that work is done will come from different people working under different arrangements, all getting something different from it. So, I think it will take time, but that’s why I said, “It’s kind of further than we think, but not as far as we hope.” [Matt laughs]

Matt: That’s a great-

Mervyn: That’s sitting on the fence there.

Matt: -sitting on the fence answer.

Mervyn: Yeah.

Matt: I suppose, I’ll obviously second that. I think there’s a couple of things I’d say though. So, I’m actually writing a kind of a mini white paper at the moment about 10 ways that AI might change talent acquisition, and I think it will probably be available by the time this podcast comes out. And with each one of them, big revolution, you can see how it’s going to happen. The technology is either there or will be there soon, but each one comes with a complication. There’s legislation coming in around AI and what it can do in recruitment. In fact, if you live in New York state, there are already laws about transparency in AI. And I think every single change comes with complicating factors and it’s difficult to predict how they will pan out and perhaps slow some of the things that we think will happen down somewhat, or even in some cases speed them up.

What I think that we can be clear about though, I think in 12 months’ time there will be a much bigger sense of urgency about TA, HR and the effect that AI is having on it. Because I think that as every week passes, there will be new innovations, new directions from companies that will really sharpen people’s focus on this, because this is not going to go away, this is going to change everything. The speed of change is going to get quicker. There are complications. I remember when Gen AI sort of first came into public consciousness about 18 months ago, there were well-respected technology commentators predicting that everyone would be out of a job within six months and obviously that’s not happened. But that speed of travel is there. And I think that if we look back in 12 months’ time, there will be a far bigger sense of urgency about things by the time we get to Episode 700. But for episode 600, that’s it. So, Mervyn, thank you very much as ever, for joining me.

Mervyn: Matt, as ever, thank you very much for having me on the show. It’s been a pleasure. And in a year’s time, I’ll look back on this and think, “Oh, I didn’t say that, did I?”

[laughter]

Matt: Thanks for talking to me.

Mervyn: It’s a pleasure as always.

Matt: My thanks as ever to Mervyn and a huge thank you to all of you who listen to the show. And just to give you the web address for the course waitlist again. It’s mattalder.me/course. That’s mattalder.me/course. Don’t forget there’s also a video version of this podcast episode. I’ll put the link to that in the show notes. You can follow this podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at recruitingfuture.com. On that site, you can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter, Recruiting Future Feast, and get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show.

Thanks very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

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