Sensing a massive shift in the nature of work and employment, NASA started a study to gain some insights on how the future of work would be. Source: Shutterstock

Sensing a massive shift in the nature of work and employment, NASA started a study to gain some insights on how the future of work would be. Source: Shutterstock

Why the future of work and human resources is driven by data

LET’S face it. The world is changing and along with it, human capital, job functions and most importantly, the nature of work itself.

This rapid paradigm shift fueled in part by digital transformation is presenting never before seen challenges to employers to recruit and retain the best available talents as well get the most out of their workforce to serve their business goals better.

This monumental change is also felt by US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), according to its Agency Talent and Technology Strategist, Nicholas Skytland.

Speaking at the Cyber Security Xchange conference in Kuala Lumpur, Skytland said what organizations have done in the last 50 years is vastly different from what they’ll be doing in the next five years.

“In the last 200 years, our work has been transactional, a career and has been characterized by a series of jobs in chronological order where you climbed the career ladder, and we stayed with the same organization for the entire time,” he said.

“But things have changed”

To align themselves with the future, NASA started its Future of Work study, to explore all the disrupting elements and shed some light into what the future may look like in terms of job, talents, and employment.

Skyland explained, “We saw a lot of themes in the future of work writings about designing for agility, focusing on, we saw a lot about redefining talent and then giving our employees the opportunity to learn and to develop for a lifetime.”

“And then once you do that and you get employees to engage in your workforce and hired in the company, they don’t want to stay in the same job forever.”

And thus, the organization has to figure out how to deploy talent effectively to get the most out of them, leaving them feeling empowered and inspired, at the same time making sure the organizations’ goals are met.

This is where digital transformation comes in handy and is setting up the framework for companies to tap into emerging technologies such as analytics, artificial intelligence, automation, and robotics.

Digital transformation a priority

“We’re laying the groundwork now for digital transformation to allow us to prepare enough for the future,” said Skytland and added that NASA as an HR may not be that much different from any other organization, whereby it still has paper-based processes and tapping into technology to its fullest potential.

“We’re starting to unleash algorithms and analytics, AI  and automation in all of that we do. We’re thinking about how machine learning to spot patterns and trends in our own human capital data. We’re thinking about how AI, are making employee experience better.” explained Skyland.

NASA through its Shared Services Center now has allowed four robots to carry out different mundane tasks such as ones with spreadsheets, emails and so forth, via RPA technology, freeing their human counterparts to focus on jobs that require cognitive thinking.

The future is driven by data

According to Skytland, one of NASA’s first digital transformation initiative was to start mapping all the data that it had and is a good starting point for other organization seeking to kickstart their digital journey.

“Just start by identifying the data that you have and then start to think about all the different people who maybe use that data,” he said.

At NASA, he said, various people collect and utilize data including;

  • Scientists – who publish research based on data.
  • Project Leads – who need dashboards for operational decision making.
  • Program Managers – who handle multiple projects.

“And finally you have data analytics, and this includes visualization. You want to take that data, and you want to create insights for your leadership,” Skytland said.

In conclusion, organizations have to not only quickly adapt to the changes and shifts brought upon by digital transformation, but also look ahead and be prepared for what is coming in the future.

“We all recognize that technology is changing us, but I want us to think about digital transformation and the future of HR in a bigger context because actually technology is just one part of why the world is changing,” said Skytland.