Q&A with Perry Timms, People & Transformational HR

Sophie Gane

13/06/2018

It’s not long now until the Benefex Summer Forum – Human Resourceful! The day will be packed with speakers from all aspects of HR, Reward, Communications, and Business Strategy, all with fantastic insights into building human workplaces.

We’re thrilled that we’ll be joined by the wonderful Perry Timms from People & Transformational HR.

Perry Timms is a global & TEDx speaker, consultant and award-winning writer on the future of work, HR & learning; which was recognised by his inclusion on HR’s Most Influential Thinkers List for 2017. He is Adjunct Faculty at Ashridge Executive Education at Hult International Business School.

Perry’s first book "Transformational HR" has already become an Amazon.com Top 30 HR seller.

He’s going to be telling us all about designing for the edge; but first, we asked him a few questions.

Perry, we can’t wait to see what you’ve got to say in July! Can you give us a sneak peek into what you’re going to be talking about?

I’m hoping this event combines with emerging thinking in the world of work about this concept of Good Work.  Something the Work Foundation, The RSA and CIPD have been talking up for a while now.  I’ve been interested in the Future of Work since this became a “thing”.  By that I mean the dawn that we’re in the midst of some significant shifts in the way we work, live and connect to each other.  Clearly digital technology’s advancing developments have given rise to much of this.  Alternative ways to do the work which is a such a cornerstone of the societies we’ve created. 

Many will say we’ve been here before - and we have - dawns of realisation that machines, automated support and technological advancements will help us do more, for less and be more prosperous.  But that’s come at a price.  Disenfranchised people; a polluted planet and fractured relationships between ourselves, the ecosystem needed to sustain life and our very sense of being and worth in this world.  So I’m going to talk about designing something better. 

When human nature is at its most staggeringly creative, genius and powerful is when uniting against a common adversary.  Be it disease, education standards or equality of choice and opportunity.  Marie Curie, William Wilberforce and Dr Martin Luther King Jnr all spring to mind.

So it’s how you can take problems, injustices and challenges and design a solution to overcome them.  Science, tools and skills come together with emotive visionary reasoning.  It’s that I’m going to talk about in the context of HR professionals input to the world of work and it’s continuing transformation from controlling routines, to creative endeavours.

What intrigues you most about the future of work? What are you most looking forward to about the world of work in 10 years’ time?

I’m mostly looking forward to some further distribution of power, decisions and wealth.  We SHOULD have become a more egalitarian society when it comes to work.  Instead we see more distance.  The technology titans promised much in terms of liberation and connected choice but that’s come at a cost: intrusion and surveillance; manipulation and divide.  So I’m looking forward to a reboot of what it means to lead, live and work.  Lead your way in the world and the enterprise you have; live the life you choose or are called to live; and work on the things you want to work on in the way you want to.  I see strains in the orthodoxy of now, perhaps like the Baron’s grip on power pre-enlightenment.  Some may say we simply have a gentler form of serfdom now, but we see more people able to exercise their rights to choose their lifestyle than ever before.  And to many that’s uncomfortable if they’re in privileged positions.  So I want so see more Picasso-like acts of destruction to enable creation.

What steps can HR teams take today to improve their employees’ experience right now? And what should they be looking to do to make sure the employee experience is still great in 10 years’ time?

So without being trite: HR needs more philosophy, science and art.  Philosophy is needed as we reel from more ignorant, divisive rhetoric around us.  Science to base the key decisions needed to help us navigate an ever unpredictable future landscape; and art to help us rediscover what humanity really is.  I hear it from more learned others out there - art predicts life.  It’s the ultimate (albeit not obvious) predictor of how we could or should be.  Art is in the design of working systems that help human beings - and this world we’re on - flourish.  I see it as this simple: We have a soulful purpose in our work, we don’t destroy what’s around us.  I see it summed up in this phrase “Only the power of love can overcome the love of power.”  So we need to design more work that people love.  That’s what could become the new economic value measure in the future.  People who love their work create an alluring proposition for people who need to use the products and services that power the economic engine of the world.  Can we unite behind things like the restoration of social justice, our planet and how we care for each other?  We should but when competing against the wealth engine of the industrial age it looks like a one-sided battle.  Yet human spirit is the undeniable energy source within us that is not only difficult to quantify, when engaged it’s difficult to resist and repel.  HR to create the energy source that creates more just workplaces and relationships sounds like an ideological pipedream but it’s my dream and will be my eternal driving force.

And finally, what would you say is your proudest achievement to date?

Making the list of HR Most Influential Thinkers last year was unreal.  It’s me in amongst many of my heroes and I have never been more proud of an achievement than that.  Not everyone I knew felt the same about that (silence is often a loud proclamation) but those who did send their best wishes are those who matter to me, so it was sharing it with those people that made it the special thing, not just being on a list.

You can find Perry online at www.pthr.co.uk or on Twitter (@PerryTimms), and his blog Medium.com/@PerryTimms

You can find out more about our Summer Forum here! Take a look.

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