Practice Development Counsel

Phyllis weiss haserot
Phyllis weiss haserot

President & Founder

212 593-1549

E-Alerts: Organizational Effectiveness Archives

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“Hyper-Human Work”: What Will Knowledge Workers Do?

As I go around presenting programs on how to deal with the challenges and opportunities presented by the working relationships among four generations in the workplace, I have been asked what I think the professional services workplace will look like in five or ten years. Change is occurring so fast that it is difficult to predict with great confidence. Nonetheless, demographic, technological, social and behavioral trends that are apparent now give us some clues.

We know it will be different:

  • More diverse.
  • Older average age of workers, as the over 55 age cohort is growing much faster than the under 55 age group, and many want to stay around.
  • Access to continual training, often electronically based.
  • Ways to compensate for the less personal e-based communication environment with more human interaction.
  • Accommodation of the varying work and life needs of the work force.


Since Generation Y already “lives” online, the Internet (or some new iteration) will be even more central to the workplace. There are implications for creativity, confidentiality and privacy. Gen Y is sometimes on another planet about privacy and naïve about the potential for lawsuits based on web postings. (Baby Boomers may have let it all hang out – but not in writing.) Lawyers may be in demand to do privacy and libel prevention training in companies the way they are called in to do sexual harassment and diversity training.

And what about the nature of work itself? How will "knowledge workers" retain their usefulness as more knowledge work is automated?

The World Future Society calls the counterpart to usurping of mental functions by electronic intelligence “hyper-human work.” This is work for which the human touch rather than the computer is still required. Hyper-human work requires value judgments, creativity, empathy, and other social skills, focus on goals, responsibility, ethics, and reflection. It takes experience and maturity to develop some of these qualities.

To assure a place in the changing workplace, professionals and other knowledge workers will need to increase their attention to innovation and entrepreneurship, hone their persuasive skills, and bring vision and caring to their work – attributes that can't yet be replicated by computers. These are qualities historically exhibited by authors, composers, teachers, and entrepreneurs, among others. Some occupations or fields the World Future Society cites are health care, personalized education, coaching, and scientific research. There is still room for artists of all types (not likely that monkeys at computers hitting keys randomly will re-create Shakespeare), and creative architects, lawyers, accountants and consultants with human brains telling computers what to do.

So leave the boring, tedious stuff to computers as stimulation-craving Gen Y suggests. To sell value, not time (a machine can bill time), it will taking honing of those hyper-human skills to supplement the tech savvy. Engage both the intellect and the emotions in a supportive environment and professional talent will thrive and stay.

As always, I encourage your comments to

© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2008. All rights reserved.