Katherine von Jan, MD of strategic innovation at Salesforce. Image: Conor McCabe Photography
Katherine von Jan, MD of strategic innovation at Salesforce. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

What is the future of work? The technology we use at home

14 Oct 2016

At Inspirefest 2016, Katherine von Jan of Salesforce discussed the future of work, with Dominos, Uber, Netflix and Google Maps showing us how it’s done.

“Work doesn’t really work today,” according to Katherine von Jan, MD of strategic innovation at Salesforce. She told the crowd at Inspirefest that office life simply doesn’t live up to all that our personal life does.

The customer experience is at an all-time high, with ease of service from ordering to delivery of products and services, meaning our expectations are probably too high when we get into the office.

Future Human

Future of work

Future of work: A lesson

“Think of the best customer experiences you’ve ever had,” said von Jan. “Your car tells you don’t take this route, take that one. Your airline books a new flight as you’re going to miss your connection.

“At work, as candidates, as employees, it doesn’t feel that way. How bad is it? Really bad.”

The churn in the STEM industry is a strong one, often fuelled by the job opportunities available to a relatively small labour force. But are companies really making it hard for staff to leave?

“Retention,” said von Jan, “[With] yoga at lunch, table football, free food, free beer. It’s creating a mouse trap to keep you in a job a little bit longer. All of these tactics are about squandering human potential.”

Every moment we’re not working to our best potential, we’re simply wasting time, according to von Jan. Though the free food aspect of employment is gaining traction.


What actually motivates your staff? A slice of pizza and a thank you, not some extra cash. That’s according to a study at an Intel facility in Israel.

Retention is a huge problem. A recent survey conducted by Aon found that more than half of workers are open to leaving their current job.

Another speaker at Inspirefest earlier this year was the founder of Hatch Analytics, Monica Parker, who detailed how best to create a motivated workforce.

In a Hatch Analytics survey of 40,000 workers, it emerged that a sense of purpose was key. “94pc of the 40,000 people we asked said the more meaning their job has means the more likely they are to be engaged,” she said.

For von Jan, though, the answer to keeping staff happy, invested, and challenged is all around us.

“We use technology at work all the time,” she said. This tech leads to data, the data leads to artificial intelligence and that can be actionable when employers make recommendations based on it.

All in the data

When should you get a break, change team or move office? It’s all there, in the data.

“Why can’t we Google map our career path, understand the options and pick the best route? Netflix for opportunities: What are the coolest projects recommended for me? Uber for collaborations: Where I need them, when I need them, who the right people are.”

Von Jan even suggests a Dominos pizza tracker for workers’ progress against their goals.

“The more we know through technology, the better these experiences get. If we had the ‘superpowers’ at work that we have in our personal lives, we could solve the greatest challenges on the planet.

“The future of work is not a HR issue, it’s a board issue. It’s time to hack human potential.”

Gordon Hunt
By Gordon Hunt

Gordon Hunt joined Silicon Republic in October 2014 as a journalist. He spends most of his time avoiding conversations about music, appreciating even the least creative pun and rueing the day he panicked when meeting Paul McGrath. His favourite thing on the internet is the ‘Random Article’ link on Wikipedia.

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