In our first edition of “Five Questions”, we invited Melissa Crawford to share her views on the readiness of HR Teams to adapt to digital disruption and change. Melissa is a futurist who is passionate about people and technology and has held Senior Human Resources roles with Air New Zealand , Bank of New Zealand, Fonterra and The Warehouse Group.


You have always been interested in the intersection of people and technology. What are your observations about HR departments and their understanding of digital disruption and the impact on their workforce?

Sadly, I think they are a little behind in this space.  They know its coming but a lot of HR depts are stuck in transactional BAU rather than strategic future focussed planning. I think it would be valuable for HR practitioners to keep themselves educated in future tech so they can help navigate the human element of the business through the digital transformation.

Talking to businesses about what learning and capability they have in place for developing these future skillsets it is often non existent. HR is notoriously under invested in modern tech as resources are often fought for across the business so we are neither utilising tech to its max within the HR dept or understanding with clarity its potential impact.


How progressive do you think New Zealand businesses are in understanding technology and the way it impacts the work place?

I particularly see some customer and IT departments as progressive but the rest of their business hasn’t caught up.  For example they have powerful systems they are applying to customers but not sharing the technology that would easily help them to apply that to optimise the employee experience. Or they have teams of data analytics teams creating amazing dashboards and reports but yet the HR department will be scraping together excel spreadsheets with fragments of data with neither the skillset or tools or systems to support them.

IT departments will be running in Agile methodologies whilst many HR practitioners can’t talk with certainty about what Agile actually is and are not actively looking at how that impacts the traditional leadership, culture, engagement, talent, recruitment and recognition frameworks that they support and how they will need to change.

I would love to see HR departments step into their prime and help with this critical transition businesses are going through.


What are the opportunities and benefits for an organisation that is able to understand and adapt to digital disruption?

To maximise the opportunities future tech brings and bring their people along on the journey.  Whilst others are catching up a business that can pivot itself to optimise these opportunities will survive and thrive. 

Many cultures I have worked in are very risk averse, these are the ones I worry about the most. What got you here won’t keep you here and I want to see organisations evolve themselves and help their people to evolve.  I personally feel if a business is keeping abreast of the change there should be less need  for  significant  restructures as   they   cross  skill     their        adaptive       and               interested 

people into new skillsets to support the evolving changes.  It is irresponsible to have to dump hundreds of people because they haven’t been strategic enough to plan ahead.  I am not naïve to not realise there are definitely market changes and external factors that can come into play that cause restructures but in my experience this does not match up with the number of avoidable restructures I have witnessed.

A well planned approach in this space would have significant impacts in lifting business capability and engagement and therefore performance and adaptability to market. 


AI is already changing the modern day workplace.  What would your advice be to someone about to enter the workplace to ensure they have a successful career over the next fifty years?

Keep learning and don’t stop.  Don’t rely on your organisation to keep you current as most organisations don’t have the budgets focussed in that direction. There are so many ways to keep yourself current and relevant, you need to invest in yourself to do this.

Also look at how to use your people skills to enhance the evolving tech. People often tell me stories about scary tech and what its doing to humans, sometimes I think they forget humans are the ones who built the tech. 


You are currently undertaking a career break to study for your Masters of Technological Futures.  Why have you chosen this course of study and what do you hope to bring to your new workplace once you have completed your study?

Yes I am consulting part time for a few months during the learning phase of my masters and hope to find a kindred spirit company to start full time with in November onwards when I will be working on the project element of my masters.

I have always had a passion for tech since I completed my IT degree in the 90’s.  I love the pace, excitement and learning opportunities it brings.  I’m also passionate about people, their psychology and what brings out the best in them. I see a beautiful opportunity to marry my people psychology    skills       with    my      tech       interest,

 leveraging my kindness value and embracing my creativity to create unique and personalised tech solutions. I want to jump start organisations into the future and my dream would be to incorporate more human centred design into AI tech.

I don’t know who I will end up working for, all I know is that the company will be a very future focussed organisation that understands the significance and opportunity of combining these skillsets. They will also need to be able to handle a super enthusiastic tech & people geek raring to make a difference in this space ?