As the Millennium Dome celebrates a new world of work, Dominique Hammond argues it is HR people who will be key to making it reality
It is a sinister world visitors step into when they enter the work zone at the Millennium Dome. A wall of time cards sliced in half by clocking-in machines bears down. Rows of cages contain hapless toy hamsters glued to their wheels. A bank of television screens shows a scene from a Monty Python short in which ageing grey men slowly decay into their desks. All the while a clock deafeningly ticks away the seconds adding up to the 100,000 hours we are informed we all work during our lifetimes.
This is the "old world of work" according to the organiser, New Millennium Experience, and it is a relief to leave it behind. Moving on we step into the brave new world of the modern workplace characterised by light and music, cages that are empty because the hamsters have been freed, and a wall covered with 6,000 yellow Post-it notes. These were donated by sponsor Manpower's staff who were asked to send in real notes pulled from their desks. They detail the daily and familiar minutiae of office life - Kate, call Eddie; Alan, can you sort out training for Julie; two teas, no coffees, lots of biscuits.
The next room introduces us to the kind of working lives we can now expect. Giant models of electronic organisers each depict a different way of working: through an agency, from home, as a freelance, as a job-sharer. Hundreds of different uniforms on moving rails represent the death of the job for life and the possibility of a varied career.
Two doors - one green, marked "Skills to declare" and one red, marked "No skills" - lead onwards, but only the green door opens to inform us that we all have skills whether we know it or not. In the final room, which looks much like a bingo hall or amusement arcade, there are games for visitors to test their ability in six key skills areas: numeracy, hand-to-eye coordination, teamwork, communication; problem-solving and IT.
This is a world of possibility. Having managed to manoeuvre a ball bearing into a hole by tilting a board in different directions I am informed by Emily, recruited by Manpower and employed by New Millennium Experience as one of the Dome's 1,500 "hosts", that I have the requisite skill to be a brain surgeon - steady hands. This could also land me a job as a fork-lift truck drive