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Congratulations on a super inaugural article Joe. Now that you've been "tricked" into taking a bite of the forbidden fruit - you know that this commits you to writing other guest articles now . . .

Since I was (apparently) something of a unknowing catalyst for this, I'll offer what we've already been speculating that AI and specifically machine learning presage for this Fourth Age of TR theory. Simply, outcomes from AI/ML are focused on improved predictions, efficiencies and other outcomes.

When it comes to people – if the goal is to try to maximize the productivity of people as a resource, and with the assumption that personal agency and motivations will continue to remain incredibly complex and nuanced, then the only logical course of action is to try to become as informed as possible about the motivations drivers for individual employees, and to respond to each individual with both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, as well as the fit of the person to the job that are as closely aligned to meeting their individual needs as possible and maximized to elicit the optimized individual motivational responses, consistent with the needs of the organization. So, we think AI/ML will allow for customized total rewards in the future, which is maybe less of a "theory" and more of an improved process.

Love it, Joe! Of course, the stages you summarized were American-centric. Your Three Ages reflect few of the more diverse trends seen in other nations where employer domination either continues or has been even more severely curtailed than here. Perhaps the emerging outlier reactive trends elsewhere will suggest new mutually productive paths for us to analyze.

Fully agree, however, that the personalization of Total Rewards will indeed dominate the future of our profession. As long as individual value producers rather than identical automated units are employed, the range of innovative customized economic exchange ideas versus traditional standard programs will continue to proliferate.

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