4 Steps to Prepare for the Future of Your Workplace

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HR Futurism

HR Futurism is about living in the present. 

I write about the future to help make HR professional aware. I do this in reaction to a frequent complaint of HR people about that fact that they are constantly in a reactive mode rather than being able to be proactive. People will think “that is interesting, but it is in the future, and I have stuff to deal with now.” However, the future is not about tomorrow, it is about today.

We can’t predict the future.

Despite the claims of the fortune teller at the carnival you cannot predict the future. But you can, and should, prepare for it. This is what being proactive is about. What happens in the future is about probabilities not prediction. You need to understand what is currently occurring. You need to determine the likelihood of that trend having an impact on your organization, what the effect of that impact will be and how to prepare for it. And you must prepare for it.

4 Steps to Prepare for the Future of your workplace

There are a number of things you can do today to prepare for tomorrow. Here are a four of them.

Step 1- Find Trends Important to YOU

Understand what is important for your company in terms of HR. Is the demographic mix of your employees important? Do your employees represent on age wave more than another? Is the education of your employees important? Is a particular degree important? We know this trend information is out there, but do you really pay attention to it? Or do you just classify it as just an interesting fact? There is a great deal of trend information available to you.

The acronym STEEP, which SHRM uses, covers social, technological, environmental, economic and political trends. To make any sense of this wealth of information you have to first know what is important to your company. Then track that information.

Step 2 – Create YOUR own future

Developing a story about the trends you are tracking and how they may have an impact is a great way to understand and communicate the information you have. For example, you have as a simple, but necessary, job requirement that employees have a high school education with the ability to read, write and do math. You have shown this is a bona fide job requirement. Therefore graduation rates from the high schools in your locale are important. You may have notices two different trends. The first is a dropping graduation rate and as a result you just don’t have and will not have as many candidates as you need.

Secondly, those that do graduate are not seeking employment in their home town. They are moving to go to college or they are moving to seek jobs in different towns. What is the likely impact of this on your company if the status quo remains the same? In all likelihood you will not be able to staff positions. Will you have to change job requirements in order to attract people? Will you have to offer remedial education to those hired to bring them up to your standards? Can you get involved with the local educational system to try to make an impact on them?

I hope you can see how understanding what is important to you now drives what you pay attention to and how you can then alter and create the future you want.

Step 3 – Determine the Probability

There is a tool called the Impact/Probability matrix that will help you classify your created futures in order to determine what their importance may be to you. With no understanding of the probabilities you will be unable to create the future you want. If you are not working to create it then the future will just occur and you will be in reactive mode once more.

Of course there may still be a future that you will totally have to react to regardless of all the hard work you do. The upper left quadrant of the Impact/Probability matrix is the area that contains the “black swan” or “wild card” event. This is something that is totally unseen. It can be good or it can be bad. You can try to imagine what it might be but the definition is that basically it is unforeseeable. In the example above about graduation rates a black swan might be the total collapse of the school system and no one graduates. Highly unlikely but it would have a major impact.

Step 4 – Remember the System

It is key to remember that nothing occurs in a vacuum. The world is an interactive system. HR in your company is an interactive system. An event in one area can alter the outcome in a different area. Just remember the world is complex and non-linear. As a futurist writer said this “requires that we embrace uncertainty and use scenarios to build resilience and agility.”

Hopefully this post will spur you to not sit idly by and watch and wait for you to have something to react to. Your future will occur. It is best to try to have some impact on it, but that effort has to start today.

How are you preparing for the future? 

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