View From the Future: Trends 2016-2020 and Implications For Talent Leaders

by | Oct 12, 2016 | Trends | 0 comments

eileen-clegg-2016View From the Future: Trends 2016-2020 and Implications For Talent Leaders

 

Eileen Clegg

Founder and Principal at Visual Insight, Faculty Member at Future of Talent Institute

 

 

 

The view was from the year 2020, looking back at the issues of 2016 that soon will separate the winners from the losers in the volatile talent economy. Participants in the Future of Talent retreat accomplished this time travel during three days on the pastoral Marin County Coast, far enough away from today’s intractable problems to see the hidden opportunities.

Each year we bring together a trust-based community of colleagues who work together to analyze current trends in talent, learning and leadership. Kevin Wheeler and I create a Trends Map that we unveil at the retreat, so that participants can harvest implications for their work: What do we need to do differently today so that we can offensively plan for the future, rather than reacting defensively to exponential change?

Can you see what’s hidden in plain sight in the Trends Map above?  If you look at the big picture, there are two horizontal profiles facing each other: The green profile on the ground represents how day-to-day work and life are changing dramatically; and the purple profile in the sky, represents the cultural shifts that are enabling people to thrive amid the uncertainty and exponential change under way.  Let’s look briefly at the trends. 

 

Algorithms, Robots, A.I. Dominate.

Artificial intelligence is everywhere.  It’s no longer a novelty to have an in-home robot or smart speaker (“Alexa, tell me yesterday’s baseball scores”). Algorithms are the formulas that instruct a computer how to make a decision or interpret data. Some are complex, some are fairly simple. And some are starting to learn on their own. This is just the surface of a trend that has been gathering power for more than 3 decades but is now seeming bursting into day-to-day reality and soon will change work as we know it.  Once a support for human activity, technology now can replace a large percentage of what we do—and in many cases, can do it as well as or better: from driving to sourcing talent. Some people are overly enamored with A.I., others are overly smug in their belief they can inevitably do better work than a machine.  Instead of arguing about the efficacy of A.I. taking over many of our jobs (a useless argument because it will happen), the question is:  What do you do that a machine cannot do?

 

Revisiting immersive Virtual Learning Environments.

Augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality. These ideas have been around for decades and we saw some successes with immersive learning back in the early 2000’s—before the focus for these technologies became the more lucrative world of entertainment and gaming. Facebook, Google and Samsung are investing heavily in AR and are bringing it to a mass audience affordably. That’s changing how we learn, recruit, exercise, play, travel, and meet. As distributed learning and global teams need more support to replicate the feeling of face to face learning and meeting environments, AR will be there. The Pokémon phenomenon riveted people internationally, bringing heightened attention to virtual reality for health, learning, and performance support.

 

Growing Power of Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud (SMAC).

Together, these technologies are unleashing the power of every individual to flexibly access and leverage data and communication capacity. With mobile apps for nearly any need—and analytics tracking details about the user—we can find data to inform our decisions, large and small.  As speaker Tom Becker pointed out, analytics have become a key skill for talent leaders. For example, analytic engines are much more effective at choosing good candidates than interviewing. The effect of SMAC is that we can see more deeply into information—and people and make better choices. Yet, with this comes significant issues around privacy and data ownership. As this data is used to market to us and to gather credit and other information, we will need to have some insight and control over this data and how it is being used.  The laws and ethics surrounding data are just emerging.

 

Activating imagination.

The root of the word imagination is image and there is a reason for that—images can help us create new ideas together. Words describe what already exists. Images enable us to start forming new concepts. At Future of Talent, we’ve used images since the beginning (2005)—with live visual journalism during meetings and big-picture visuals to show ideas and patterns. Now with the web’s capability for immersive environments, we can use images more intentionally to frame new concepts and conversations.  What if words were meant to explain images instead of the other way around? When groups share images, collective imagination is activated. Using visuals in communication is a way to bridge individual creativity and group visioning.  Many people are visual thinkers who have a mental picture of what they want to develop long before the concept is shared with others. Visual tools help people engage in meaningful conversation early in a design process—whether they are creating new products or services or organizational changes. Visuals also increasingly are used to depict narratives based on analytics, with information maps help people see the patterns and intersections in complex data.

Dissolving borders:

When we talk about global talent beyond traditional borders, we mean that literally and metaphorically. We are dissolving country, culture, cognitive, status, educational, gender, age, and other borders that once framed a company’s talent profile. More and more it is the ability to connect with people across borders that differentiates success.  It’s all about building a supply chain that crosses traditional boundaries. All the past metrics and protocols for how, where and why we find candidates no longer apply. Increasingly, we are looking at a fluid workforce in an entrepreneurial society where the face of work is changing fast. So, for example, talent leaders no longer need to rely on traditional metrics for assessing potential (college grades, work history) because they now they must hire for unique capabilities and experiences needed for the future. Dispersed teams and remote workers open the door to global selection.  The trend is away from homogeneity and toward a highly diverse workforce—intergenerational, multi-cultural, and gender balanced—not just in terms of numbers but in how the culture reflects diversity and empowers women and others from the non-dominant culture.

When we talk about global talent beyond traditional borders, we mean that literally and metaphorically. We are dissolving country, culture, cognitive, status, educational, gender, age, and other borders that once framed a company’s talent profile. More and more it is the ability to connect with people across borders that differentiates success.  It’s all about building a supply chain that crosses traditional boundaries. All the past metrics and protocols for how, where and why we find candidates no longer apply. Increasingly, we are looking at a fluid workforce in an entrepreneurial society where the face of work is changing fast. So, for example, talent leaders no longer need to rely on traditional metrics for assessing potential (college grades, work history) because they now they must hire for unique capabilities and experiences needed for the future. Dispersed teams and remote workers open the door to global selection.  The trend is away from homogeneity and toward a highly diverse workforce—intergenerational, multi-cultural, and gender balanced—not just in terms of numbers but in how the culture reflects diversity and empowers women and others from the non-dominant culture.

 

INTERNET OF WOMEN

Dissolving borders for women took priority at the retreat, and we were guided by global thought leader Monique Morrow, the CTO of New Frontiers Engineering at Cisco.   The gender gap is a mystifying conundrum as most people say they want parity for women and yet statistics are dismal. Monique identified aspects of current business culture that are anathema to many women—for example, what kind of behavior (tough competition versus teamwork) is rewarded.  Women may have different motivations for work, prioritizing purpose, teamwork, and having positive impact than with traditional success metrics of power and money. 

Specific to the work of talent leaders, Monique urged rethinking customs that could perpetuate lack of diversity. For example, the idea of culture fit often is a way of subtly maintaining homogeneity. She was keen on the current work about unconscious bias, and advocated more candid conversations between men and women to start identifying the extremely subtle drivers of gender disparity.

 

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION

Speaker Joe Gerstandt helped us go deeper into how barriers get dissolved. The shift occurs with honest conversations, permission to have conflict, and awareness that diversity is business critical for innovation and engagement.  He emphasized the subtleties behind the challenges; for example, women leaving companies is due to the invisible networks and invisible metrics—how power works in organizations.  He emphasized the sometimes competing human needs for uniqueness and inclusion. One of his insights included a plea to move away from assimilation — the attempt to make everyone the same, which is not possible —  to the  concept of inclusion where we embrace and accept differences and incorporate them into how we think and do business.

 

TRENDS CAFE

Pressing dilemmas and professional opportunities emerged from the Trends Café, a rolling, rotating discussion where everyone participated in a structured brainstorming session.

The future role of Human Resources emerged as more than the culture driver for organizations and as the convener of critical conversations about the future of companies.  Talent leaders now become the moral compass of organizations—representing the individuals who will be changing the organization from the inside out.The dilemma is that this role is not traditionally associated with HR. The professional opportunity is that HR can be on the leading edge of understanding and implementing trends.  If they can upskill themselves with essential knowledge about how to use big data and analytics, they will be developing essential information about the human side of their organizations. HR leaders must become the new forecasters whose knowledge, values, and predictive analytics will drive company strategies.

The dilemma is that this role is not traditionally associated with HR. The professional opportunity is that HR can be on the leading edge of understanding and implementing trends.  If they can upskill themselves with essential knowledge about how to use big data and analytics, they will be developing essential information about the human side of their organizations. HR leaders must become the new forecasters whose knowledge, values, and predictive analytics will drive company strategies.

 

DEMYSTIFYING THE ANALYTICS LANDSCAPE

Speaker Tom Becker amplified and demystified the analytics landscape, challenging sacred cows in the talent field.  His overarching message was that talent leaders need to become highly skilled in analytics to be relevant and effective in the future.  Right now, most of the data we have relates to candidates. But there is very little data on the needs of hiring managers.  It’s time for people to rely on technology when it does a better job than humans—for example, interviewing is far less reliable and objective than analytics in finding good candidate. Analytics will create a revolution in HR, freeing people to implement their future-oriented jobs of forecasting and driving culture change in companies.

 

REIMAGINING TALENT FUNCTIONS IN AN ANALYTICS WORLD

Speaker David Bernstein underscored the current lack of analytics expertise on the part of HR. Turning information into knowledge is the meta-level skillset for future leaders. He suggested a new role for HR as “Talent Economists,” understanding how to find, assess, and inspire people who will help smart companies thrive amid the dramatic changes under way.

Eileen Clegg
Future of Talent faculty member Eileen Clegg, MA, FRSA, is founder of the company Visual Insight that supports Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits and government agencies with human-interaction processes and visual communication. Eileen is also CEO of TTenTT (pronounced “tent”), a new technology company that is visually facilitating online meetings. She is a book author and is known for her large-scale timeline murals. She has a B.A. in Philosophy from U.C. Berkeley and M.A. in Psychology from Sonoma State University.

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