Trends for talent managers

In a few weeks (43 days according to the website countdown clock) I am speaking at the Talent Management Summit 2013. This is billed as asking the right questions on talent management:

  • Is your business prepared for the way we'll work in the future?
  • Does your organization have the right people to succeed in the future business landscape?
  • What are the talent requirements of tomorrow's business and how can we meet them?
  • Much has been written about the need for a mobile, agile workforce, but what does this mean in practice, and how can we measure it?

and 'will consider the questions from a broader perspective – taking in the economic and political context and emerging macro trends for society and business … as talent is no longer an issue confined to the HR department but is rising to the top of the agenda for senior executives across the board. … This reflects the importance of talent for competitive advantage in today's global knowledge economy.'
The effect of the countdown clock was to focus my attention on the questions and to make me wonder what I'm going to say. Then I remembered that in my recently published book Organizational Health I have a whole chapter on business trends and fads and included in the discussion a list asking readers whether they thought something was a trend to act on or a fad to ignore. The list reads:

B corps., behavioral analytics, big data, data reduction, data visualization, biomimicry, clean tech, collaborative work spaces, cradle to cradle, crowdsourcing, design thinking, gamification, green jobs,
positive psychology, neuro (marketing, economics, etc.), no offices/hoteling, co-working, outsourcing, post PC era, prediction markets, results only work environment (ROWE), self-managed teams (erosion of hierarchy, end of leadership), social advertising, social data, social media, sustainability, virtual and remote working.

At the time of writing, almost exactly a year ago, I was simply posing a question. Now it seems I'll have to place a bet on what I think is an actionable trend and what organizational leaders and talent managers need to be alert to as they build capability for the future of work.

So my current list boils down to six items. Each of which I'll take a brief look at here. They're not in any order of importance. And it's interesting how in a year the landscape has changed so some of the items I'm now thinking are business trends that need to be planned for (I don't think the six are fads) weren't on last year's list, but each has an impact on the way talent management is approached.

Robotics: I've been reading many articles on robotics recently and the one that caught my eye most was 'Your alter ego on wheels'. This talks about the advent of 'remotely controlled telepresence robots that let people be in two places at once'. From a talent management perspective this raises several points about the skills needed to manage a virtual team member, space requirements to accommodate robot colleagues who are trundling around offices, the protocols around interacting with telepresence robots both from the remote user angle and the on-site people. The article makes the point that 'Proponents of the technology say that by placing a remotely controlled embodiment of yourself in another location you can nurture your contacts, increase your influence and assert your authority.' It will be fascinating to find out if remote workers will now be able to do this more effectively than on-site workers.

Workforce of one: Three years ago the book Workforce of One: Revolutionizing Talent Management Through Customization, was published. This was summarized in an Accenture booklet that advocated HR practices capable of addressing each employees needs and wants within a 'structured, rules-based framework that allows for flexibility'. Recently there was an FT article talking about an unlimited holiday policy which is an example of a customization approach. A different tack on the workforce of one is that everyone is self-employed. Sites like Mechanical Turk and Task Rabbit are examples of offering work to requesters of work – the requesters being self-employed. The notion that people are less willing to be bound to an organization and more willing to sell their skills and knowledge to a range of offerers I think will increasingly be of interest to talent managers.

Network mapping and mobilization: Various ways of mapping networks are becoming more prevalent. The Wall Street Journal picked up on socio metric badges in an article 'Tracking Sensors Invade the Workplace' it reports that 'Sensors worn on lanyards or placed on office furniture record how often staffers get up from their desks, consult other teams, and hold meetings … businesses say the data offer hard to glean insights about how workers do their jobs'. For talent management this kind of data used appropriately could be enormously valuable. Mobilizing social networks for recruits, referrals, comments and endorsements through sites liked Linked In is also changing the way talent management is done. See the article LinkedIn Is Disrupting the Corporate Recruiting Market.

Gamification: is a developing area for talent management. A coursera program on the topic led by Kevin Werbach, from Wharton School says that 'Gamification as a business practice has exploded over the past two years. Organizations are applying it in areas such as marketing, human resources, productivity enhancement, sustainability, training, health and wellness, innovation, and customer engagement. Game thinking means more than just dropping in badges and leaderboards; it requires a thoughtful understanding of motivation and design techniques. ' Not being up in the field of gamification and what it offers puts talent managers at a disadvantage. If you're not sure where to start look at, or Deloitte's article The Engagement Economy

Behavioral economics: Research into behavioral economics is fast being applied in business. Google, for example uses some of the nudge techniques (see the book on the topic). 'Explains Jennifer Kurkoski, who has a PhD in organizational behavior and runs a division of Google's HR department called People Analytics, "When employees are healthy, they're happy. When they're happy, they're innovative." In pursuit of that healthiness, happiness, and innovation, Google has turned to "nudges": simple, subtle cues that prompt people to make better decisions. Behavioral economists have shown the idea works, but Google has taken it out of the lab and into the lunchroom. This is a sampling of the encouragement you'd get during trips through the company's eateries-and naturally, Google is measuring the results.' In this Google example you see behavioral economics applied to talent management.

Continuous radical change: Developing organizational capability to manage large scale continuous change beyond the specifics above is critical. Take the talent management challenge in the decision made by United Technologies to downsize its workforce at a point when it is doing exceptionally well. The comments on the blog piece about it are worth reading too.
Samsung, earlier this year said. "In the first quarter, demand for smartphones in developed countries is expected to decelerate." The company highlighted its uncertain outlook by breaking from its usual practice of giving a target figure for capital expenditure in the current financial year. It said only that it would "respond to the market's ebb and flow with a capex plan that is flexible in manner", and that capital investment would be similar to last year's $21.5bn. Developing the individual and organizational capability to handle uncertain conditions as those that face Samsung is a critical talent management task.
Technologies are changing types of work. Apps, for example, are replacing workers in some industries but simultaneously new jobs (e.g. apps developers) are being created. Keeping pace with, if not predicting, very rapidly changing work/role requirements is another talent management challenge.

So here are my six. I have a couple of others up my sleeve if these are old-hat. What do you think are the trends that talent managers should be looking at? I'd be glad to hear from you.