2012 Predictions? Easy. How about 2020 Instead?

Steve Boese Labor, Science, Steve Boese, The HR Profession

This is the time of year when you can’t swing a cat around the blogosphere without hitting up against a ‘2012 Predictions’ themed post. And since you are here at Fistful of Talent today perhaps wondering what insight about the world of work and for talent management in 2012 the FOT crew might have to share, I will sum all the ‘predictions’ articles up in one sentence for you. Ready? Here it is: In 2012, social networking, mobile technology, and an abundance of data about business and talent will be the big themes for the year.

There, pretty simple right? And kind of no help either. One, because most of the 2012 predictions posts are about 85% the same, they pretty much all drone on about social and mobile and whatnot, which should be a kind of warning in itself. When how the future will play out seems too obvious, and when scores of experts and pundits advocate the same kinds of approaches to dealing with the same environmental drivers, following them probably won’t generate much competitive advantage in the short or medium term.  And second, most of the predictions pieces don’t offer squat in the way of recommendations or actions to take to better prepare for and exploit opportunities. Lines like, ‘Mobile technology will be more prevalent in organizations in 2012’, may as well read ‘Betty Sue in Accounting will jam up the printer 39 times in 2012.’Yes, and what of it?So instead of a lame and derivative take on 2012, how about a (hopefully) slightly less lame and more distinctive look farther out, let’s say 2020? And since here at FOT we have to work with the constraints of about 600 words or so, rather than try to solve that problem here, we’ll refer you to a really cool report from the Institute for the Future, (that sounds really cool), called ‘Future Work Skills 2020’, an examination of the key drivers that will shape the workplace in 2020, and the corresponding key work skills that will be needed to compete in a world shaped by these drivers.

The report cites six major drivers, (extreme longevity, rise of smart machines, the computational world, new media, superstructured organizations, and the globally connected world), that will combine and co-exist to drive disruptive change in markets and in economies that will ultimately influence the key workforce skills needed by organizations in 2020, and consequently impact how Human Resources and talent professionals are forced to adapt their recruiting, development, and rewards practices to meet the internal demand for these skills. Taking these six drivers into account, ten categories of skills that will be in demand in response to the changing conditions are listed. While some of these are kind of obvious, (new-media literacy and virtual collaboration), many are less apparent and more subtle and nuanced, (sense-making and social intelligence).

But beyond the simple 10-year out prognostication of what workforce skills savvy HR and talent professionals will need to cultivate and attract, the report concludes with some pretty prescient recommendations for the actual practice of talent management that are as relevant today as they will be in 2020. Namely, the need to reconsider the traditional methods for finding and identifying critical skills and for developing talent. And, perhaps more importantly, the need for talent pros to understand and assimilate the major environmental, economic, and demographic drivers when developing workforce planning models to support organizational talent and business strategy.

While I definitely recommend you take some time and read the 2020 report, admittedly it is a little arcane and perhaps a little disconnected from the practical and immediate concerns for most talent management shops today.  So what though? It is a heck of a lot more interesting than reading another article about how ‘Mobile will be important in 2012′.

Think bigger.