Seven stepsI have a presentation that I have done several times called “7 Steps to becoming a practical HR futurist.” I think it is important for Human Resources professionals to have an eye toward the future. And I am happy to announce that I will be presenting that as a session at the 25th Annual SHRM Atlanta on April 20 and 21, 2015.

That is also why I write Future Friday. So it was interesting when I came across a post by futurist John B. Mahaffie of Leading Futurists LLC. entitled  “7 first steps for building an organization’s foresight”, it has some great steps and is not dissimilar to my post.

My 7 steps

My seven steps include the following:

  1. Engage in systems thinking and understand your mental models
  2. Look back to look forward
  3. Scan the environment
  4. Look at the trends
  5. Develop scenarios
  6. Do your forecasting
  7. “DO”

If you want to know more information you can visit this post or, better yet, come to my session in April 2015.

Mahaffie’s steps

  • Step 1 Mahaffie tells us to first talk to people about the organization’s future. Make it a thoughtful, creative conversation about where the organization is going. The purpose of this is to get people thinking about foresight.
  • Step 2 is to find colleagues who are also interested in the future of the organization who will challenge you and allow you to challenge them. Have a consistent meeting, perhaps a lunch, over the topic and try to keep the group interested.
  • Step 3 is do environmental scanning. He says “Start learning about the wider world of forces, trends, issues, challenges, and opportunities that you face. That means carving out some time to do what is called environmental scanning–exploring for new trends, ideas, issues across all sorts of media.”
  • Step 4 is what he calls “pay it forward.” Basically what he means by this is to share the information about trends that may affect the organization. Make people aware of what you are finding out. He says you may develop a reputation for your valued insights.
  • Step 5 is encouragement for you to get some outside help or involvement. He suggest joining organizations that have the “future” as their focus, such as the two I belong to, The World Future Society and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Great insight can be gleaned from their publications.
  • Step 6 is that you need to get visible about it. As he suggests “Commandeer a wall, whiteboard, or similar, and put some questions up: ‘What are the top trends shaping our future?’ ‘What are we not talking about that we should?’ Get a conversation going, share and nurture the comments.”
  • Step 7 tells you to bring the topic of the future or foresight up every reasonable place you can. If you are in a meeting and a topic was discussed he suggests saying “can we take a moment and look at how this plays out, longer term?” With that you will develop that reputation of being the futurist in the room.

My 7 steps revisited

In my seven steps you have to:

  • Understand your organization and how it thinks (systems thinking and mental models).
  • You need to understand the history or your organization and the industry. How has it progressed to this point?
  • You need to scan the environment focusing on the issues of interest to you and your organization
  • Identify the trends that may be important.
  • I then suggest you develop some alternative scenarios (stories) about what could happen and what your responses might be (forecasting).
  • Then finally “do” which takes into consideration much of what Mahaffie suggested. Don’t just make it an intellectual exercise for your benefit. Enlist others in the scanning and talk to others about what you are finding.

I think if you mesh these two sets of seven steps you will have a good chance of becoming that practical futurist and gain the opportunity to help your organization be prepared on how to handle the future as it rushes at us at light speed. (A speeding train analogy is so last century.)

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A good job can be like a good marriage.

A good job can be like a good marriage.

Today is my wedding anniversary! Now you may think was does this have to do with anything in HR? As I have reflected on my marriage I found a lot of similarities with working for a good company. I share these with you below.

Seven similarities

# 1- Courting

In a good marriage you spend time courting each other. My wife and I dated for over two years before we married. That allowed us to get to know each other before making a commitment. Companies and prospective employers should do the same. I am not recommending you spend two years but I am suggesting you take more time before you make the decision. Get to know each other better before you say “I do.” I tell all my clients “Hire slow, fire fast.” Fortunately for me I have not had to do the “fire” part and if you select your employees more carefully you might not have to either.

# 2- Adjusting to each other

Seeing someone first thing in the morning is a lot different than dating them. Having your new partner being grumpy, out-of-sorts, or bright-eyed and bushy-tailed before your coffee gives you a different perspective on who they are. Do they pick up after themselves? Do they assume you are doing various things that you have not agreed to do? The answers to those questions reveal different people than you may have expected. Employees are the same way. Their work habits may not jive with yours. They may not be as neat as you are or may be an OCD neat freak that drives you up the wall. Regardless there is a period of adjustment that everyone undergoes. If you don’t realize this then a separation, aka turnover, may soon be coming.

# 3- Allowing learning and growth

When you get married, particularly if you are young, you will learn, grow, and change. Your partner will as well. If the two of you do not realize that and allow for that you will face many a difficulty. The person will not always be the exact person you said “I do” to on your wedding day. Starting in a new job is the same way. Both you and the company should expect that you are going to learn, grow and change. There should be encouragement for that process in both a marriage and a job. If that process is not happening with both sides then the relationship will become stale, and like stale, bread eventually it goes to the birds.

# 4- You have to enjoy each other

In today’s employment parlance this means you have to be “engaged” in your job. The more engaged you are the more you enjoy the relationship. It works the same way in a marriage. If you are no longer engaged in your partner you will dread waking up beside them and spending time with them. In a job there is nothing worse than waking up and dreading going to work because you hate the job. Same thing holds true in a marriage.

# 5- You have to allow for mistakes

There is an old line that says “I don’t make mistakes. I thought I did once, but I was wrong.” No one is perfect. People make mistakes, sometimes more than once. Marriage partners that punish the first failure are like companies that punish employees that make mistakes. You distance both and may eventually lose. In both marriage and in a job there has to be a big dose of forgiveness that allows the person to correct and learn from their mistake. There is no progress otherwise. It does not mean you forget the mistake, because if the mistake is repeated then the person is not learning and not a match for the relationship.

# 6- Overlook the wrinkles

The more time we spend with each other and grow old together the more you have to overlook the wrinkles that have developed. You may see another person that is more vibrant but you have to think “Is it worth it to replace what I have?” If you keep helping each other learn, advance, stay challenged and stay engaged you will not need to replace anyone. I find employers that want to quickly terminate an employee without really making an effort to be as distressing as a married couple who want to dump a partner without making an effort.

# 7- Celebrate

Today it is not in vogue to have long term employees. Authors who discuss the future of work, myself included, say you probably should not expect an employee to stay more than four years. If they stay more be happy. Although I say it, it saddens me. I think much of that is because the company does not keep the relationship interesting. Perhaps with the other changes that are occurring in the world of work we might be able to fix this.

I am happy to say my wife and I will be celebrating tonight. In reality we celebrate all the time. That is part of the secret of keeping engaged with each other for 43 years. I hope there are many more.

Happy Anniversary Sherry Haberman!

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Are you communicating correctly for your audience?

by Michael Haberman on December 17, 2014 · 0 comments

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In the old SHRM learning material, in Module 3, we learned that there are three routes by which people learn or acquire information. These are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Generally everyone uses all three, barring some disability, and which one is best for learning depends on the task being taught or communicated. For example, it is tough to learn auto mechanics through listening to a lecture. The question is do you think about that as you are communicating to people? Or are you communicating in the style you prefer?

Most of us are visual

Research has shown that the general US population is 70% visual, 20% auditory and 10% kinesthetic. That means your employee population, unless you have found out differently, is probably much like this. Are you making sure your communication reflects this? Shelby Rogers, of the Wicker Park Group, says that attorneys don’t do a good job of this. He says attorneys are ”20% visual learners, 70% auditory and 10% kinesthetic.” As a result they make heavy use of oratory in a courtroom talking to a jury that is most likely 70% visual. (If you ever have to go to court you may want to point that out to your defense attorney.) Roger says “The way around this challenge is recognition of the problem and then a more balanced approach in your oral presentation that includes visual information (documents, presentations, blackboard) as well as adding kinesthetic evidence (scale models).”

Works of HR and management too

The same principle of communication works for HR and management, especially management. Managers have a tendency to “tell” employees rather than “show” and then wonder why the employee did not learn and has to be told again. HR uses primarily a visual mode, with memos and published documents but often misses the other methods and subsequently misses employees who prefer other methods.

One way you can alter the method of communication, is to produce a document, and then record a brief YouTube video explaining the new policy. You could even produce your own internal podcast.

The point of this blog

The point of this post is to get you to start thinking about how you communicate to others. Are you even aware of how your employees prefer to get information or do you just give it to them in the manner you are most comfortable with? If you are having trouble getting a message across perhaps you need to pick a different way.

Think about it.

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Balancing on the Tightrope of Corporate Transparency

by Michael Haberman on December 16, 2014 · 0 comments

Corporate transparency can be difficult

Corporate transparency can be difficult

Today’s post is courtesy of my friends at SocialMonsters.org

It’s a common predicament in the workplace. Employees clamor for more information, after feeling blindsided by an abrupt change in HR policies. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, the management sends an endless cache of documents to your staff to keep them in the know, and they’re at their wit’s end thanks to the barrage of information. It seems you can’t win. If you withhold internal company information, you can end up with an unhappy workforce that feels shut out. But if you share everything with your team, you run the risk of getting unsolicited feedback on sensitive details or damaging the company by letting details slip. Here are a few tips for achieving the perfect balance of corporate transparency.

Inform, Don’t Inundate

Your motto with your employees should be to inform, and not to inundate. Think about it like this. When you were in college, you wanted to know enough about civil engineering to be able to pass your final exam, but didn’t need (or want) to grasp the intricate nuances of building a complex freeway system. This is similar to how your employees feel. They want to be included on important company matters that will affect their paycheck, their team, and their role. But they don’t need to know everything said in the most recent meeting with your legal team or how their direct boss is going to leave early on Fridays for marital counseling.

Keep details that involve sensitive personal information or delicate business insights close to the vest. Do a gut check before sharing something, whether it’s with an individual or a whole department. If it’s something about a coworker, ask yourself if you’d be comfortable having the matter aired, if it was you in your coworker’s shoes? And if it’s a business matter, ask yourself if this is something that wouldn’t cause damage if it made its way into a newspaper. The one area in which employees should have full access, however, is to human resource policies. Company rules and the like should be clearly written and openly shared.

Choose your Channel Wisely

With personal communication, timing is of utmost importance. And with business communication, both timing and the medium used are key. Email should be reserved for semi-formal, frequent transmission of information, instant messaging for lighthearted conversation, and paper documents for confidential, sensitive or legal matters. Choose the channel you’re using based on the nature of the material.

Furthermore, don’t forget to give proper context whenever you’re disclosing anything significant. The right information given without context can be just as harmful as misinformation. Take finances, for instance. It can be a good idea to share certain financial factors with your employees, like the state of the industry, where your profits go, what you invest in, your financial strength and how you’re performing against budgets and forecasts. But if you reveal things like financial reports, be sure to let employees know how to interpret the figures. Whenever you inform, do so through the right channel, along with adequate education.

Give Preferential Treatment

Lastly, it may seem unfair, but not all employees have earned the right to the same level of data. Especially when it concerns finances, client concerns or other matters that could make or break the company’s success, it’s okay to be choosy about who can be privy to greater depths of disclosure. Just be sure you’re equitable among peer groups. For example, if your director of marketing is let in on an impending acquisition, don’t leave your director of communication in the cold about the news. A good way to handle the disbursement of varying degrees of information is through a service like Mozy. With a cloud-based backup solution like this, you can set specific levels of access to documents and information for different groups. It’s a tactful way to restrict entree to some people, while enabling it for others.

When it comes to corporate transparency, it can be a bit of a juggling act. In order to keep your whole team in the loop, while not overloading them with unnecessary intelligence, be strategic in your communication. Dole out information on a need-to-know basis, be deliberate about the channels (and context) you use and be selective about who can be aware of what. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be on your way to a cohesive team that is equipped with exactly what they need to succeed.

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The NLRB delivers a big kick in the pants to employers

by Michael Haberman December 15, 2014

Tweet The National Labor Relations Board issued a ruling on December 12, 2014 that substantially changed procedures for unionization in the US. Fulfilling a long sought after promise to the unions the NLRB has shortened the time to run an election (quickie elections) and given unions access to employee email address they did not have […]

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Future Friday: What the future will NOT be

by Michael Haberman December 12, 2014

Tweet I write every Friday about what the future may look like in HR. But what about what the future will not be? Jacob Morgan, author of the Future of Work, proposed that reversal of thinking as an interesting exercise, so I am going to engage in that a bit. What will NOT be One […]

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The Supreme Court Decides on the FLSA and We Listen

by Michael Haberman December 11, 2014

Tweet Many of you probably already know this as the law firms jumped on this decision right away. There had been a lot of press about the Amazon workers complaining they were not getting paid for the time it took them to go through security at the end of their shifts. They filed a lawsuit […]

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Should HR be a positive disruptor?

by Michael Haberman December 10, 2014

Tweet I have written a couple of time on “legacy thinking” in HR, here and here. While it is good for organizations to have a legacy and a history in today’s fast moving world legacy thinking can also keep you from progressing. “We have always done it that way” When you ask a question and […]

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Initiative gets you rewarded, well maybe not!

by Michael Haberman December 9, 2014

Tweet Initiative is a trait that is supposedly highly valued by employers, thus it appears on practically every résumé written. It is usually promoted as someone’s strengths when they are asked what their strengths are in an interview. Unfortunately a recent study has shown that initiative may not get you the rewards you expected. Neither […]

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Pay Violations cost American Workers $50 BILLION per year

by Michael Haberman December 8, 2014

Tweet You read that right! That is $50 Billion, with a “B”, that American workers are losing on an annual basis. A study by the Economic Policy Institute shows that American employers fail to pay their workers properly, with the resulting loss of this magnitude. Wage Theft In some circles these pay violations are considered […]

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