Seven steps can make you an effective futurist in your organization.

Seven steps can make you an effective futurist in your organization.

I 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. That is 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”

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 and then 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.)


The NLRB basically says you have to allow negativity

by Michael Haberman on April 17, 2014 · 0 comments

According to the NLRB negativity is a protected concerted activity.

According to the NLRB negativity is a protected concerted activity.

As I was telling a class the other day the National Labor Relations Board is getting more and more intrusive into non-union companies. Here is an example.

Poor work environment

Many companies have made attempts to improve the work environment when it as devolved into a state where there was a lack of cooperation, fighting among employees, disintegrating customer relationships and customers looking for other places to do business. That was just the case at Hills and Dales General Hospital in Michigan.

As any good HR department and management team would do in that situation they put a policy in place that tried to improve the work environment. They told people they could not engage in negativity and prohibited them from engaging in negative comments about fellow workers and engaging in gossip. The attempt was to try to improve things at the hospital and put the hospital in a better light in the community.

NLRB said you can’t do that

An Administrative Law Judge upheld the NLRB’s General Counsel when the GC told the company they could not have such a policy. The ALJ said:

By maintaining a work rule (par. 11 of its Values and Standards of Behavior policy) that proscribes making “negative comments about our fellow team members,” the Respondent interfered with, restrained and coerced employees in the exercise of rights guaranteed in Section 7 of the Act, and thus violated Section 8(a)(1) of the Act.

By maintaining a work rule (par. 21 of its Values and Standards of Behavior policy) that proscribes engaging in or listening to negativity, the Respondent interfered with, restrained and coerced employees in the exercise of rights guaranteed in Section 7 of the Act, and thus violated Section 8(a)(1) of the Act.

By committing the unfair labor practices stated in Conclusions of Law 1–2 above, the Respondent has engaged in unfair labor practices affecting commerce within the meaning of Section 8(a)(1) and Section 2(6) and (7) of the Act.

The end result of this is that this company could not prohibit negativity in the workplace or negative gossip. The implication is that being nasty and negative is the “God given right” of all employees. I guess we should not expect anything else from someone who works for the government.

If you want to read the entire ruling on this case you can go here.

Thanks to Charlie Plumb of McAfee & Taft for the heads up.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /


Seven Signs of Age Harassment

by Michael Haberman on April 16, 2014 · 0 comments

Ageism” has been talked about frequently in the news, especially in the recent years following the recession. It has gotten a lot of press recently with reports of workers in their 30s in Silicon Valley getting Botox injections in order to appear younger in an attempt to compete against “younger” workers.

"Grandpa" is only endearing when it is said by your grandchild

“Grandpa” is only endearing when it is said by your grandchild


We all know that “ageism” is discrimination and violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, an amendment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It protects workers that are 40 and over and its purpose is “to promote employment of older persons based on their ability rather than age; to prohibit arbitrary age discrimination in employment; to help employers and workers find ways of meeting problems arising from the impact of age on employment.” If someone is discriminated against and suffers economic harm they can file a complaint of discrimination with the EEOC, typically within 180 days of the incident. But what about those times where a worker is not turned down for a promotion, or is terminated, or doesn’t suffer some other potential economic hardship?


Sometimes older workers can just be harassed. All HR people, all managers and all older workers need to be aware that harassment of older workers is as illegal as is discrimination. What are some of the signs of harassment?

Sign #1 The worker is referred to as “grandpa” or “grandma.” Although being called grandpa is a badge of honor and endearment when your granddaughter calls you that it is not acceptable when a co-worker calls you that.

Sign #2 The worker is referred to in conversation as the “old man”, such as “I don’t know the answer to that question, ask the old man.”

Sign #3 The worker is told they should not be doing something because “someone your age should be more careful.”

Sign #4  The older worker is questioned more closely about their absences due to medical reasons than are younger workers.

Sign #5 The relationship with the boss and the older worker suddenly becomes more strained or antagonistic.

Sign #6 The boss suddenly starts questioning the worker about “his retirement plans.”

Sign #7 The older worker is not included in activities or meetings.

All off these can be considered signs of harassment. Any worker subject to this should talk to the HR manager or to management and let them know that such harassment is unwelcome and should cease. And management and HR need to pay attention to such complaints and investigate and document as needed. Don’t sweep it under the rug as “harmless.” It is no more harmless than is sexual and racial harassment. Harassment is viewed as discrimination by the EEOC and will be investigated as so.


One major issue that must be closely watched is retaliation. A fellow employee may not “enjoy” being reported for “old man” comments and may really start to harass the older employee. Older workers should be told to document and report any such increased activity.


Here is my advice to the various parties involved in this scenario.

  • Older workers don’t let co-workers get away with this, especially if it bothers you. Tell them those comments are not welcome. If they don’t stop report them to HR or to management. If the harassment doesn’t stop, then the talk to the EEOC. A letter from them usually catches someone’s attention.
  • Human Resources you need to be diligent in making sure age bias doesn’t run rampant in your workplace. Listen to how workers refer to each other. Be careful yourself about how you refer to people.
  • Managers, you need to be aware that bias exists. Don’t overlook workers because of their age and don’t make any business decisions based on age.

Remember everyone will at some point be the older worker.

Image courtesy of stockimages /


Tough to be a Federal Contractor these days

by Michael Haberman on April 15, 2014 · 0 comments

The President has increased the budget of the OFCCP to focus on pay issues.

The President has increased the budget of the OFCCP to focus on pay issues.

(Note: The promised post on gender pay inequality has been postponed.)

On April 10th I wrote a post about two Presidential actions that were taken to put pressure on federal contractors to reform pay procedures. This followed the Executive Order that raised minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for federal contractors. Now comes the announcement  that the President is asking for an additional $1.1 million in the OFCCP’s budget in order to hire an additional 10 workers specifically to focus on pay equity issues.

Additionally the OFCCP is in the process of developing rules in the following areas:

  • Construction Contractors’ Affirmative Action Requirements specifically focusing on sex and pay discrimination
  • No Discrimination In Compensation: Compensation Data Collection Tool Proposed Rule Stage
  • Sex Discrimination Guidelines to create sex discrimination regulations that reflect the current state of the law in this area.
  • Affirmative Action and Nondiscrimination Obligations of Contractors and Subcontractors Regarding Individuals With Disabilities – This is in the Final Rule Stage

The President seems to be taking out his frustration on the inability to get legislation on compensation, minimum wage and pay inequity passed in Congress. His “power of the pen” is focused against businesses that do business with the Federal government.


How the Paycheck Fairness Act is bad legislation

by Michael Haberman April 14, 2014

Tweet For a number of years the Obama administration has been trying to get the Paycheck Fairness Act passed. I first wrote about this in 2008 and several times since then. The Paycheck Fairness Act is a supposed amendment to the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The EPA has provided protection to women in pay […]

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Future Friday: Employees habits will provide data to employers

by Michael Haberman April 11, 2014

Tweet I and others have written a lot on wearable devices and how they may be used in the future. Here is one other possible use. Quantified Self Quantified Self or QS is a termed used to describe people keeping track of their activities and behaviors. Although the term is relatively new, coined in 2010 […]

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Two New Executive Actions on Pay that Federal Contractors Must Heed

by Michael Haberman April 10, 2014

Tweet One April 8, 2014 President Barak Obama signed two Executive actions that require Federal Contractors to abide with new pay rules. Failure to abide with these orders could result in loss of all federal contracts the company has and at minimum will increase scrutiny of the company by the OFCCP. Federal contractors are any […]

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Two very interesting posts to read Midweek

by Michael Haberman April 9, 2014

Tweet Here are two very interesting posts that I highly recommend you read. The first is from Kris Dunn, considered to be a superstar in HR by many. He is also a sports fiend so much of his writing is related to sports. But don’t dismay this one is fascinating and deals with ageism. Read […]

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If the NLRB allows employees to telecommute so can you!

by Michael Haberman April 8, 2014

Tweet Working remotely is a solution many organizations have considered to accomplish a number of goals. “Telecommuting” suffered a setback when Yahoo altered the way they did business and called all their remote workers back to the main office. But despite the move by Yahoo more and more organizations are moving to remote working on […]

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In HR is competence or likeability more important?

by Michael Haberman April 7, 2014

Tweet   In a world where HR professionals strive for more and more credibility you would hope that competence would be the prime factor for selecting the best and the brightest. Unfortunately in this more modern world of video conference and webinar presentations it appears another factor is as important, if not more so, than […]

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