Future Friday: How do you plan for jobs that don’t yet exist?

by Michael Haberman on August 12, 2016 · 2 comments


Are you looking for a way to prepare for the future?

Are you looking for a way to prepare for the future?

I came across an interesting article entitled Check out these 10 jobs of the future written by Gordon Hunt for the website SiliconRepublic. He talked about the report put out by Microsoft and The Future Laboratory. Both were an interesting read. All 10 of these jobs are conjectured to be jobs of the future, some sooner than others. So it made me wonder if I am in HR today how do I even begin to plan for something that does not yet exist?

I am in HR today how do I even begin to plan for something that does not yet exist?

Types of jobs

Let me give you some idea of what these jobs are predicted to be. They include:

  • Virtual reality habitat designer
  • Ethical technology advocate (I wrote about a similar job here.)
  • Digital cultural commentator
  • Freelance biohacker
  • Internet-of-things data creative
  • Space tour guide
  • Personal content creator
  • Rewilding strategist
  • Sustainable power innovator
  • Human body designer

You may look at these and think these are some pretty wild titles. Some are more likely to develop sooner than others. If you delve into each of these, however, you see that each of them have foundations that already exist today. Even the space tour guide becomes possible with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. In fact they are already advertising a number of positions, including HR, on their website. Virtual reality is a growing reality. HR is already positioned to be the ethical technology advocate as a go between robots and humans.

What does it take to plan?

There are a number of things necessary to plan for this future. I have talked about some of this in numerous blog posts on my 7 Steps to being a practical HR futurist. Let me revisit some of those and add some additional ones.

You need to be imaginative

  • First, you have to understand your business and by that I don’t mean HR. I mean the industry that your company operates in. You have to understand how you operate, what is important to the business currently, and what mental models the business operates under (biases, impressions, and beliefs).
  • Secondly you need to read outside of HR. That means you need to review material that is published about the industry in which your company works. You need to know what advancements are being made in processes. That is likely to have an effect on how you utilize people, if indeed you use people at all. Don’t make the mistake of assuming this only applies to manufacturing. Legal assistants are being replaced by technology, as are HR people. So if you want to anticipate changes you need to know what is changing.
  • Thirdly, you need to know how people are changing or not changing. You need to be reading social behavior material. You need to understand the underlying dynamics of why people are doing what they are doing as time goes on.
  • Fourthly, you need to pay attention to the trends involved in your industry and your population and your technology. For example we all know that car companies are experimenting with driverless cars and trucks which may displace drivers but what jobs might be created from that scenario? What is changing in your industry that will eliminate jobs yet create others?
  • Fifth, you need to be imaginative. You not only have to be able to imagine new jobs but you also need to be able to imagine what skill sets will be needed. For example in the list of 10 jobs the virtual reality habitat designer will need “…to possess the storytelling skills of an online game designer and editor together with the spatial design expertise of an architect or town planner to be able to imagine and create entire virtual worlds.” If your industry is going in that direction are those not skill sets that can be trained today?

Biggest challenge is just a lack of interest

The biggest challenge

There are a number of challenges associated with preparing for the future. Time, resources and money are just some of them. Lack of knowledge is another, but that can be overcome. I think for many people the biggest challenge is just a lack of interest. They think that “by the time this happens I am going to be gone. Why should I work on this now?”

That may be the case but this gives you an opportunity to truly be that strategic player in HR, that one person that prepares the company for coming change and thus becomes the company or even industry hero. Want to give it a try?


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ira Wolfe August 12, 2016 at 8:17 am

Mike – another great read. When HR talks about getting a “seat at the table,” this is what it will take to do. Filling current positions may be the job today, but predictive analytics and artificial intelligence will automate those tasks sooner than HR and management wants to believe. You hit it on the head when you mentioned HR will be (or should I say could be) the liaison between humans and robots. If HR transitions to become the stewards of talent, then they are positioned to define the job and manage the confluence of automation and people.

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Michael Haberman August 12, 2016 at 11:11 am

Ira:
A great observation. I think you are correct in saying the future is going to get here quicker than most of us think.

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