Future Friday Archive: Is our view of the importance of the future determined by how long we stay in a job?

by Michael Haberman on August 4, 2017 · 0 comments


Futurism in HR can be a team effort.

I am out of the office today. I hope you enjoy this replay from earlier in the year.

What is the future? Amy Webb, author of The Signals are Talking, says “‘The future’ is a meaningless distinction, especially when used to make projections or decisions. The future is simultaneously three hundred years, one decade, twelve months, two days, or forty-seven seconds from this very moment.” Webb suggests we organize our thinking along six time zones. These include:

  • Now: within the next 12 months
  • Near term: one to five years
  • Mid-range: five to ten years
  • Long-range: ten to twenty years
  • Far range: twenty to thirty years
  • Distant: more than thirty years

The problem with this time zone model is that unless you are a futurist you don’t think in terms generally beyond 5 years.

Career movement inhibits future thinking

As I watch my Linked-In I see my connections changing jobs, spending time at jobs less than five years. According to Yahoo Finance the average tenure of a Fortune 500 CEO is 4.6 years. The average tenure of all CEOs is 8.1 years. New workers joining the workforce today are expected to change jobs more than ten times, as well as changing careers several times. With that kind of movement of employees I should not be surprised by the lack of attention paid to the future. After all, why should someone put time and effort into planning and anticipating what might happen within an industry or company if they don’t plan on staying more than 5 years?

How to get around the problem

What do you do in an HR department where people shuffle through the department as they progress in their careers? It is hard to assign someone the task of being the HR futurist in that situation. They leave and your program goes down the tube. You get around that by making THE FUTURE part of everyone’s role. You can work as a group and set up a division of duties in paying attention to the future. You as a group can determine what needs to be watched. You can then assign things to be read, trends to be watched, and timeframes to be heeded, to everyone in the department, even your clerical staff. Allow them time during their workday or workweek to investigate their assigned trend or technology.

If you make this a departmental task, then when someone leaves the person that replaces them takes over that assignment and, because all this research has been documented, the new person can quickly get up to speed. Even new VPs can be brought into the system if the entire department convinces them of the value of the endeavor.

Give it a thought. It is better than letting time go by and not paying attention to how the world of work is changing and not doing anything about it.


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