Crystal Gazing into Tomorrow’s HR
Each second that passes brings us face to face with the future and its unending possibilities. As Abraham Lincoln remarked, ‘the best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.’ Though difficult to predict with full accuracy, we, as HR professionals are fashioning the future every day through planned and informed steps in organizational settings.
Seeking to understand what the future may unravel for the HR profession, diverse workforce and work itself has tremendous value in terms of insights for optimal resource utilization and gaining a competitive edge in a complex information economy.
Considering the value of peering into the not so distant future, SHRM Indiadecided to scan the external HR environment for signals of imminent change and likely responses. This led to the unique Future Bytes contest, premised in an uncertain future, where it is hard to predict what will happen and one can only prepare for contingencies by answering ‘what if’ questions.
On August 9, 2012, SHRM India formally launched the Future Bytes competition, to engage HR professionals with eight to 15 years of experience. The participants were invited to send in their responses, in 300 characters or less, to three future workplace scenarios grounded in 2025.
The first scenario set the tone for futuristic reflections by zeroing in on the question - What would happen if employers adopted virtual operations as the new work paradigm? This triggered a barrage of kindred questions in the minds of participants. What specific HR interventions would be required to navigate the switch to the new model of e-office? How would HR cope with issues of employee engagement, performance management, rewards and recognition, training and development, and cultural diversity of virtual teams? What would be the drawbacks of employees working in a 100 percent virtual work environment?
The second scenario challenged participants to think of possible initiatives HR would unleash to fulfill the acute shortage of right brain talent and instill conceptual rigor among prospects for new jobs like those of systems thinkers, animators, graphic artists and writers. As an implication, could HR ever play a role in building greater alignment between school education and business needs? Could HR create rather than just source the right talent?
The third scenario dared all participants to think of ways in which HR would handle the new reality of biotechnologically enhanced individuals in the workforce. How would HR wrestle with the problem of fashioning equitable workplaces for both normals and enhanced individuals created from advances in genetic engineering and biotechnology? How would it deal with anew set of challenges in the form of segregating and defining job roles, developing suitable policies for engagement, compensation, training and defining career paths?
As expected, the carefully chosen triad of scenarios elicited a medley of interesting, innovative, refreshing and profound responses from over 500 participants from across India. The huge representation of companies and individuals ranged from students to Heads of HR from companies like Intel-McAfee, Hewlett Packard, Genpact, TCS, Mphasis, Religare, Barclays, DCB Bank, Pitney Bowes, Roche, Steria, JHPIEGO (Johns Hopkins Research arm), and even the Indian Navy!
The Future Bytes contest closed on September 7, 2012. All entries were screened internally for completeness and validity. An independent jury panel then individually assessed the entries against key parameters like innovation, problem-analysis, feasibility, cost and vision, followed by a collective discussion to finalize winners. The first five entrants were awarded early bird prizes, while the overall winner received the grand prize of an all-expenses paid trip to the First, People 2012 Unconference organized by SHRM India in Goa on September 21-22, 2012.
In addition to the winning responses, based on a rigorous analysisand jury scores, the Editorial team shortlisted exemplary responses from participants and solicited in-depth Expert Points of View on each scenario to come up with a solid publication that exudes new worldviews.
The Future Bytes publication,a handy reckoner of HR clairvoyance at its best, is a fitting companion for all practitioners eager to shake off a turbulent 2012 and welcome 2013 and beyond.
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Sanjay Joshi is an Editor at SHRM India.