Written by:

Holly Macdonald


November 24, 2009

I’m working with a client right now to help them to prepare their workforce of the future through the development of a talent management framework.  Sound familiar?  How many others are struggling with this challenge?

They need to know what types of jobs there will be in their industry and their organization, what skills might be needed, what external trends to monitor, how to decide what programs to invest in, how technology might change, demographics, etc.

How does the head of HR figure out what capabilities they’ll need in the future when many can’t even be sure of what capabilities they have currently?

Is there a technology solution to this?  Is it simply a process?  What does talent management mean anyway?  I can provide oodles of information on trends and possible scenarios, but it seems that at the end of the day, there is nothing that will replace the hard work of figuring this out team by team in your organization, regardless of what fancy model, framework or approach you use.  Some might call it the “heavy lifting”.  When faced with a herculean task, one does not know where to start, so crafts a plan.  Doesn’t actually make the work any less, just more logically planned and executed.

However, here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • What do the demographic predictions (shrinking labour pool, increased migration, university graduation rates, etc) mean to my organization?
  • Have we thought of what role technology might/could play to change the nature of the jobs, how we could prepare/train people, etc?
  • Are we prepared for new types of work?  Worker co-ops or alliances could replace temp agencies.  Micro-work, outsourcing, trades, are all viable options, but can HR handle it?  Will HR be trapped in policy-land?

Most importantly, it is critical that you spend at least a little bit of time thinking about the future of your organization and what it means to the people programs that are delivered.  You can go sophisticated and do scenario planning for HR or you can brainstorm by yourself or in a group.  However you do it, make sure that it is something that gets done and doesn’t just sit on your to-do list as a “important but not urgent” task.  It’s both.  If you don’t someone else will do it for you, and you may find your role outsourced.