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Ensuring a vibrant and relevant future for human capital management

Posted on: 27 August 2009 at 12:26 SAST

± minute read

Author: Dr Grant Freedman

The biggest risk today is irrelevancy. Barriers that protected incumbents in the past have broken down and competitive positions can be quickly overturned.

Hamel (2008) For those of us who intend to work in the field of Human Capital Management (HCM) in the second and third decades of the 21st century, questions, hopes and concerns about what the future holds abound. Questions include what the world will look like politically, economically and socially. They also include questions such as the impact of environmental conditions on life on this planet and the extent to which scientific and technological know-how and developments will change the way we live and work.

Having an idea of the answers to some of these questions can provide proactive clues about what we in HCM need to do more of, continue to do or do less of. We can be certain that the operating environment, or what Hamel (1999) described as the “landscape of tomorrow”, will look vastly different to what it is today. If HCM is to continue to attract people, it will have to be relevant, vibrant and successful. We will have to find new ‘vehicles’ (and, very likely, new ‘fuels’) to enable us to traverse the landscape of tomorrow effectively. The social sciences (of which HCM is a part) and the imperatives for their continued growth and contribution were the subject of a recent research project. In the research, we specifically asked the questions: • What will it be like to live and work in 2025? • What are the imperatives for the social sciences to ensure that they are relevant and that they grow and make a contribution to life and work in 2025? Our research answered the questions in the following ways. What it will be like to live and work in 2025? We scanned the literature on futures research and extracted 12 sets of global scenarios that were produced by reputable researchers and covered issues across the PESTEL (Political, Economic, Social, Technology, Environment, and Legislation) spectrum. These 12 sets of scenarios provided us with 45 different scenarios or perspectives for the development of life and work over the next 15 years. Themes and critical questions identified We analysed the scenarios and extracted four key meta-themes that will shape the way we live and work in 2025. These meta-themes are global in prevalence and in nature. Dr Michael Cavanaugh, a psychologist at the University of Sydney, put this into perspective in a discussion with the author, stating that the major problems that face humankind today are of planetary scale and must be addressed as such. For each of the themes, we identified a critical question, the hypothetical answers to which were the basis for the divergence of the scenarios within the sets, i.e., we could find supporting scenarios for the positive use of scientific discoveries (e.g. cures for AIDS or viable alternatives to fossil fuels) as well as for the negative use of scientific discoveries (e.g. biological warfare and cyber-terrorism). The four meta-themes and the critical questions related to each are presented in Figure 1. Figure 1: Meta-themes and critical questions four key meta-themes that will shape the way we live and work in 2025. The analysis of the scenarios also identified two leveraging factors that underpin the answers to the critical questions around the meta-themes, namely: • Balance of power We defined power as the ability to control and influence other stakeholders and / or their actions. In the scenarios, we identified three degrees of power: – A stakeholder may have the ability to dominate others completely – unbalanced power – A stakeholder may have the ability to be dominant, but others have significant power – moderate power – Stakeholders are relatively evenly matched – balanced power • Degree of collaboration Collaboration was defined as the act of working together with other stakeholders to achieve an outcome. In the scenarios, we also identified three degrees of collaboration: – Work together - collaboration – Do nothing - disinterest – Work against – opposition The relative balance of power and the decisions that the stakeholders make as to what to do with that power and how to live and work with other stakeholders spells the difference between which scenarios are realised. Six contexts in which we will live and work The juxtaposition of the two leveraging factors yielded a set of contexts within which people will live and work in the future (see Figure 2 below). Depending on where in the world one is and at what level one looks at the world, it is possible to examine issues at various levels. One can investigate the relationship between key stakeholders in a country in terms of the power and collaboration. Similarly, one can investigate the relationship between HCM and other key stakeholders, such as society, business, academic institutions and influential bodies (e.g. setting standards and benchmarks) in terms of balance of power and degree of collaboration and determine what kind of context exists or is being created. Figure 2: Six Contexts for 2025 Imperatives for Human Capital Management The research provides valuable perspectives about how HCM remains vibrant and continues to make a contribution. Specifically, the field of HCM should: • Develop a clear understanding of the meta-themes that will shape the world in the decades to come and the way in which people will live and work. It also implies the development and application of service offerings to address the issues impacting on people in these contexts. • Recognise the position of HCM in the six contexts described in Figure 2, understand which stakeholders make up the field and what the dynamics of power and collaboration are among them. The HCM field then needs to position itself in a position of relative power. • Embark on collaborative relationships with stakeholders by co-operating with them on issues of common or super-ordinate importance. The synergies of collaboration can be best realised when the stakeholders are competent in their own right (independent) and then work together in an interdependent way. These actions may require a major redefinition of what the HCM does, a change in mindset, courage, curiosity and a new value proposition. By being prepared to meet the future, we can ensure that our discipline remains dynamic and proactive, and does not lie subject to the whims of changes. Author bio: Grant Freedman is the Managing Director of JVR Consulting Psychologists, which provides evidence-based applied psychology solutions to individuals, groups, organisations and communities. He has extensive experience in the field of human resources management, and has worked as a business consultant for the past 9 years. Grant’s main areas of service provision include leadership development, organisational strategy, team alignment and development and developing and implementing systems for translating and cascading strategy throughout organisations. Contact: Email: grant@jvrafrica.co.za Tel: 011 781 3705 Fax: 011 781 3703 Company bio: JvR Psychometrics and JvR Consulting Psychologists JvR Psychometrics has been in operation in Sub Saharan Africa since 1993. As the largest privately owned test distributor and publisher in this region we take pride in the quality and diversity of the assessments, accreditation training and research that we offer. JvR Consulting Psychologists offers a wide range of evidence-based consulting solutions to clients, including psychometric assessment, strategy facilitation, change management, wellness, leadership and management development, and performance improvement.

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