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Hiring for the future in the midst of uncertainty

By Frank Costanzo

There is a certain quote that gets attributed to numerous speakers – from Albert Einstein to Sir Winston Churchill – and it goes like this: “It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Regardless of the source of the quote, we naturally focus on predictions for the future, or trends, that will have a dramatic effect on every aspect of talent management – from the way that we select and retain individuals to development and succession planning.

Google the term “megatrends” and you will find over a million results that touch on every aspect of life.

Common themes across industries include:

  • Growing and aging population vs. Millennials
  • Sustainability, shrinking natural resources and significant environmental impacts
  • Accelerating technological change, automation and big data
  • Changing social behavior, social media and the Internet of things (IoT)
  • Increasing need for diversity
  • Globalization, customization and personalization
  • Proactive assessment and management risk

Each of these megatrends will have some effect on your industry and your people. For many leaders, operational flexibility and agility will become much more critical and contribute to key competitive advantages. The increasing speed of technological change, the growing impact of the IoT and the explosive growth of data are the most dramatic examples of the impact of the digital revolution. Generational shifts are driving the demand for immediacy, transparency and personalization. Clients of the future will be very different from the clients of today.

These changes will create unprecedented challenges across each industry that will require leaders to completely reexamine how new employees are hired and current employees are redeployed, developed and promoted. As various megatrends accelerate and their impact is magnified, most businesses will be faced with a completely different set of conditions that will go beyond the level of uncertainty experienced today.

As Nathan Furr and Jeff Dyer stated in The Innovators Method, “Increasingly, evidence suggests that our familiar management techniques work poorly when applied to the context of uncertainty. For example, research shows that under conditions of uncertainty, planning simply does not work.”

How can we mitigate this potential risk and uncertainty when the positions that you hired for and your definition of success for those positions will change during your employees’ tenure with your company?

For managers and business leaders who all share responsibility for selection, retention and development, it starts with an understanding that personality is becoming an essential ingredient and a stable foundation that can be established to support your long-term talent management strategies. In order to add a consistent and measurable focus on personality, each company or organization should establish a common language with which to describe characteristics or competencies required for success.

The term “competencies” in this context does not refer to skills and abilities; rather, it implies competencies that can be assessed through the use of scientifically valid personality assessments. Such assessments will predict the degree to which an individual’s natural tendency and motivation supports specific competencies. Here are just a few that may be of interest as you start to think about the impact of megatrends:

  • Managing innovation
  • Team building
  • Strategic talent management
  • Influence and persuasion
  • Decisiveness
  • Strategic thinking
  • Business acumen
  • Quality focus
  • Composure and resiliency
  • Achievement motivation and perseverance
  • Adaptability
  • Comfort with ambiguity

Consider how certain trends will affect your business. Do you need to take action now? Which areas require additional investigation and conversation within your organization? How will the criteria for your future hires change? 

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