Art of HR: Forecasting Talent Trends

What will the workforce look like in ten years? 20th Century HR practices were designed for hierarchical companies in stable markets, and from a limited resources paradigm of view. 21st Century HR Departments must be designed for unstable markets, and from an unlimited resources point of view. Marketplaces have few geographical limits now, and companies require globally minded knowledge workers to capitalize on those markets, wherever they might be. One large organizations I studied in my Doctoral research has offices around the world and they maintain a high-potential list of their top performers. In 2009, 15% of the high-performers on this list spoke a second language or had significant international experience. In 2010, 38% did. In 2011, 51% did. This HR leader expected that number to continue to grow as his organization continued to expand into global markets, and he has adapted their recruitment initiatives to the information he obtains by studying their top performers.

Effective HR departments use all kinds of information to better their organizations. This information gathering is somewhat like intelligence operatives in far-off locations. They gather tidbits of information that when compiled with dozens or hundreds of other tidbits from other operatives, help to prevent catastrophes from happening. I am not advocating for Recruiters to become CIA agents, but they do need to understand their role in gathering information that will help the organization advance its mission. For example, while meeting with a candidate, they might learn that he or she has had ten different Recruiters call her in the past month about working in a different industry. That one tidbit may not tell the Recruiter anything, but if she hears a similar story from a few more candidates, it might be an indication that the industry mentioned is preparing to ramp up staffing for potential expansions. That in turn may mean that industry will begin actively headhunting certain professionals very soon. If this information is confirmed, the organization can then begin planning to head off these headhunters, perhaps by increasing compensation for the sought after professionals or by finding other ways to retain them. Rather than reacting to losing ten hard-to-find professionals, the HR Department can develop specific strategies to prevent losing those ten employees to bidding wars in the first place. The HR Department could also propose over-hiring those professionals now before a bidding war drives the market value of their salaries upwards.

Forecasting talent trends is complex, but it starts with gathering useful intelligence, something Recruiters are in the perfect place to do. I suspect this intelligence gathering, if used effectively, could also help the organization thrive in many other ways as well, as we adapt to the ever-changing environment global around us. And HR leaders who find a way to understand the mass of information around them, organize it, and turn it into something useful for the organization to benefit from…may be the most sought-after HR Professionals in the future.

This post is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, “The Art of HR”. For my final Doctoral project, I researched how Top Employers provide effective HR services to their organizations. I compiled my results into this book. Please email me directly if you would like a copy.