The Future of HR Requires a New Skill Set & Competency

The field of HR is not really ready for the future. For that matter many businesses are not ready for the future according to one futurist. But in my opinion HR departments in particular are not ready for the future and we are doing little about it.

The Future of HR Requires a New Skill Set & Competency


James Canton, PhD, a renowned global futurist and top advisor to the Global Fortune 1000, and CEO and Chairman of the Institute for Global Futures, a think tank he founded in 1990, said that the future is going to be a convergence of technologies and methodologies. Right now we talk about artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, robots, and predictive analytics like they are all separate, and in many ways they are for the moment. He sees them converging and becoming the way things are done. I see HR in much the same way. We are inching our way to a convergence of technologies. Unfortunately that convergence may happen before HR is ready for it.

New skill set

Canton said in an interview:

The most important thing in order to get there is talent. You’re going to need the right kind of talent – the right kind of people who can manage complexity and that means not just technology but the transformation of your business processes to identify ways of creating products and services and value that will separate your organization from every other one in terms of purpose and value. Organizations need to be hiring folks that are more like entrepreneurs that can work not just inside your organization, but outside for your organization.

This talent is going to have to be comfortable with strategic technologies such as “nano, bio, IT, Neuro and Quantum technologies.”  The problem is that the future workforce is not being trained in this. Certainly not in HR. I asked my friend Matthew Stollack, PhD, who is a professor and teaches HR classes, if current educational programs are teaching up and coming HR professionals the skills of analytics, or talking about technologies. He replied they are not and that technology skills are considered to be a deficiency in HR.

Canton said we are going to need a new type of person in the organization. I will echo that for the HR department. He suggested “talented individuals who can understand and manage the complexity of cognitive machines, morphable intelligence, of delighting customers, of predicting what customers will want even before the customers know it”. For HR substitute the word “employee” for “customer.”

Where will we get these skilled workers?

Canton said in the interview that initially businesses will have to rely on consultants for the skills and processes needed to be prepared. Then companies will have to “to re-train, re-engage and re-cast talent” in order to be able to deal with the future of work. The problem with this is that few college programs teach this, and according to Cathy Missildine , HR departments are just beginning to think about using predictive analytics. Others have noted that the majority of HR practitioners work for small companies and they are not interested in this subject.

An initiative for SHRM?

Perhaps SHRM needs to step up to the plate and lead the initiative to get HR moving in the direction of the future. They could partner with institutions of higher education and encourage them the start developing HR technology programs. Or SHRM can start to include HR of the Future materials in the certification program.

Regardless of where the effort starts, whether as a profession, or as an individual effort it needs to get underway. It is obvious the nature of business and work is going to change and if HR does not respond we will be confined to continue the secondary status we have today.

Photo credit: Microsoft/Bing clip art

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Mike Haberman

Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, speaker, writer of HR Observations, and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. After over 30 years in HR he got tired of the past and focuses here on the Future of HR. Connect with Mike.


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