If you have read HR Observations for any period of time you know that Futurism is a frequent topic. I have written about it here, here, and here as examples. The title of this piece came from a special report published by the World Future Society called The Art of Foresight: Preparing for a Changing World. This report described tools that can be used to anticipate the future. There were 12 tools in all listed in the report. A few of them, simulations, computer simulations, scenario development and analysis, may be beyond the resources of many companies. Some of them, trend analysis, trend projection, polling, historical analysis and modeling may be beyond the interest level of most HR people. But there are four tools that all HR departments, small or large, can use and use effectively. These include:
- Scanning: The materials for SHRM’s certification program teaches us that environmental scanning is an important competency for the HR professional. The WFS defines it as “An ongoing effort to identify significant changes in the world beyond the organization or group doing the scanning.” Typically this is a concerted effort to survey newspapers, magazines, web sites, blog posts, newsletters and other media for changes that may have future importance. Google alerts is a good tool for this type of scanning. Pick words or phrases that you consider important to your company or industry. According to the WFS “Scanning focuses mainly on trends–changes that occur through time– rather than events—changes that occur very quickly and are much less significant for understanding the future.”
- Trend Monitoring: This is paying attention to trends that have been identified as being important, or potentially important to your particular company or industry. They need to be watched on a regular basis and reported to key decision makers. Be it unemployment, fashion, a particular technology or whatever, you need to determine what it is (scanning) and then watch it. Again Google alerts help as does subscribing to various trend newsletters. I read one published by Trendwatching.com.
- Brainstorming: Most of us have heard this term before. WFS defines it as “…the generation of new ideas utilizing a small group assembled to think creatively about a topic, such as a problem to be solved, and opportunity to captue, or a direction to take a new organization.” Brainstorming is helpful in understanding possibilities and risks. Brainstorming can be done internally or with the help of an outside consultant/facilitator.
- Visioning: This consists of picturing your ideal future, often creating several possible and desirable futures. This is often the lead in to strategic planning. Again this can be done internally or with outside help.
So there you have four tools that all HR professionals and HR departments can use for aiding in anticipating the future in order to be better prepared for it.