Future Friday: HR skills needed in a VUCA world

Do you have the skills to work in a VUCA world.

VUCA is an acronym which stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. The term was established by the U.S. Army war college in the Cold War era. Since that time it has been applied to business, particularly as it applies to development of strategies.


According to Wikipedia a more detailed explanation of the acronym is:

  • V = Volatility. The nature and dynamics of change, and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts.
  • U = Uncertainty. The lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise, and the sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events.
  • C = Complexity. The multiplex of forces, the confounding of issues, no cause-and-effect chain and confusion that surround an organization.
  • A = Ambiguity. The haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, and the mixed meanings of conditions; cause-and-effect confusion.

The executive team of each company needs to be aware of the forces that are in effect in today’s business and geopolitical arena. The information gathered will determine how each organization responds to the issues that shape the conditions in which the organization does business. It will help organizational leaders understand the interdependency of factors and will help them anticipate and prepare for alternative futures.

HR in a VUCA time

To say that HR in the U.S. has to operate in a VUCA world is an understatement. With the transition of power in Washington we in HR are unsure of many things. Changing regulations, changing leadership in all the agencies HR must pay attention to, changing social pressures, changing work structures and relationships, and changing generations are creating a great deal of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity for the HR department. Some of these issues include:

  • What will happen with the FLSA?
  • How will the EEOC and OSHA be affected?
  • Will the NLRB be declared useless?
  • How will immigration executive orders affect international recruiting?
  • What effect the “wall” will have on labor supply and wages?
  • What might happen with minimum wage?
  • What will happen with the ACA?

As an HR professional you not only have to have a good handle on current events but you have to be looking out to the future as well and trying to anticipate different scenarios if different events occur. This will allow you to have plans in place to handle increased costs, changing regulations, or drastic reductions in staffing.
Many people are concerned with the change President Trump has promised, for example Playing with Economic Matches. It is incumbent on the HR professional to have a grasp on the various factors affecting the company, its leadership and its employees in order to best advise that leadership.
How much are you paying attention to the VUCA in your HR life? Are you well read? Are you an agile thinker? Those are some of the skills you will need to prosper in this new environment.

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