Recruiting the talent of today for the challenges of tomorrow – ‘The future is here…’

The last part of the title to this blog is part of a quote attributed to Science Fiction author, and creator of the word ‘cyberspace’, William Gibson. I think it is probably fair to say that all of us live in a world that would have been considered science fiction just a few decades ago and that in that respect at least the future is indeed here. The world of work is seemingly racing into the unknown ‘tomorrow’ at breakneck speed and employers, candidates and of course, recruitment professionals, need to be constantly updating their methods and skills to keep up.

The world of work is seemingly racing into the unknown ‘tomorrow

As far as recruiting talent goes, there is a definite shift in perspective needed on how you think about your recruitment needs. You may remember a much-shared estimate from a couple of years ago that said as many as 65% of the pupils currently in primary schools would work in jobs that do not exist yet. It’s a pretty startling thought and was the subject of a lot of discussions everywhere from the canteen to high-level academia. That the statistic caused such a stir is understandable because the thought that we are a decade away from such a fundamental change in the workplace is a worrying one.

“How” we can ask ourselves “Are we supposed to hire employees in a world that changes so quickly?”

Well, it is worth remembering the rest of William Gibson’s quote, which is: ‘The future is here, it’s just not widely distributed yet.’

The future does not just pop into being like some sort of magic spell

The future does not just pop into being like some sort of magic spell because, as Gibson says, it distributes slowly. Great leaps forward in technology tend to happen less ‘overnight’ and more ‘over years’. Bearing that in mind, when you are looking for new candidates in an area where you can see significant changes coming, it is probably a good idea to focus on a candidate with the potential to train and adapt where possible. Training and development are likely to be at the heart of your approach. It makes no sense to hire and re-hire when you could train internally and hire specifically as needed.

A second very important thing to remember is that this is not a new situation. It’s fun to speculate on the big changes to come in the workplace, and it’s tempting to see them as a potential obstacle to continued development, but the reality is actually very different. We can glibly make statements about how at no point since the industrial revolution has the world of work changed so dramatically because that is entirely true. However, that statement has been true constantly since the industrial revolution, and somehow, we all managed to keep up. Remember how robots were going to replace us all, and the computer was going to make work obsolete? When it comes right down to it, the only real change now is the pace of the changes. We have all adapted in the past, and we will be able to do so again. It’s more a matter of concentration on the right strategy than trying to second guess the future.

Have a dynamic and clear strategy

So, when it comes to planning to hire for the challenges of tomorrow, rather than rely on a crystal ball, it’s more important to have a dynamic and clear strategy. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Focus on the central objectives of your recruitment process because the core of your business is unlikely to change. Hire to meet your core needs and look to short term solutions for the rest.
  • Actively seek out candidates with the desire to adapt and learn.
  • Keep a healthy mix and match of experience and fresh-faced enthusiasm. No matter how much things change, experience still speaks volumes.
  • Get an adaptable and experienced recruitment partner to help you attract the talent you need.
  • It may be worth sitting with your management team and people with specialist knowledge of your market and looking at the likely changes in the next 5 to 10 years then using this to inform your approach to your workforce.
  • A good internal training policy will really help, and so will a strong employer brand. These will help a recruitment specialist find you the passive candidates you may need.
  • Build all the above into your HR approach but keep it dynamic and adaptable to accommodate changes to your industry.
  • Stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the practical effects of new technologies and market developments.

Having survived hundreds of years of changes to working practices I am sure, that by future-proofing our workforce as much as possible and if we all embrace the changes and adapt as needed, we will be more than able to survive hundreds more. After all, as William Gibson points out, we are, in the end, more waiting for the future to spread than being suddenly swamped by it.

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