If you could predict what would happen 50 years down the road, how would that shape strategy, change innovation or define creative approaches at your company?
Luckily, futurists are here to provide you with these predictions. Futurists use sophisticated methods to forecast trends and predict events that may occur in the future. Both companies and government organizations are increasingly making use of these services to help prepare for imminent problems, shape product development or gain a competitive edge.
To learn more about this innovative profession, we spoke with two futurists about their daily work, biggest challenges and most exciting initiatives.
Lisa Bodell, CEO of futurethink
What does your job involve on a daily basis? My day-to-day can involve creating potential future business scenarios for companies 20 to 30 years from now. It's incredibly challenging, but extremely fun. For example, perhaps an energy company won't extract oil 30 years from now, but grow energy instead—think of those implications! Perhaps cars will use materials that heal themselves so mechanics will no longer be needed, or maybe food packaging will be designed to keep things fresh indefinitely. We explore possible and probable options like these with companies to stretch their thinking and drive strategic investments.
What is the most challenging part of your job? Hands down, getting people comfortable with change. Do you know what your biggest barrier to change is? You. It's human nature to want stasis, to maintain the status quo. Change can be scary for many people. We help individuals realize that they may resist change more than they think, and help them assess how much risk they are really willing to take.
What current initiative or past project are you most excited about? My new book—Why Simple Wins—which launches in October. I wrote this book because I found that to get people to change is challenging. I found that it's not that people don't want to innovate, it's that they don't have time. I asked people, "What do you spend your day doing?" and they said, "Meetings and emails." Gee, that's inspiring! We are drowning in mundane work, and that holds us back from getting to the work that matters.
What is your best piece of advice for companies looking to utilize futurology or a futurist in the workplace? First, decide how you define the "future." Is that five years from now? 10? 50? The farther out a leader or company is willing to look, the more open to risk and change they typically are. Next, define what hunting grounds you want to explore for your business, and make those areas of interest adjacent to your work. Materials science, consumer goods, the future of city planning—those unorthodox connections are where the real magic happens for a company in the future.
Eric Meade, Futurist at Whole Mind Strategy Group
What does your job involve on a daily basis? For me, future thinking is about helping people let go of their fixed thinking from the past so that they can more effectively see where things may be headed in the future. Some of the key tasks involved are speaking, writing, and facilitating. There's some research involved, but it's not like traditional research since there are no facts about the future. It's more imaginative research—first, to explore what the future could look like, and then to look for evidence to see if the things you've imagined are happening.
What is the most challenging part of your job? I learned early on that the most challenging part isn't knowing what could happen in the future, it's helping clients see what could happen. You have to calibrate the content so clients can really receive it. It should be provocative enough to challenge their thinking without being so far out there that clients see it as irrelevant to their current concerns.
What current initiative or past project are you most excited about? In 2012, I co-wrote a set of scenarios for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on the future of health and health care out to the year 2032. One of the scenarios was called "A Culture of Health," and it contributed to a major RWJF strategic initiative to build a culture of health in the U.S. It's been fun to see that work unfold in new partnerships and initiatives that RWJF has created.
What is your best piece of advice for companies looking to utilize futurology or a futurist in the workplace? A futurist is most effective when they can serve as a guide in the uncharted territory of the future, which implies a certain amount of not knowing—even on the part of the futurist. I would advise companies to be wary of futurists who come in with their own fixed beliefs about what the future will look like; for example, a belief about how a certain technology will revolutionize society. Instead, work with futurists who are knowledgeable about trends but willing to learn with you about how your own context may change in years to come.
Want to keep learning? Explore our products, customer stories, and the latest industry insights.
4 Ways to Expand Your Social Media Recruiting Strategy
Social media is ubiquitous, and companies are using it in many different and innovative ways for enhancing their sales, marketing and customer services. So why is it then that many HR departments still fail to see social media as more than a job board? Outside of the office, the same HR people happily engage with friends on Facebook, share news and ideas on Twitter, look at pictures on Instagram and send snaps on Snapchat. But when they put their work hat on they seemingly forget why they use social in the way they (and hundreds of millions of other users) do every day, and resort back to just posting jobs (in a boring way) on social media! Of course there is nothing wrong with job posting, and it's often an effective approach to reaching an audience, but not all of the time. According to LinkedIn, only 12 percent of the working population are actively seeking new employment. So, if all you do is post jobs on your LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook page, you are consciously ignoring the other 88 percent of the working population who might be interested in hearing more about your company in general. Creating and sharing interesting content about your company such as employee stories or volunteer days help bring your employer brand to life. It might even trigger people to reach out to you and find out more about your job opportunities. In truth, mixing up your social media feeds with a variety of content will provide more depth and candidate engagement. Here are four ways to expand your social media strategy and engage with new potential candidates. 1) Candidate Sourcing With people using an average of more than five social networks, sourcing talent via social media makes absolute sense. Branch out from just using LinkedIn and look to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to search for and engage with prospective talent. Try search tools like Followerwonk to search Twitter bios for keywords and job titles, a clever Chrome browser extension called Intelligence Search that easily searches Facebook and using the search bar at the top of Google+. They will help you identify new talent. If you are looking to build social media pipelines then try Hello Talent. It is a great free tool that allows you to build talent pipelines from many different social networks by using a browser extension. 2) Competitor Monitoring Social media is a fantastic source of information and data. By using tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, you can monitor the social media activity of your competitors. Both of these tools allow you to set up search columns, where you can enter things like keywords, hashtags, Twitter names and track when any of these are mentioned on sites such as Twitter. You can use the interact or use the insights accordingly. 3) Resources for Candidates Consider your Facebook page (or Twitter channel) as a real-time customer services channel for you to engage and communicate with both new and existing candidates in the recruitment process. Provide links to your social media pages to candidates at all stages in the process and encourage them to visit the pages and ask questions about any part of the process. You can also share useful information about working for the company, including locations, employees and other relevant news. 4) Live Recruitment Events Not everyone can attend the many recruitment events happening every month. But by using social media like Twitter, Facebook Live, Instagram and Snapchat, you can easily provide live commentary for these events you attend or host. Real-time video via Facebook Live and interaction via Twitter chats are superb examples of ways to regularly engage with a live audience of potential candidates. With social media firmly established in our working lives, I question how much more evidence HR departments will need to fully embrace this "new" form of candidate engagement. Photo: Twenty20
Cartoon Coffee Break: Unconventional Recruiting
Editor's Note: This post is part of our "Cartoon Coffee Break" series. While we take talent management seriously, we also know it's important to have a good laugh. Check back every two weeks for a new ReWork cartoon. Missed the Recruiting Trends conference? From the state of recruiting automation adoption, to the role that the human element still plays in recruiting, our recap covers everything you need to know. Header photo: Creative Commons
The Latest Office Benefit Is Tackling Student Debt
Modern companies are more than just employers — increasingly, they are also gyms, cafeterias and even laundromats. As perks like yoga class, free lunch and complimentary dry cleaning become the norm, companies continue to push the boundaries on ways to attract and retain top talent by providing much more than a paycheck to employees. The latest in the slew of new workplace benefits? Student loan assistance. In April, Chegg partnered with Tuition.io to give full-time employees extra cash for student loan reduction. Then in September, consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers announced it would provide up to $1,200 to help employees pay off loans annually. As a benefit, student loan assistance programs are certainly still in their infancy— one survey found that only 3 percent of companies offer such a benefit. But experts say that may soon change as companies seek to differentiate themselves in a competitive hiring environment. "We think student loan benefits are poised to be the next big benefit; similar to what 401(k) matching was when it was first introduced," says Dana Rosenberg, who leads employer and affinity group partnerships at Earnest, a lender that offers student loan refinancing and works with companies to create loan pay-down programs. The Burden of Student Debt Such programs could be extremely attractive to debt-laden Millennials. Around 40 million Americans collectively carry $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and the graduating class of 2015 was the most indebted class in history with an average debt of $35,000 (a superlative they won't hold for long come May 2016.) For employers looking to adjust benefits to correspond to the changing demographics of their employee base, student loan programs hit the mark. "In 2016, our employees will be 80 percent millennials, and we also hire close to 11,000 employees directly out of school each year," says Terri McClements, Washington Metro managing partner of PwC. With student debt often preventing young people from participating in 401(k) plans and reaching traditional life milestones, the benefit could potentially make a large impact on employees' financial and personal well-being. A study from the American Student Association found that 73 percent of people with student loans reported putting off saving for retirement or other investments due to their debt, 75 percent reported delaying a home purchase and 27 percent reported it was difficult to buy daily necessities. "Student loans can be a very stressful thing to deal with, so if we can give our employees peace of mind, that's great," says Caroline Gennaro, corporate communications manager at Chegg. The Allure for Employers Student debt assistance programs aren't just attractive to employees, either. Rosenberg says there are significant benefits for the organizations that offer them as well. "Employers that offer programs to help their employees get out from under their debt load are seeing big benefits: increased retention, more competitive recruiting and, perhaps most importantly, happier employees who have additional cash flow to put towards their life goals," Rosenberg explains. Rosenberg says happier employees are more engaged employees, who tend to be more productive. Studies show that companies with high employee engagement experience lower turnover and have double the rate of organizational success than their less-engaged counterparts. Student loan benefit programs may also lead to a more diverse workforce, attracting employees whose financial backgrounds meant they had to take on more debt for their education. "Diversity and inclusion are also very important to us, so the ability to offer this benefit can help minorities who come out of school with a higher debt burden," says McClements. A Promising Response Companies say the response to their student loan assistance programs have been overwhelmingly positive. Chegg has had more than 80 people sign up since they started their program this summer, and they've already eliminated roughly 86 years of collective loan repayments for their employees. Companies are also finding these programs are a way to differentiate themselves from organizations that may offer more generic benefits. "As a company in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are always looking to attract the best and brightest in the industry, and this benefit is a big draw," says Gennaro. Photo: Shutterstock