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“Trend versus Uncertainty – Where Does Strategy Lie?”

As we turn the corner into a new decade, it’s a good time to reflect on past events and consider the future. Who could have known that we would experience the worst U.S. economic threat since the Great Depression? And, what twists and turns will we take this year? And, how is it even possible to determine what’s going to happen in 2025? We look to Futurists to guide us.

Futures Studies (we espouse more than one, so we reflect it as the plural “futures”) is the science, art and practice of postulating possible futures. Modern practitioners stress the importance of alternative and plural futures, rather than one monolithic future. They also warn of the limitations of prediction and probability, versus the creation of possible and preferable futures. Futurists attempt to gain a holistic or systemic view based on insights from a range of different disciplines. They challenge and unpack the assumptions behind dominant and contending views of the future. Strategic Foresight focuses on a time horizon much longer than a “typical” five year planning process. This is where the distinction between a trend and an uncertainty come into play.

A trend is what we are reading about today. These are incremental changes on the horizon that we have a general degree of certainty will happen because we can see some of the size and shape of their existence. Trends are likely to occur in the near term. Those that are the current style or “in vogue” may also not be long lasting. The problem with trends is that they prepare you for today, but do little to get you prepared for the future. And the future is where strategy takes place. How do we know whether a “trend” is an indicator to consider in our future strategy? As Olive Gatling, CEO, G-Squared BMS (www.g-squared.org), states, “When the questions become more difficult to frame around the impact of a trend because of the uncertainty surrounding its emergence, then you know you’re getting close to the realm of the future.” Uncertainty is a state of being unsure of something. And, uncertainty is the best position from which to formulate strategy. What is impossible today may be the norm tomorrow; the future is on the fringes.

Talent management is the strategic management of the flow of talent through an organization. Its purpose is to assure that the supply of talent is available to align the right people with the right jobs at the right time based on strategic business objectives. As business and human resource leaders, talent management is the most critical area to focus on when we develop our future strategy. To drive performance, deal with an increasingly rapid pace of change and create sustainable success, an organization must integrate and align its talent management processes with its business strategies. A Talent Management strategy encompasses: 

  • Talent AcquisitionSourcing, Selection and Onboarding
  • Talent DevelopmentPerformance Management, Career Development, Leadership Development and Succession Planning
  • Talent Assessment and AlignmentInternal Mobility and Workforce Planning

Below is a top ten list of trends currently being discussed for Talent Acquisition. Are you already addressing any of these trends in your organization? Is there a trend you are uncertain of? If you could ask a question about the future, what would you ask?

Top 10 Talent Acquisition Trends in 2010 

  1. The Recruiting process is changing
    • Sourcing is both separating from the selection process and transforming itself – why?
    • Technology
    •  The Internet
    • Social media
    • Social Connection
    • Networks
    • Online applications create a barrier to top candidates – it’s time to consider the best use of technology such that it does not interfere with the candidate-recruiter-employer relationship
  2. The Recruiter as we know it today will cease to exist
    • The profession is 30% to 50% smaller than it was 18 months ago
    • Buyers of Recruiting services are sourcing their own candidates via technology and Social Networks
    • The leverage is in niche/hard to fill positions where predatory/direct recruiting is required to tap into small candidate pools
    • Need to be proactive, influencing, technically savvy and adaptable to emerging work trends
    • The role of the Internal Recruiter is changing – HR Generalists are adding recruiting responsibilities to their job
  3. The Job Creation Index – the job creation index is a factor, running at a negative number over the course of 2009
    • Structurally, a large percent of job losses during recessions reflect creative destruction: big companies who lay off workers in recessions downsize permanently. Jobs are not replaced at the same companies; the old jobs go away forever, and new jobs are created at the grass roots of the economy. We have to look to small business for continued job growth.
    • The process of job destruction (from big companies) and job creation (from small companies) are two sides of entrepreneurial “creative destruction.” The problem today is that we have the destruction without the creation.
    • Companies with less than 50 employees predominated in job creation during the great economic expansion that ended in 2007
  4. The skills gap —defined as “a significant gap between an organization’s skill needs and the current capabilities of its workforce”— is widening
    • Demographics – declining births, retiring baby boomers, global workforce
    • Shortage of skilled, educated workers in the U.S.
    • Decline in low skilled jobs during the recession create availability of workers with skills not needed to restart the economy; recessions accelerate the trend to eliminate low-wage, low-skills jobs and those jobs don’t come back
    • Business growth is in new markets where necessary skills are hard to find or are unknown
    • Technology is replacing current skills; new jobs require education and skill beyond that of many current candidates
    • Companies are ineffective at leveraging learning investments
  5. Job satisfaction is at an all time low.
    • A recent study by the Conference Board research group says that only 45 percent of all workers are satisfied with their jobs. That is the lowest level ever recorded by the Conference since they began studying the issue back in 1987, when the survey showed that 61 percent of workers were satisfied with their jobs.
    • The youngest cohort (those currently under the age of 25) expresses the highest level of dissatisfaction ever recorded by the survey for that age group
  6. Retention strategies are required that bridge ideal candidates inside and outside of the organization
    • Traditional Employee-Employer “contract” does not exist
    • Employers must engage ideal candidates on a one-to-one basis, with the ability to offer roles or projects that continuously develop and challenge them
    • Employers must maintain long term connections with ideal candidates as these individuals manage their own rise, moving in and out of corporate positions with increased freedom
  7. An independent, networked workforce will become the norm – employers (flexible) and employees (free agency) want options; the only thing keeping Dilbert in the cube is health insurance
    • Free Agent workforce (Contractor, Leased, Part-Time, Temporary or Project Based) is expanding; employers need to adapt internal regulations to respond and consider +/- impact on employer brand
    • Flexible work arrangements (i.e., Telecommute/Tele-work/Mass Career Customization)
    • Outsourcing/Consulting
    • Home-based Business
    • Multiple revenue streams
    • Entrepreneurs today are creating work environments for the future
    • 24/7 Culture (global; customer service)
    • Virtual with human connection – collaborate with others in virtual and local communities
  8. Candidates are smarter about who you are and what they want
    • Candidates are reluctant to accept the same conditions in which they worked – they are wary of empty promises and deferred compensation; Employment contracts will increase
    • Information is readily available – whether you’ve defined your company’s brand or not, you have a brand and potential employees know what it is
    • Top performers will negotiate – salary transparency makes candidates smarter about the deal
  9. Talent management takes a tumble
    • A buzzword three years ago, “talent management” dropped off the radar when companies made drastic cuts to their talent rosters
    • Many organizations continue to view talent as a cost and not an investment
    • Besides layoffs, many organizations eliminated classroom training entirely, opting to make all training online and just “push it out” to all employees.
    • Talent will shuffle as the economy recovers; retention of top talent will be tough if the company has not invested in their employees during the recessio
  10. Training and collaboration are being facilitated through virtual worlds and social networking tools
    • Internal portals will enable the use of these tools and they will replace classroom training and e-learning (i.e., IBM is making this shift now
    • Social networking will spawn just-in-time mentor relationships across borders and time zones
    • Discrete, structured training is happening less often


  1. “As Long as Small Businesses Aren’t Recovering, New Job Creation Remains a Fantasy” by David Goldman, December 17, 2009: http://seekingalpha.com/article/178568-as-long-as-small-businesses-aren-t-recovering-new-job-creation-remains-a-fantasy
  2. “What’s Hot for 2010” by Kevin Wheeler, January 7, 2010: http://www.ere.net/2010/01/07/whats-hot-for-2010
  3. “Emerging Talent Acquisition Trends for 2010: Are You Ready for a Roller Coaster?” by Dr. John Sullivan, January 4, 2010: http://www.ere.net/2010/01/04/
  4. “U.S. Job Satisfaction at Lowest Level in Two Decades”, The Conference Board, January 5, 2010: http://www.conference-board.org/utilities/pressDetail.cfm?press_ID=3820
  5. “At Work in 2020” by Adrienne Fox, SHRM, January 1, 2010: http://www.shrm.org/Publications/hrmagazine/EditorialContent/2010/0110/Pages/0110fox.aspx
  6. “2009 Trends in ReView”, Training & Development magazine, December 2009: http://www.astd.org/TD/Archives/2009/Dec/Free/0912_TrendsInReview.htm#RowG

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