A colleague of mine recently asked me to contribute my views on the future of training. I thought this was a tough assignment, since I have no magic crystal ball to predict the future of anything. But as I thought about the request, several themes kept rolling around my brain.
The future of training will be tied to three key megatrends – the future of work, of technology and of our planet. I will briefly describe each in this post.
Future of Work
The nature of work is undergoing dramatic changes that will change the way people earn a living and develop skills over a career. We are moving from the industrial model of work which has dominated our lives over the past century to a post-modern world of independent freelancing. While our parents and grandparents went to work in mass lock step formation for corporate behemoths which assembled employees by the thousands in towering offices and cavernous factories, our children and grandchildren are more likely to work for themselves in small businesses that they help found or in a gig economy that treats everyone like an independent contractor.
The implications for training and development are profound. Today, most training is paid for by employers who want their people to be more productive on the job. In the future, companies will not make the same investment in independent contractors who may not stay around long enough to pay their employer’s investment back in increased productivity. Instead, freelancers will have to develop themselves to keep their skills sharp and competitive. How that will happen and who will finance adult training and education is an open question at this point in time. Possibilities include government financing of adult training, much the way that public schooling is now financed, or individual training accounts that grant a sum of money that individuals can use to acquire needed training.
Future of Technology
Technology has already dramatically altered the landscape of learning through the rapid introduction of e-learning over the past several decades. Today, nearly half of all adult training is delivered online over the Internet. This is expected to increase, although the classroom will never totally disappear. As technology becomes more pervasive, we will see increased reliance on its accessibility and ubiquity to deliver training just in time to whomever needs it wherever they happen to be. Mobile learning will become second nature, much like Internet searching is today. Need to know how to operate a complex piece of equipment or how to prepare for an upcoming meeting? There will be an App for that and for every other thing that human beings might need to know. Building this online encyclopedia of human knowledge and skill will occupy instructional designers for a very long time, perhaps forever, as new knowledge is created and catalogued on a scale previously unknown in human history.
Future of the Planet
We are living in the era of globalization, where events in one part of the world have ripple effects across the globe. As the world evolves into a single marketplace, national borders will have less significance. Indeed, we are already seeing that transnational corporations have evolved into more powerful institutions than the nation-states who gave them birth. Global brands like Apple and Google already have more money and clout that most national governments and they grow stronger every day. Simultaneously, a backlash against globalization is emerging, led by populist nativists who oppose the growing power of the corporate elites. This struggle will continue for the foreseeable future and the outcome is uncertain, but one thing that is clear is that we will work in an increasingly diverse world that requires cross-cultural skills that do not come naturally to humans. Our instinct is to trust those that are like us and to distrust those that are different. If we cannot overcome our instincts, we are in for more bloodshed and war.
To complicate things further, we are in the process of destroying our planet through pollution and destruction of all other forms of life except ourselves. As the consequences of global warming become more dire, we will be faced with the prospect of learning to live in harmony with nature or seeing our very existence on this planet threatened by mass extinction. I’d like to think that education and training can help us overcome the existential threat to our species, but I’m also pessimistic about our willingness to recognize and confront the future before it consumes us. We tend to have perfect hindsight, but can’t seem to see what is right in front of our noses.
What do you think? Will education and training save us or will we wake up too late to save ourselves and our planet?
Today’s Thought: “Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest foreign policy and I wish we may always pursue it.” Thomas Jefferson, 1st Democrat U.S. President and Author of the Declaration of Independence.
Comments Off on 2015 Year in Review: Evil vs. Good
The Big Picture
2015 was a year that epitomizes the epic human struggle between evil and good. Syria, refugee migration, anti-immigration backlash, ISIS, Paris, San Bernardino. The headlines screamed terror and death, so the people ran in fear and panic. The stampede of refugees from war-torn areas of the Middle East and Africa set off more panic among those asked to receive the flood in Europe and North America. The world became so unstable that the Pope referred to the situation as “piecemeal World War 3.” For every act of terror/mass shooting, there were the inevitable recriminations – both sides blaming the other and nothing ever being done to address the root causes. The global economy weakened, the recovery looking a little long in the tooth and everyone speculating on how long the good times could last (and who said these times are good anyway?). Pop culture reflected our angst. The two biggest movies of the year were Avengers and Star Wars, both paeans to war.
The world withstood a troubling year. Creeping civil wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, etc. killed thousands, mostly civilians caught in the crossfire, and prompted millions more to flee. The flood of migrants hit the shores of Europe, creating massive social problems there. The spread of ISIS and other radical Islamists alarmed the West, bringing the U.S. back into combat in Iraq. Tragically, the terrorists visited horror on the streets of Paris and many other places. The response has been angry and punitive, but the problem is not going away. Indeed, overreaction only encourages more aggression.
On a brighter note, 200 nations came together to sign a landmark agreement to tackle climate change, signaling a ray of hope for the future of the planet. Now, we’ll see if these nations live up to the promises they have made. The Iran nuclear deal will forestall another nuclear power in the Middle East, at least for now. The world will be watching both agreements closely.
The presidential election in the U.S. starts two years early these days, so we are fully engaged by now. It has been quite a contrast to watch the two parties this time around. The Democrats have had a mostly polite debate about social and economic policy and strategy to deal with the world’s problems. Bernie Sanders has tugged Hillary Clinton to the left. They now agree on about 90 percent of the policies needed to rebuild the middle class in the U.S. The Republicans have had a slugfest of 17 candidates trying to outshout each other in order to be heard above the din created by Donald Trump. The rhetoric has been inflammatory, inciting fear and hatred among the party faithful. They have fingered plenty of people to blame for our problems, from Mexicans to Muslims, but offer few concrete ideas on how to fix them, besides building huge walls and starting another unfunded war or two. Hating all forms of government, hard right White supremacists are screaming for blood. Just in time for Christmas, they have a new motto: “Death on Earth; Ill Will to All.” Ironically, it is ISIS’ motto too.
For those having trouble keeping track of 20 candidates, you can forget the personalities running for U.S. President. The real contest is between two fundamental forces of human nature: Fear and Anger versus Hope and Compassion. The contrast could not be more obvious, the choice more clear. We shall see which side of our nature Americans choose. For me, hope trumps fear. Yes, I fear being gunned down in public, like most Americans do, but I also fear my car being broadsided and my airplane crashing and my doctor telling me I have inoperable cancer. Yet, despite all those fears, I still drive and fly and live my life with the hope that tomorrow will bring a better day. And if tomorrow does not come for me, I’m OK with that too, knowing I have lived life to the fullest. As Franklin Roosevelt taught us in the darkest days of the Great Depression, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Economy & Business
After six straight years of impressive gains, the stock market took 2015 off, leaving investors about where they started the year. Although China and Europe experienced slowing growth, the U.S. economy managed to eke out modest 2% growth. That’s barely enough to keep things afloat, although the Federal Reserve saw enough strength to start raising interest rates at the end of the year. Still, a sense of foreboding overshadowed the global economy as we all await what’s next and contemplate the possibility of an end to the bull market and a return to recession, or even worse, another financial crash.
One area of growth was in the so-called “gig” or “sharing” economy. This new phenomenon, spurred by mobile technology, is most obvious in ride-sharing services like Uber and temporary rental companies like Airbnb. Both promise part-time income to those who don’t mind using their own vehicles and homes. Much has been written and debated about whether this trend is a positive or negative. On the one hand, enthusiasts tout the freedom the gig economy provides to “independent contractors” who set their own working hours and often earn better than minimum wage. On the other hand, critics point out that being independent means receiving no benefits, having no job security and having to provide your own “tools of the trade,” including using your own car and house and being responsible for their maintenance. I’m sure earning a little income on the side is a nice benefit to those looking for part-time, flexible work, but I also seriously doubt that anyone back in elementary school dreamed about growing up so they could drive strangers around in their own car or rent out a spare bedroom to total strangers. It strikes me as the “desperation economy.” The main problem with the gig economy is that the big bucks go to the company owners and investors who run these enterprises, while little trickles down to the freelancers doing the work, at their own expense. And we wonder why we see widening income inequality?
Society & Culture
The U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the controversy surrounding gay marriage and surprisingly decided in favor of progress for a change. They noted that barring same sex couples from marrying and more importantly, enjoying all the legal rights bestowed on married couples, was a clear case of discrimination and unequal protection under the law. In most states, the news was met with little public display, but in backwoods Kentucky, it was viewed as an abomination, a local county clerk refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples until held in contempt of court.
Policing the Poor
The Black Lives Matter movement continued its aggressive tactics of confronting police shootings of unarmed blacks and other minorities. In Baltimore, things turned ugly after the death of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody after being forcefully arrested for a “crime” for which he was never charged. Nearly every day, a new case of police shooting appeared on the news. In fact, on average, the police killed one person every day in 2015 and wounded two more every day. With the growth of video cameras, more of these killings are captured and broadcast for the world to see. As the nation witnessed more acts of violence, including an average of one mass shooting per day, we have to ask ourselves what kind of country resorts to criminalizing nearly every form of human behavior and relies almost exclusively on the police to solve social problems like poverty, homelessness, drug addiction and domestic violence. There is a name for societies that criminalize human behavior and imprison large segments of their population – they are called police states.
One of the most puzzling social phenomena is the choice of some young Muslims to throw their life away in service of an ideology that wants to drag the world back to the eighth century. Why would anyone choose a suicide mission on behalf of such a reactionary philosophy over the possibility of living a long life and pursuing their dreams? Terrorism experts have offered their opinions about the allure of jihadists like ISIS and Al Qaeda, but few have provided convincing evidence of how the process of radicalization works.
Having been raised as a child in an evangelical cult and then later, becoming radicalized in college, I have some personal insight on how radicalization actually works. The key is to get people to stop thinking rationally for themselves and instead convince them that they should follow the dogma of others without question. It starts with discontent, finding something about one’s existence or the state of the world that causes personal disillusionment and anger. For me back in the 1960s, it was the twin evils of segregation and the Vietnam War. I became deeply disillusioned with my government’s conduct of the war and reluctance to confront racism and decided that I needed to take personal action. I found others on the left that shared my views and ultimately convinced me to stop thinking for myself and follow the party line. It was only after I spent time in jail for my activism that I realized I was just being used as cannon fodder in a conflict that would never end.
For modern-day jihadists, the spur of discontent usually starts with the endless Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the perceived mistreatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. It has been further exacerbated by the U.S. invasions of Muslim nations and the total breakdown of civil societies in Iraq and Syria, replaced by ancient tribal and ethnic rivalries resurfacing in the vacuum left by the collapse of national governments. The young would-be jihadists are taught that the U.S. is the evil Satan, bent on destroying Islam and killing Muslims all over the world. Having stirred up their anger to the point of action, the leaders of radical movements then go on to the next stage – indoctrinating their disciples in the dogma of their severe version of the faith, brainwashing them into thinking that the best thing they could possibly do is become a martyr for the cause. They are promised eternal life if they prematurely end their physical life in an act of violence intended to inflict as many casualties as possible. At some point, the radicalized choose death over life and carry out their suicide missions with mechanical efficiency. In their brief moment of fame, they gain more notoriety than their miserable existences could ever hope to deliver in a lifetime. In their minds, they go out in a blaze of glory instead of slowly expiring in a dreary, dead-end life going nowhere. Trade unionists used to call this belief in deferred rewards in the afterlife as “pie in the sky when you die.” Marx called religion the “opiate of the masses,” designed to placate working people with promises of a fabulous after-life and keep them from rebelling against the wealthy.
The fact that religious devotees are the targets of radicalization is not coincidence. Religion requires a suspension of logic and a leap of faith. Organized religions rely on “wise men” to interpret the orthodoxy for their followers, be they imams, pontiffs, pastors, monks or rabbis. These individuals wield enormous influence and mind control. When they preach a religion of hate, their followers are inspired to commit acts of hate. Every religion can point to verses in its holy book that justify hatred and bigotry toward others. If you don’t like gays or blacks or Jews or fill-in-the-blank with your favorite scapegoat, there’s a verse somewhere in your holy book that validates your belief. Magically, you are not a racist; you are simply exercising your religious freedom. It doesn’t take much to extend this rationalization to cover massacring your enemies in the name of your version of an Almighty.
If we hope to stop terrorism, we must confront its root causes rather than react to the aftermath of the attacks. We must address the disillusionment of young people who see no future for themselves and the discontent with the political status quo that propels people to act violently. We must address the appeal of jihad, pointing out the fallacy of committing suicide for a reactionary theology whose aim is to make the world a worse place for people, allowing a theocratic elite to run roughshod over personal freedom and human dignity while they enrich themselves from others’ labor. We must confront the radicals directly on the battlefield when all else fails, but we must do so in a way that isolates the radicals and does not drive even more Muslims into the arms of the jihadists. Killing thousands of Muslim civilians in carpet-bombing retribution for attacks on the West only worsens the problem and feeds the narrative that the Muslim and Christian worlds are at war.
Finally, we must confront our own society’s fascination with violence and guns and ask ourselves whether any citizen outside law enforcement really needs to own a military assault weapon. Easy access to these weapons of war enabled two extremists to kill 14 people and injure another 21 in a matter of minutes. What are the legal owners of these weapons planning to do with them? They are not used in hunting and are overkill as a means of self-defense. Those who claim the only way to ensure safety is to put a gun into everyone’s hands would do well to study the history of Tombstone, Arizona, a 19th century lawless mining town where everyone was armed. The famous cemetery recorded 350 homicides for every death by natural causes. And they were only using six-shooters in those days. Modern military assault weapons have only one purpose – to kill human life quickly and efficiently. It’s time we limited them to their original purpose – the field of battle – and limited access to those who truly need them.
Unlike the rest of the world, I had a banner year devoid of drama. I count my blessings for good health, steady work, abundant friends and loving family. My mom lives with me most of the year, having grown allergic to Rochester’s icy winters. Both Vince and Steven are in college, working on their futures. Steven got married this year to Abby and daughter Jade is a delightful toddler who is lapping up the world around her with amazing alacrity. My two rock steady clients – So Cal Edison and ANSI – kept me fully employed. I still found time to take on a few side gigs, including trips to Bangladesh, India, Egypt and United Arab Emirates. Tania and I enjoyed two trips to Dubai. I also got to visit several U.S. states, including: Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, Maryland and Virginia. I fulfilled one of my bucket list items when I got to play Pebble Beach Golf Course.
We had plenty to cheer and to jeer in 2015. Here are a few of my favorite things to remember.
To Ebullient Parisians:
Your courage and savoir faire in the face of brutal attacks set an example for all of us. Terror only works if we allow ourselves to become terrorized with fear.
To Kim Davis, Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk:
You claim a higher authority (God) told you to hate gays and refuse to issue them marriage licenses, but your own marriages and divorces to four different men are violations of the seventh commandment – “Thou shall not commit adultery.” To quote another line in your holy book, “He who has never sinned should cast the first stone.”
To Bernie Sanders, Presidential Candidate (D):
The corporate media may ignore you or dismiss you as a socialist, but you have awoken the working classes to the state of their exploitation. Win or lose, your message has rung loud and true – America is a country of, by, and for the billionaires. We need to start making it work for everyone again.
To Donald J. Trump, Presidential Candidate (R):
We may share first and middle names and birthright in the Empire State, but that’s all. I think you are too smart to actually believe the empty promises and hateful rhetoric you are feeding your crowd of irate supporters, but you know that they are eating it up. Better watch out, Mr. Trump, because the monster you are creating may turn on you, just like Frankenstein did.
To Rachel Dolezal, Former President of the Spokane, WA National Association for the Advancement of Colored People:
Thanks for introducing the world to racial ambiguity, a new psychological neurosis characterized by extreme confusion about one’s racial identity. I can certainly see why you identify with African-American culture, since there is much about it that I too admire. But to try to pass yourself off as black when your parents are as white as new fallen snow and then to actually pull it off for decades is a piece of acting worthy of Oscar consideration. When is the movie coming out?
To Caitlyn Jenner, aka the former Bruce Jenner, Olympic Gold Medalist:
That was quite a coming out party you had at the Espys this year. Talk about a tough act to follow. A man in a dress gets them every time. I can only wish you more happiness as a woman than you had as a man. Of course, the fact that you lived with the Kardashians for years could cause anyone to question their identity. At least you’ve ended up better off than poor Lamar Odom.
We have been bombarded with news of human conflict lately, from road rage to police shootings to wars ravaging the Muslim world. It appears as if we are losing our human decency, but the fact is human beings have been conflicted from the beginning of our existence as a species. The particular reasons for conflicts vary over time and space, but they typically boil down to different beliefs or interests colliding. Each of us has our own worldview shaped by our unique journey through this thing we call life. When we encounter a person with a divergently different worldview, conflict ensues. Each side believes it is right and seeks to emerge from the conflict victorious. Of course, that means the other party must be wrong and lose. When they don’t get their own way, the parties escalate the conflict, often by threatening each other.
Unfortunately, threats only make the conflict worse. Once we feel threatened, we go into a defensive mode that I think of as the 4Fs:
Friend or Foe? Fight or Flight?
First, we have to decide whether this conflict is with a friend or an enemy. For example, we may have a disagreement with our spouse about how to spend our monthly income, but we strive to maintain our relationship by searching for a mutually acceptable outcome through dialogue. Conversely, if a strange man comes up to us on a dark night and demands money, we instinctively take him as a potentially threatening foe.
Once we have surmised the nature of the threat, we must then decide whether to stand and fight it, or to flee as fast as we can in the opposite direction. This is a complex calculation, with much risk for error. We may stand and fight a bigger foe and get our butts handed to us. We may flee from a flea and give it the power to dominate us. Many times, the risk of a wrong response causes us to do nothing, thereby hoping to avoid the threat altogether. In my work as a human resource consultant to organizations,
I help people find a third way to resolve their conflicts – negotiation. It requires a willingness to engage in dialogue and find a mutually agreeable solution with the help of a third party. I try for a win-win solution in which both sides believe they are getting the best deal they can live with. Sometimes, it involves meeting halfway in a compromise. Other times it means coming up with an entirely new solution that neither party had identified initially, but both can embrace. It does not always work out amicably. The two parties may be so far apart and the actors so stubborn, no middle ground can be located upon which to build a win-win solution.
As complicated as this is on an individual level, it becomes infinitely more so when societies and nations are collectively involved. As a nation faces a perceived threat, it must also weigh the same 4Fs in determining its response. We use diplomacy to resolve conflicts with friends. We flee conflicts in which we have no compelling interest or don’t think we can win by avoiding involvement from the start. When we decide to fight, we use military and economic weapons to attack our foes. This has been true throughout human history.
Yet, our sense that human conflict is worsening rings true. What has changed is not the nature of conflict itself, but the negative consequences of our fight and flight responses. When nations respond incorrectly to perceived threats, the results can be horrifyingly destructive. Our sophistication in killing human life has reached a point where governments have thousands of methods at their disposal. Whereas in the past, a gentlemen’s duel might have ended two lives at most, we now slaughter life by the thousands. Thus, many more innocents are affected by today’s conflicts. The other factor that will only become more pronounced in the future is the sheer volume of conflicts that are occurring. As humans from diverse backgrounds come into contact more frequently, the chances for conflicts increase. These are fanned by modern media, which report on them around the globe in real time and provoke others to join the fray. In our global society, we simply cannot avoid people who are different than we are, with competing belief systems and interests. This could lead to a spiral of conflict and a state of permanent war that renews the threat of an all-out nuclear conflagration wiping out life on earth.
Instead of proceeding down a path of mutually assured destruction, we must find a better alternative. We need to respect and tolerate our differences and work out our conflicts peacefully as global citizens through negotiation. We must learn to find in our enormous diversity the source of our own humanity. So if nations want to avoid the destructive consequences of conflict, they should stop seeing each other as enemies. Friends resolve their differences through peaceful negotiation; foes resort to war. We share one planet. It belongs to all of us. Get over trying to conquer it. That’s so 20h century.
After the police beating of Rodney King sparked the worst riots in Los Angeles’ history, he famously challenged us with a simple question: “Can’t we all just get along?” Apparently not, at least until we learn to negotiate our conflicts.
Comments Off on Strategic Human Resource Management
We hear a lot these days about the need to be strategic. We know that organizations need an effective and well-articulated strategy to navigate the turbulent times we inhabit. But what does it really mean to be a strategic Human Resource professional?
First, strategic HR differs from the traditional HR administrative role in that it requires going beyond providing requested services to building business partnerships with management and aligning HR objectives and activities with business goals and strategy. It is the linkage between organizational strategy and human resource strategy and practices that leads to improved business performance based on cultures that foster excellence and innovation.
This process is outlined below. The first step is to have a clear business strategy based on a systematic strategic planning process, including SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. Next, the human resource function must develop its own strategy to support the business. This often requires a realignment of HR functions and key people practices. Then, HR needs to identify core competencies for major job positions, based on the organization strategy. This leads to a competency model that describes key skills and behaviors which support the organization’s strategy. Finally, HR must deploy this strategy through efficient work processes that achieve desired results for managing organizational talent from recruitment to retirement. To determine if the strategic alignment is effective, frequent evaluation of results is required. This may be done through a balanced scorecard that cascades from the organization’s bottom-line to the key enablers of organizational strategy, such as outstanding people practices.
Strategic Practices for HR
For human resource professionals who are just beginning this journey, here are examples of best practices for strategic HR management.
1. Consulting and building partnerships with managers to jointly solve performance problems and drive improvement.
2. Human Resources forecasting and job planning as a basis for recruitment.
3. Human Resources measurement and analytics to demonstrate value and monitor progress.
4. Change management to manage organizational culture through turbulent times.
5. Motivating and retaining high performing employees using a wide variety of incentives and rewards.
6. Developing human capital through continuous learning.
7. Developing organizational leadership, including succession planning.
8. Conducting strategic planning, especially in the areas of strengths and weaknesses related to human resources.
9. Planning and implementing HR technologies to drive efficiency, self-service and improve organizational communications.
To learn more about strategic human resource management, please consult Gary Dessler’s excellent textbook, Human Resource Management from Pearson Education, now in its 13th edition. For an in-depth understanding, consider taking my Strategic HR Management certificate program. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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