Thoughts from a Former CLO.jpg

Thoughts from a Former CLO on the i4cp 2016 Conference

A clear theme of the 2016 i4cp Conference is that work is changing, and HR is going to have to change dramatically as well. John Boudreau introduced attendees to several new roles that will be essential to our success. John argued eloquently that we may have to look in new places to find people who can excel in these new roles. And I agree. But I also think we have an opportunity to repurpose the skills that have long been essential to HR.

Let me take as an example one of the roles John referenced from the cHReate work:

TREND FORECASTER & TECH. INTEGRATOR Strategic thought leadership—and the ability to anticipate and respond to trends—will be increasingly important. This includes a deep understanding of data and talent analytics to drive decisions, as well as the ability to effectively leverage technology to deliver value.

A successful HR executive is already someone who can see change coming in an organization. They see patterns and trends, connect data to issues of human performance, and understand how decisions get made—and carried out. These execs can shift forward by refocusing those skills to become peripheral visionaries.

Peripheral Visionary:

The next important things that will happen in our profession are not on the horizon—they are happening around us. (“The future is already here. It is just unevenly distributed.”-cyberpunk novelist William Gibson.) But that does not mean we simply look around. We must be purposeful. It starts with looking for the new ideas, technologies, or approaches that are getting a lot of buzz.

A peripheral visionary looks closely at such emerging topics. Questions that need to be considered:

  • Are there patterns in who is doing the talking about them, who is trying them out, and who is resisting them?
  • Are these ideas and the patterns of their use becoming meaningful to making work better? To making a difference in the organization?
  • Are there connections between two or more of these new things? (As in Mobile, MOOCs, and Badges, as one example.)
  • How do these new things connect to current practices? Do they extend, replace, fill a gap, or create a totally new set of possibilities?
  • What are the implications of their widespread use?
  • Do the ideas, technologies, or approaches show staying power, or have the hallmarks of a fad?
  • How can we tap into the expertise needed to move in this new direction?
And we have to remind ourselves not to fear or resist the new. After all, it’s too simple to think of the new as a replacement for the current. We don’t have to replace anything at first, or maybe ever. Perhaps the new is simply an experiment that could eventually become an “option.” And then we can let people vote with their feet (or with their devices).

Ultimately, the most critical question is: Will this new thing help people learn more, do more, better, faster, or cheaper than today?

Will it reach people who cannot now be reached? Will it enhance or enrich their experience as employees (of whatever type?) Will it help them to learn what cannot now be learned? How it will improve our services, our products, and, ultimately, our bottom line? And, finally, can the impact be measured?

There are lots of ways to be deliberate about improving your skills as a peripheral visionary. Joining associations, networking, reading publications, checking blogs, or just getting to know someone who has a penchant for the new and interesting. And you can use your current skills to do interviews, focus groups, and use quantitative research methods such as user segmentations and alpha-testing. It is a form of detective work, a capability perfected through deliberate observation and thoughtful analysis.

In a world where people and the organizations they support have seemingly infinite options, it requires a peripheral visionary to keep HR relevant. The true peripheral visionary goes beyond that to leverage the new for competitive advantage. S/He focuses on next practices at least as much as on best practices.

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