When the HR/Training/Learning community gathers for conferences and events, we have tons of fun and hear wonderful stories! Rightfully so. We are making a real difference in how companies succeed and how individuals grow and develop.

But there are the elephants in the room. Wicked problems. Topics that are rarely discussed in depth — taking them on means lots more for work for us. But, the only way to solve them is by banding together as a community.

It’s time to begin that difficult conversation. Time to step up, as a community united in belief and action. As only we can do.

Here are 2 of big elephants I see. What about you?

Upskilling for the Biggest Competitive Challenge of the 21st Century

The biggest competitive challenge is not what most of us think it is.

It is each individual’s ability to compete for everyone’s time and attention.

And equally, each individual’s ability cut through clutter and find what truly matters within the deluge.

None of this is new: see Death by Information Overload; Overload and the Myth of Multitasking; Overload’s Impact on Learning; Overload’s Impact on Productivity.

What must be new is our admission, our taking-it-really-seriously, our buck-stops-here accountability that:

Nearly 100% of our workforce will require Overload and Attention-Span Upskilling. Continuously.

At the same time that information is doubling within most companies every 12 to 18 months, the average employee now has the attention span of a goldfish! Those 2 trends are slamming into each other, compounding the effect of each.

More than any other single issue, this upskilling (or lack of it) will drive every success or failure, and agility or change sluggishness, within every company.

Jensen Research has shown that the one universal skill, required of everyone who works today is Triaging — the ability to quickly scan, assess, ask questions, decide, and then clearly communicate the essentials, while engaging everyone in the shortest time possible.

Suggested Next Steps: Start Small, Grow Big

  • Create the space for this undiscussable topic. At every conference, every event.
  • Conduct those discussions with the spirit of hackathons and disruptive brainstorms. Powerful fixes won’t come from standard and safe best practices. They’ll come through intense reimagining, reinvention and disruption of how we train and develop people.

Big Data & Analytics: Choose Our Values Now, Before It’s Too Late

We in HR are facing the dawn of a major values dilemma. We can choose to let others shape the values of how analytics will be used, or we can jump into the challenge before it’s too late.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable technology, combined with completely new analytics capabilities, means that companies will have greater and greater ability to force behavioral changes.

Currently, this is just in the early stages: Like where managers are in the ears of cashiers and call-center personnel, directing their actions based on real-time performance metrics. And like how some firms use employee BMI (Body Mass Index) scores to determine each individual’s contribution to company health plans.

Soon, companies will know lots more about each of us. “Bill, according to your ID tag and the chip in your chair, we know you spent 4.6 minutes more on breaks today.” And, “Bill, in analyzing the content of your emails, texts, and digital output, your performance is 2.7% lower than yesterday.”

Capabilities like these, combined with the ever-present pressure to do more with less, means that we are on the cusp of pervasive digitally-managed behavioral changes.

No, we’re not there yet. That’s the good news!

There’s still time for CHROs and CLOs to create C-suite discussions to ensure that all these advances are driven by deeply-held values. If we don’t do that now, the constant pressure for morebetterfaster could easily get ahead of values-based leadership decisions — putting in place systems that never considered their unintended consequences.

The time to act is now…Before 2020 becomes 1984!

Suggested Next Steps: Start Small, Grow Big

  • Create the space for this undiscussable topic. About the values that must drive IoT and analytics decisions. Do so quickly, to get ahead of this challenge.
  • Involve the C-suite as quickly as possible. Many leaders will commit horrific unintentional gaffes without this discussion. And with it, most will do the right things.

We can name and tame these elephants in our room…if we choose to do so now, proactively, as a community.

Bill Jensen is a speaker, leadership coach, IBM Futurist, and author of eight books. His latest is Future Strong. He can be reached through his website or by email.

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