6 Specialists, 6 Industry Domains: Trends for 2008 and 2009

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The Learning Review asked specialists from six major industry domains to share their thoughts on how they see various areas of employee management changing in the near future. The question, sent by e-mail, was simple: what do you think the main trends in [domain] will be for 2008 and 2009? Following are each of their answers.

Human Resources (HR) Strategies
by David Ulrich, consultant and educator in human resources management

In the next one to two years, HR professionals will face some interesting challenges.

First, they will need to manage both individual talent and organization culture. A [current] trend in HR is to focus on an individual's ability, called talentship, workforce, or human capital. But having great talent without teamwork makes people into all-star teams who do not work well together. The challenge will be to build both individual ability and organization capability. Organization capability deals with the culture and organization as a whole. HR professionals must learn to manage both the person and the process.

Second, HR needs to connect the inside and the outside. Often HR focuses inside the organization on employees and line managers. We hear the words … “We want to be the employer of choice.” HR needs to connect the inside and the outside, and use the words, “We want to be the employer of choice of employees our customers would choose.” Too often, HR professionals see their “customers” only as employees inside the firm, not taking into account customers, investors, and communities in which the firm operates.

Third, HR must learn to manage both transactions (the administrative, operational work of HR) with transformation (change, strategic, and long-term work). These are often seen as two different types of operations. The operations require efficiency through technology; the strategic requires transformation through alignment and integration.

Finally, we have found that HR professionals must have competencies to manage both people and business. Our study of over 10,000 people shows clearly the benchmark competencies required of HR professionals for the future (see http://www.rbl.net/).

Human Performance
by Roger Kaufman, renowned researcher and professor at Instituto Tecnologico de Sonora (ITSON) in Sonora, Mexico

We will continue to expand our frame of reference—our mind-set—of our individual performance to align it with the goals of improving the organization and adding value to the external client and society. While we are getting increasingly better at … scientific and research-based individual or human performance improvement, we are increasingly seeing that no matter how well we meet individual performance objectives, those objectives must also add value for what the organization delivers to its clients, as well as [the] value … we add to all our external clients, including society.

This is the basis for what we are doing at ITSON in terms of curriculum and applied research. For 2008/2009, we and the profession will be expanding our horizons. And not a moment too soon.

Informal Learning
by Jay Cross, CEO of Internet Time Group in Berkeley, California (US)

Informal learning will continue [to grow] in importance. People do not have time [to take] many classes or workshops. The technology for facilitating self-service learning is available via the Web. Perhaps most important, empowered workers are rebelling against information deluge. They are going after what they want to learn (pull, informal) instead of taking what's thrown at them (push, formal).

Web 2.0
by Stephen Downes of the National Research Council Canada (NRC)

I was just today reading about a report from Gartner saying that software as a service (SaaS) will grow "seven times faster than on-premise software deployments during the next three years." That seems right to me, as for the most part, Web-based software is able to address many of the cross-platform issues facing application developers. And Web-based software allows a person to work with the same applications and same documents from multiple locations: their home computer, their work computer, their iPhone, whatever.

This flexibility may be contrasted with desktop operating systems that have become more and more cumbersome over the years. The result of people creating on the Web will be a continued proliferation of people creating for the Web, and so I think we'll see a steady increase in user-generated content. Also coming to Web 2.0 applications is a single sign-on service—most likely OpenID—which will allow users to mix and match content from different Web-based applications.

Thus, Web-based applications will be more than desktop applications could ever be; they will be social applications supporting collaborative authoring and content creation. In other words, what we will see will largely resemble Web 2.0 as we see it today. But there will be significant improvements in performance and stability “under the hood.”

by Tony Bates, president and CEO of Tony Bates Associates Ltd. in Vancouver, Canada

Mainly, [e-learning] will continue to grow rapidly. One of the biggest costs for many companies is employee training, in terms of the time employees are absent from work, as well as travel and lodging expenses during training. E-learning gives some of that time back to the employee. Workers like this option because they can study and still be able to spend time at home with their families.

We will see much more simulation and animation, which will allow us to reduce the time spent being trained on expensive equipment. We will also witness a shift to more blended learning programs—a combination of face-to-face training and online learning.

Finally, due to purely economic reasons, we will see the development of material for online training that will apply to different industries and that can be shared between different companies, especially for basic training.

Knowledge Management
by Javier Martínez Aldanondo, knowledge management manager at Catenaria in Santiago, Chile

Before making any predictions, we must stress that, presently, there is a lack of clarity on what we understand as “knowledge management.” My rustic definition for this much talked about concept is “how to learn from what the company already knows, so that when people need to face tasks, they can take advantage of the experience of someone who has already tried that same task before, and therefore, use what worked, and learn what caused problems to avoid making the same mistakes twice and being inefficient.”

Knowledge is an asset that already exists in the organization; you don't have to invest in developing it. It allows you to get things done and to obtain positive results. However, it is an atypical asset, because it doesn't show up in balances, it cannot be deposited in a bank, and it fades when people leave the organization. Not using this knowledge is a waste that companies cannot afford. There are two terms that will affect knowledge management in the future: innovation and intelligence.

While people are intelligent and learn from their own experiences (every day we accumulate cases and stories that we reuse constantly), organizations have a difficult time finding out what [people] know and learning from it (lessons learned and better practices), and therefore they are inefficient and lose money. Organizations need to learn how to be intelligent, and to do so they have to innovate their concept of knowledge management. Today, this concept is reactive and centered on document management and training solutions.

Companies will need to know what their employees are trying to do, and offer them support when they have issues. When I'm preparing a commercial proposal for a customer, my knowledge management system will ask me, “Do you want to know who did this before you? Do you need help with a proposal similar to the one you're working on [and] that contains sales arguments that worked wonders with this type of scenario and customer?” The organization not only will be able to anticipate to its members' requests, but it will automatically learn while it gathers experiences that will feed its corporate memory. To achieve this, it is necessary to contemplate three areas:

  • work with people (experts) who have cases and histories and critical knowledge, much more than [with] documents, procedures, and systems;
  • establish real business metrics;
  • and, most importantly, understand what knowledge really means—how we learn and what we understand as intelligence.

Source: Learning Review (http://www.learningreview.com/), Issue 21, pages 4 to 6.

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