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CEO’s Note: What HR Can Learn from Wayne Gretzky

Elliot Clark
CEO

Happy New Year! The turn of the year is literally the act of marking time. Not much changes from the last day of December until the first few days of January other than a calendar digit. But the New Year is the time for introspection about what is to be accomplished and to also contemplate the future.

I have spent the last year visiting with many of the HR leaders and the HRO services and technology providers. Many of these providers have “development paths” and “innovation” groups or executives. The internal HR functions have three- year plans to drive the business forward. I am reasonably convinced that much of this is window dressing and am likely to irritate many of you in the reading audience as some of my opinions are a little controversial.

When asked why he was a transcendent talent in ice hockey, Wayne Gretzky famously quipped “because I try not to skate to where the puck is but to where it is going to be next.” When we think about “next” in business, it is more than a few days out or the turn of a calendar. The community responsible for the managing issues related to the workforce and labor trends move in decades or generations.

Most of these programs are about skating to where the puck is now. I hear a lot about optimizing social media. Well, social media is more than 10 years old now. Not that there is not more to do, but it’s hardly cutting edge. I hear a lot about improving the candidate experience through technology, but truthfully, in 10 years, the majority of the workforce will be Millennials. This generation is “experiential” learners, and I have yet to hear anyone talk about how to tailor the experience. It’s more like “we think we know how to talk about at them.” (The ugly truth is that we were not even ready to “talk” to them when they started entering the workforce.)

Innovation is an overused word. In HR, on any given day, there is so much to do that exhaustion prevents the simple of act of looking above the parapet of the present into the future. As a result, there is very little talk about what happens in 10 years. What are the global and demographic forces at work? What should technology look like? What are the drivers of education and culture today that will yield a talent pool of the future and what role should HR play in shaping them?

To be visionary, you have to take time to express vision and I am not sure that HR or the provider community is doing enough. For our part, HRO Today will try to contribute—we don’t think the media’s only role is to criticize.

We are moving to help incubate a few things. We have invested in new predictive analytics firm Joberate, which can predict—with accuracy—whether individuals will be looking or are looking for a job based on their online behavior.

It’s a radical HR application executing based on similar concepts that are used to track online consumers. Will it make some people uncomfortable—yes. But eventually everyone will accept it. This is why Joberate has gotten so much media attention. I personally believe predictive analytics is the next frontier in technology.

We will be partnering with a new consulting organization called Higher Metrix, which will work with HR to use data to make key decisions on partner selection, operational planning, and optimization (an announcement will be along shortly).

We will also be changing our popular iTalent Competition. We are committed in investing in early stage companies through providing the winner a one-year campaign of multiple print and online advertising support. This will ensure they can gain clients and notoriety as well as perfect their technology.

I believe the future is one minute from now and stretches out infinitely. Physicists would agree. However, business people know that being ready for what happens in five or 10 years requires everyone to think about it now—since it takes years to get the processes ready for that future.
So everyone, please sharpen your skates. It’s a fast-moving game and we have to be spending more time thinking ahead.

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