VUCA World Part 1: How Talent Management is Changing

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VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) is a term that has been thrown around for a while now and there is a reason it has stuck. Throughout the 00’s, the VUCA business world label was touted as a phenomenon, something we do not have to live with, but endure. Time Magazine referred to the first 10 years of this millennium as the decade from hell. Years later, the chaos is still running strong with no end in sight.

The fact of the matter is, we do live in a VUCA world and understanding that also brings with it new challenges in how we hire and manage people. As described by ERE:

“Because they were designed for more predictable times, almost all current HR, talent management, and workforce planning processes fail to perform in this chaotic environment. In a VUCA environment, there are more changes, a faster rate of change, and the size of the changes are so impactful that they must be labeled as “disruptive.” So the question for talent leadership becomes, “how do you effectively hire, develop, place, and retain individuals and leaders in the volatile environment where literally everything changes in months rather than years?”

“Under the established 20th-century talent management model, the future was relatively predictable. As a result, firms hired, trained employees, and developed leaders in order to prepare for the “predictable” upcoming business environment. Most firms prepared their employees for the single-most likely future scenario (i.e. scenario A), which was usually a 5%-10% extrapolation from the current situation.”

“The more advanced firms prepared for not just the single-most-likely scenario but also for one or two alternative predictable scenarios (i.e. scenario A and B, C). But unfortunately, in a world of continuous disruption and VUCA, using this traditional model usually means that you end up hiring, training, and developing for business and talent management scenarios that will literally never occur. Planning, forecasting, and training simply cannot work if the environment that you are preparing for never appears!”

“For example, recruiting routinely plans for three distinct scenarios: no hiring, moderate hiring, and large-scale hiring. However, in a VUCA environment, talent acquisition must plan for each of those scenarios, but in addition, it must also plan for periods where the firm will do rapid hiring in some business units and regions, while simultaneously having a hiring freeze or even layoffs in other business units.”

“The 21st-century VUCA model that I am advocating requires talent management to have plans for handling numerous “disruptive events” that traditional narrow workforce planning simply can’t handle. Some of those disruptive events might include generational shifts that occur every six years, social media changing the way we communicate, and simultaneous talent surpluses and shortages.

This is just one opinion on how businesses can start to recognize what needs to change and propel themselves into this new era. The first step to success is not pinning down the model that you should follow, but actually accepting that changes need to be made and understanding that the standard business models and practices may not help you find success in the future. With great leaps in technology comes great change. Adapt or die.

Find out how to make the changes necessary for survival in the VUCA world as the series continues. Up next in the VUCA World Series: Adapt and Survive in Talent Management.

Traci Kingery, PHR is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in immigration and talent management. When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.

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