Five Scenarios 2: Trends

Jan 19, 2010
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Spring 2010 conference-logoPrecise forecasts are always wrong.

The old line, often attributed to Eisenhower, is “The plan is nothing, the plan is everything.” That means that the plan will always fail in the field. But, the planning process is the only way to come close to guaranteeing preparedness. Planning is essential. Believing the plan is folly.

That’s where scenario planning takes its cues. A scenario is never designed as a way to get to a precise prediction. Rather, it’s the only successful method for making the planning process account for the stuff outside the envelope.

The way to use a scenario (or, a set of five) is to suspend belief and assume that what you are reading is an accurate description of the future. From there, you consider your current view and examine it to see if the scenario sheds any new light. This is how Shell Oil, alone amongst its competitors, was able to profitably navigate the oil crisis of the 70s. Since then, the technique is widely used in situations where making future plans is important.

Scenarios are supposed to help you think outside of the box.

Scenarios emerge from a ground of current trends. While the economic situation dominates the public consciousness, a large number of things are undergoing structural change. These trends will drive the evolution of recruiting into the future.

Here are the major trend areas and their key sub components:


Overall — The northern hemisphere is getting older; the southern is getting younger

  • Guild cities: Increasingly, people move to cities where other people in the same profession work
  • Aging Boomers: Career changes in light of a realistic retirement age of 75
  • New work styles: Telecommuting, independent contractor status, portfolio jobs
  • Educational choice: Fewer and fewer technologists, more and more liberal arts
  • Supervision: Increasingly younger workers are supervising their parents’ peers

Organizational Design:

Overall — The post-industrial organization is emerging; it looks more like a coral reef than a supply chain

  • Flattening: Networks obliterate hierarchies
  • Synergies: More and more work is hard to describe and multifunctional
  • Contract management: The key to intra-organizational communications and vendor management
  • Matrix management: More bosses for everyone is becoming the norm
  • Culture: Recruiting and mobility programs that favor culture over expertise


Overall — Regardless of size, all companies are global

  • Work hours and work week: redefined to customer/colleague convenience
  • Talent: Finding the right person is no longer a “single origin” question
  • Value: Created in the place with lowest cost/highest effectiveness
  • Culture: Sensitivity is a technical issue. Naming data properly is critical in cross-cultural workforces
  • Economic environment — Some reason to believe that the New Normal means slower growth


Overall — The flow of technology not only remains overwhelming but increases

  • SaaS: Zero external investment and the promise of technology agility make SaaS the tool of the time
  • Search: Emergence of recruiting databases that precede the applicant tracking system
  • Mobile: Sourcing is a mobile business
  • HTML5: Websites fight back; the future is not all social media
  • Implementation: Contract administration is a core HR discipline
  • Acquisition: Requirements documentation and internal change management are core HR capabilities
  • Enterprise: Unwieldy ‘big iron’ systems take heat from more agile SaaS tools
  • CRM: Recruiting workflow is about maintaining relationships; plucking the fruit out of the orchard

Social Media

Overall — Twitter nation or twitterbation. The jury is still out

  • Blogging: Preceded the rise of the kind of journalism that isn’t so ‘ism’
  • Death of publishing: The niche editor is the new power broker
  • Social graph: The new background check and referral system
  • Collaboration: The promise of a voice for everyone is overextended
  • Job boards: Finding their ground. Job boards aggregate opportunity and opportunists in a way that has no peer

Search for Better Returns

Overall — Leaner, meaner businesses pursue effectiveness relentlessly

  • Outsourcing: If it’s a process, it will be outsourced. Cost always wins when value is equal
  • Definition of employment: 40% of the workforce is independent by 2020
  • HR metrics: Emergence of proactive HR metrics that drive organizational performance
  • Lean disciplines: Ever-increased focus on bottom line results

Energy and Sustainability

Overall — Energy and sustainability practices will shape the workplace

  • Energy choice: Determines where we work
  • Energy source: Shapes technology
  • Telecommuting: Perfected through globalization
  • Foundation: Many trends (above) depend on energy price and availability

The first step in getting this process right involves getting your help to cover all of the important underlying trends. What did I miss? What do you think should be on the list?

Trends are one part of the equation. Next week, I’ll draw a very simple map of the marketplace that allows us to have a conversation about how the future impacts specific areas.

The Five Scenarios project is sponsored research that ends with a presentation, a conversation, and a white paper. PinstripeTalent is our first sponsor.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.