The_Future_is_Here-_What_it_Means_for_the_WorkforcePart 2 of 2 in a series (Part 1- 2005: Marty McFly Back to the Future)

More futuristic predictions that came true in 2014 and what they could mean for the talent industry

In the first part of our series, we began looking forward to the workforce dynamics of 2015 by taking an unconventional approach — reviewing science fiction concepts and futuristic fantasies that actually became realities in 2014, and how they could shape talent trends for this year and beyond. A more universal and globally networked system of communications emerged as one of the most prominent themes. Now let’s take a peek at some of the others.

An artificial chromosome was constructed from scratch

It was 2014’s biggest medical breakthrough in terms of artificial life accomplishments. Scientists at New York University’s Langone Medical Center replicated and built a synthetic, fully functional yeast chromosome. Not only that, the research team developed a way to insert customized additions, including a chemical switch that allowed scientists to mutate it into thousands of different variations to expedite the process of gene editing.

This innovation speaks to a couple of different things. Like NASA’s emailed wrench in part one of this series, the artificial chromosome highlights how society today strives to overcome organic and logistical limitations to make interactions more efficient through a “do it yourself” type of paradigm.

Within the staffing industry, we’re also seeing the rise of independent hiring and job seeking processes — the prominence of online staffing platforms supports the decoupling of companies and consumers. With increasing frequency, these freelance marketplaces are enabling workers to sell their services directly to individual customers, not businesses.

The nature of the chromosome trial also addresses the importance of curation, another hallmark of this new day. As technology has empowered the procurement and delivery of services, the role of traditional providers has changed. Staffing firms on the forefront of progress are seeing a new and equally vital position in the industry as curators.

It may be tempting to call the construction of the synthetic chromosome eerie, an attempt at perverting or playing Mother Nature, yet that’s not what’s happening. Scientists haven’t created genetic material from elements alien in nature. To some extent, they’re curating nature’s process.

This is a shift we’re seeing with greater frequency in business. Consider the crate movement. Semi-prepared food through Blue Apron can now be ordered and shipped to your home for cooking. All the ingredients and portions have been provided, and the menu is curated by professional chefs. For fun, you can order a monthly box of pop-culture baubles, catering to geek and gaming lifestyles, which arrives in a themed parcel curated by the folks at Loot Crate.

There are also social distribution networking companies that curate and promote products based on peer input. Fancy is one such organization. It helps consumers discover and purchase interesting or unusual products that are curated by a global community of other consumers, including celebrities and established designers. Another is WakeUpNow.

It’s happening in staffing, too. The Economist recently covered the story of HANDY, which creates “big business out of small jobs.”

“The company finds its customers self-employed home-helps available in the right place and at the right time,” the magazine writes. “All the householder needs is a credit card and a phone equipped with Handy’s app, and everything from spring cleaning to flat-pack-furniture assembly gets taken care of by ‘service pros’ who earn an average of $18 an hour.”

Like Uber’s popular business model, all these services rely on the power of the crowd, with experts curating the overall administration and facilitation of the services. This, too, is where tomorrow’s staffing professionals will thrive.

A venture capital firm appointed an AI to the board

Deep Knowledge Ventures, based in Hong Kong, actually gave a board of directors position to an artificial intelligence machine called VITAL. The firm claims that VITAL is an equal member tasked with uncovering trends “not immediately obvious to humans in order to make investment recommendations. The system will pour over massive data sets, apply machine learning, and then predict which life sciences companies are the best investments.”

We’re not implying that machines should start recruiting talent; rather that big data and metrics are going to matter more. Understanding the importance of business intelligence and analytics remains a challenge for the talent acquisition function. With an array of metrics available, organizations are still trying to decide what to measure, as well as determine if they have the technology in place to support the need. The reality for staffing professionals, however, is that future business success may well depend on moving beyond historical reporting toward predictive analytics.

Marrying analytics with content layout on one’s employment site, for example, is a proven way to maximize the candidate experience, showcase facets of an employment brand and draw talent toward those aspects they would find most alluring.

Data also drive the sourcing and vetting processes. Algorithms in candidate ranking systems can figure out how quickly talent have progressed in their careers and determine whether an individual is a laggard or a mover who outpaces others.

Double amputee receives two controllable robotic arms

What purpose does technology serve if not to improve our experiences? In 2014, Les Baugh became the first human to receive thought-controlled prosthetic arms, attached at shoulder level. And there were other cybernetic revelations, too, including an artificial hand capable of sensation. This mechanical limb, which converts electrical signals into nerve impulses, allows subjects to properly interpret sensory-rich information in real time. In short, it renders the wearer of the appendage capable of feeling objects that are touched.

And as with the other themes we’ve discussed, it involves communications. For talent considerations, it speaks to the importance of the candidate experience and the ongoing desire to enhance it. Many job seekers state that more must be done to streamline and improve communications, beyond merely connecting with them via social networks.

Applications remain too convoluted, complex and repetitious. Job descriptions, they feel, are not detailed, unique or specific enough to attract their attention. Job titles, on the other hand, need to be simplified. Few job seekers are searching for out-of-the-box headlines like “business development superstar” or “marketing guru” or “innovator.” Today’s talent prefer to have non-traditional and more captivating details in the job descriptions; the titles should be relevant and straightforward. And close to 30 percent of Millennials admit that they almost exclusively rely on their mobile devices to apply for jobs. In terms of communication strategies, more applicant tracking and hiring systems could benefit by optimizing their tools for smartphones and tablets.

And the yearning for an exceptional candidate experience goes further still. Today’s talent seek environments that mesh well with their values, support needs, work-life goals, and ongoing development. And as we’ve explored in past posts, the current crop of Millennials are teeming with enthusiasm for pursuing careers that provide these opportunities. Placing them in business environments that are conducive to these goals leads to the success of the worker and the employer.

Even as these younger professionals relish independence and autonomy in their work, they actively seek out resources for continued skills education and training opportunities. This generation of talent wants access to mentoring, formal training and on-the-job learning. They seek satisfaction and personal fulfillment over money. They want a job that improves their experiences, personally and professionally. Their flexibility and willingness to learn inspire positive attitudes that boost morale, while presenting a clean canvas on which to project the skills that hiring managers are hoping to develop in their workforces.

When recruiting top talent for the skills employers need now, and in the foreseeable future, staffing and recruiting professionals are concentrating on fit — sourcing workers based on matches to established skills and experience. And they are providing them with unique resources and tools to help facilitate and enhance the quality of their job searches, their integration to new business cultures and their careers.

Gender-neutral pronouns introduced in North America

Vancouver’s school board introduced the gender-neutral pronouns “xe,” “xem,” and “xyr” into the academic lexicon in 2014 to accommodate students for whom gender-specific pronouns don’t apply, or would be perceived as inappropriate. The move mirrors similar efforts that took place in Sweden and Germany.

As we discussed in a recent article, we believe 2015 will become the year of diversity, particularly as the incredibly diverse and open millennial generation begins to fill out the corporate ranks. One of the most prominent diversity issues of 2014 became the recognition of rights for members of the LGBT community. In 2015, that will topic will undoubtedly broaden to include issues of gender identity.

With skilled talent sorely needed, along with creative workers who can bring innovation and new perspectives to old challenges, a truly diverse workforce cultivates creativity, productivity, and growth by bringing together talent from disparate backgrounds and experiences, who coalesce yet retain their individual identities.

A year of connectivity, interaction, and diversity

The talent trends of 2015, according to the staffing industry, are likely to be extensions of 2014’s themes: social media for recruiting, employment and talent branding, cultural fit, closing the gap between active and passive candidates, and others. Based on the wider movements of society and innovation, however, we believe this new year will be driven by globally networked communications, interaction-based work, growing reliance on the crowd, virtualization, analytics, talent curation, memorable candidate experiences, and new levels of diversity in the workplace.