Where will we be in 2030

It’s hard to think that far when every day in the workplace we will are battling fires and “long term planning” means scheduling performance appraisal for next spring. However with much going on that will influence business and human resources, it would be wise to at least reflect upon possible changes. In his talking during the World Human Resources Congress in Montreal, Eric Noël, Senior Vice President at Oxford Analytica describes some of the trends.

By Laure Marcus – File of Sep 27, 2010

During ”The world in 2030,” he traced the major changes that will impact the world over the next 20 years.

Aim long term

It is not because nothing is sure that we can be sure of nothing! Eric Noël is unequivocal: even though the market is becoming increasingly uncertain and volatile, all companies should attempt to plan for the long term. “Rare are those organizations that look 20 years into the future—most think and act short term, a tendency that has been exacerbated by the financial crisis.”

And yet, reflecting on where you want to be in 20 years helps orient what can be done in six months. Developing a long-term plan enables building scenarios, rating uncertainties as either risks and opportunities, strengthening corporate values, and guiding training, innovation and business strategy. It is therefore essential to involve HR in this process, since the competitiveness of a firm is above all based on its human resources.

The weight of demographics

Forecasting the repercussions of demographics on one’s company, and more broadly, its market, must be a priority for human resources professionals. The evolution of the population is one of the main trends discussed by Eric Noël, along with geopolitics, governance, globalization, science and technology. The breakdown of the population will change greatly over the next few decades. In 2050, the Earth’s population will be 9.5 billion people (vs. 6.7 billion in 2008), with 1.8 billion in India, 1.4 billion in China and only 1 billion for developed countries combined. This means that India will be the main labour provider within 10 years.

Many developed countries, including Canada, will require this labour. In Quebec, for example, the labour shortage is predicted to start in 2013, signifying that the number of workers leaving the workforce will be greater than the number entering. “One of the greatest obstacles to growth is likely to be ourselves,” warns Eric Noël. “We will no longer have enough workers to maximize our potential.” And over time, the gap between developing and developed countries will only widen—an irreversible change that is already predictable. “Yes, we’ll keep our high standard of living for a while, but until when?”

For developed countries, it is therefore crucial to increase the share of the working population, starting now. Most are facing a paradox that despite the scarcity of labour, the youth unemployment rate remains high, women are often less active than men, and people retire early—all examples of under-employed assets. Quickly balancing the supply and demand of labour is a challenge that must be addressed, and countries and companies that are successful in doing so will adapt and remain competitive.

What are the issues for human resources?

These demographic pressures will have a big impact on human resources management. “With the shift of economic activity to Asia, there should be programs in place right now to train employees on Asian culture, allow them to learn the language and better understand these markets,” recommends Eric Noël. HR should focus on multiplying contacts with this part of the world. Certain countries and regions are already in a better position than others to tackle this challenge, such as British Columbia, for instance.

Recruiting could also be influenced by these long-term trends. Versatility, openness, mobility and flexibility are skills to look for in the recruiting of profiles with the ability to quickly come up with solutions in a multipolar, unstable market. Eric Noël points out that the time to act is now: “We talk about these changes as phenomena happening in a distant future, when in fact they are already here!”



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