By now inevitably you’ve seen some sort of media coverage detailing how the “Back to the Future” franchise got it both wrong and right.
That’s right, the future is here. In the second installation of the 80’s trilogy, Marty McFly travels to the far-distant future of 2015. Or at least the 1985 version of what 2015 would look like. Though some of that 1985 speculation wasn’t that far off (video calls, biometric payment options, huge flat screen televisions), much of it was certainly ambitious thinking (home fusion energy reactors, flying cars, self-sizing clothing).
For all of the fun that it is to compare what the movie got right and wrong, there’s also another side to the discussion that hasn’t been explored. For each of those speculations that have not come to fruition, there are just as many every day components of our reality that could probably never have been imagined in 1985.
In 1985, could we have imagined that through the power of smart phones, most people would hold in the palm of their hand more computing power and access to information than was available to entire governments then? In 1985, clouds were strictly a weather phenomenon; today “the cloud” holds a whole different meaning. Tablets were pads of paper, a very different definition than what you think when you hear that word today. There was no concept of or hint to what social networking would become through the vast digital networks and tools we now have available, and how they are being applied not to just our personal lives, but to business effectiveness and productivity as well.
For everything that did not happen as predicted in the movie, other technologies have been developed and subsequently improved at rates we could never have anticipated in the mid-80s, or even more recently for that matter. In many ways, our lives are completely interconnected through technology. Technology enables the average person today to receive more information in one day than someone would receive in their entire lifetime in 1900; that’s not going to slow down any time soon. And over the holidays, I had a moment that was a powerful reminded me of that.
My 2 year old nephew received a tablet for Christmas.
Now you could argue that the “tablet” he received was a simplified version of a fully-functional “adult” tablet. But that’s not the point. The point is that my two-year old nephew instinctively knew how to use that tablet. That he knows how to access Siri on an iPhone – he can’t talk to her yet, but he knows how to find her and what to do with her. He has seen his siblings doing these things from the time he could comprehend, and is now using these technologies before he can even put a full, intelligible sentence together.
We are living in a “future” where kids are using technologies in some cases before they can even talk. These technologies are ingrained into their lives right from the beginning. This is certainly not a new phenomenon this year, it’s a shift that’s been occurring for a little while now, as evidenced by the term “digital native” that’s been in use for several years is discussions of generations. But it’s becoming something that as business professionals we can no longer afford to ignore.
As employers, we are soon going to be hiring these same kids who have used technology since before they could talk. Even sooner for those of us who work in industries that tend to employ teenagers and young adults (retail, food service, hospitality). Yet as businesses, many still lag pitifully behind when it comes to technology. Maybe not in the technologies we use to connect with the outside world and our customers, but with how we connect with our employees and future or prospective employees.
We insist on subjecting employees and candidates to mind-numbingly long manual processes, or if we do have digital ones in place, they are exceedingly complex, contrary to the digital simplicity present in our app-laden world.
Why do we do this? Because we can? Because THEY want to join OUR organization so we call the shots?
That mentality can be our downfall. As we continue into the future, if we as HR pros allow our businesses to remain out of touch and outdated, we risk losing talent to those who keep pace. It’s our job to be aware, to understand the pulse of those we want to employ, and translate that back to our businesses.
The future is here. It may not look like what we thought it would in the 80s, but in many ways, it’s more than we imagined. And we need to keep up.
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent acquisition and development in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.