At the New Yorker conference, Malcolm Gladwell spoke on the challenge of hiring people in the modern world and how it relates to sport (?!).  Now, tests for hiring people is not directly related to Strategic Workforce Planning (SWFP), but this 30 minute video of his presentation is a great thought stimulator.  Some points that are relevant to SWFP are:

  1. The whole presentation is about questioning paradigms (crucial in good SWFP) - and it gives great examples of why we might need to
  2. Gladwell refutes "hard objective predictors" and the need to impose certainty on things which are inherently uncertain - like the future, for example
  3. Understands that as complexity increases, so predictability decreases.  And of course as predictability decreases,
  4. Points out that we are often relying on decisions based on how things used to be - ignoring the accelerating rate of change on our demands of workers
  5. Malcolm Gladwell reminds me more of Malcolm McLaren every time I see him! (slightly less serious benefit, I confess)

Those first four points are important to good SWFP, and to good thinking about all of our practices and assumptions, although I'd also add that we need to be careful of the mismatch between our current needs and our future needs - and always hire with one eye on the future.  Gladwell ends the presentation with a good thought:

The world has profoundly changed but the way we hire people hasn't changed along with it.  We want to cling to these incredibly outdated simplistic measures of ability. The great irony of this of course is that we have this sense that progress broadly speaking has the effect of reducing uncertainty - but the opposite is true. 

You can't "press a button" which will tell you what your future workforce needs to be - the future is inherently uncertain.  What you need to do is be ready to question paradigms, explore alternative futures, and do what you can to design a workforce which is most agile to a range of possible scenarios.  And sometimes a good way to do that is to listen to presentations from people on topics which aren't exactly what you are focused on today.  I'd definitely recommend this one!

Unfortunately the quote I have as "the end" above doesn't sound like it was the end - just the end of the video.  Oh, well, next year I'll have to go to The New Yorker conference live!