The Future of Recruiting: Q&A with Top Futurist Thomas Frey
The DaVinci Institute’s senior futurist shares a glimpse at how current workplace trends – from freelancing to co-working – are shaping the future of recruitment.
Image: Thomas Frey
Thomas Frey is the executive director at the DaVinci Institute and a renowned futurist speaker. We got on the phone to discuss what the future holds for recruiting: how employers will find talent, who they will be looking for, what skills and traits will matter most, and how employment and the workplace will evolve in the times ahead.
“We’re going to have a transition to new kinds of work at a far faster rate than ever before in history.”
What trends are shaping up right now that will change the workplace and employment in the near future?
The overarching trend is about the Internet, this very sophisticated communication tool enabling us to match the needs of a business with the talent of individuals in a more precise way than in the past. Rather than bringing people on full-time for a job, we can bring people on for two hours, or days, weeks, months – whatever the needs of the business require. This trend is transitioning us into a much more freelance society. Roughly 36% of the workforce is doing freelance work. That number will be 40% by 2020, and some people are predicting it could jump as high as 50%.
How might that change to a more freelance economy affect who employers need to hire, and how they go about finding and recruiting them?
A while back I predicted that over 2 billion jobs will disappear by 2030. That’s not to say we’re going to have 2 billion people unemployed, it means that we’re going to have a transition to new kinds of work at a far faster rate than ever before in history. We have to create new systems. Businesses come up out of nowhere and scale up to a billion customers overnight – how do we staff up for that? That becomes the real challenge. It’s hard to create a real lasting company when you grow that fast, and therein lies some of the challenges ahead.
Do these changes affect how recruiters will work?
One of the things of I’ve talked about in the past is the transition from co-working spaces into business colonies. A business colony is a co-working space where you have lots of project managers bringing in work projects and delegating the work to talent that’s part of the colony. In the future, recruiters might specialize in matching freelancers with business colonies, and project managers with projects.
Might technology replace recruiters altogether?
It may be possible to automate some parts of the process, but so much of what happens in the business world is based on human interaction. You know what you want but you don’t know how to describe it – don’t know the right questions to ask. You need someone to draw out the right questions. That’s very much the case with employers looking for talent. It’s what makes recruiting so hard to automate.
For example, in 1998 – the year Google was founded – the average search phrase was two words long. Today it’s something like five and a half words long, and by 2020 it’ll be up to eight words long. The gradual increase in the number of words we need to use to get close to the right results – that’s illustrative of the problem we have in describing what kind of person we want.
“Recruiters might specialize in matching freelancers with business colonies, and project managers with projects.”
Will social or technological changes affect the most sought after skills?
The skill-sets we need are changing rapidly. For example, when Facebook bought Oculus Rift last year, there was a sudden uptick in demand for virtual reality talent. But where do you go to get trained for that? Nobody is teaching those skills yet. For a traditional college to gear up and start training a new skills area – for them to hire the teaching talent, build the curriculum and recruit the students – there’s a six to seven year pipeline. So we need a much more responsive mechanism for developing talent, because emerging technology comes out of the woodwork and suddenly there’s a big demand for it.
Do employers need to prepare for that change? What can – should – they start doing now to prepare?
First of all, get rid of your typical hiring plans. You still need overarching goals, but situation rooms are the next big thing. Every time a major change hits, you assemble the team in the situation room and you tackle it. When things are changing so quickly, you really can’t know how different fields will affect your business.
Will the way we assess education and credentials change?
The four-year degree, which is the default requirement for many jobs now, was created in the early 1800’s. It made good sense back then, to study a breadth of topics – information was scarce. But today, the average person is consuming information 11.8 hours a day. It begs the question: do we need this breadth of learning in college, which consumes two years of our time and lots of money? There’s a big opportunity cost. If we eliminate the breadth then it could be shrunk to two years.
As new technologies come into play, the most talented people in the field won’t have any related credentials. That could lead to a host of micro-colleges that crop up and start teaching those skills. This would be a much more responsive way to respond to the needs of employers. And by 2030, the average person will reboot their career six times over the span of their lives. If you have to shift gears so much, micro-colleges offering micro-degrees – for example, based on just 1,000 hours of learning – will help talent pivot in their careers more efficiently. This is the approach the DaVinci Institute’s DaVinci Coders school is taking.
A more granular approach to credentialing can also help on the recruiter’s side; seeing four micro-degrees on someone’s resume tells you a lot more about that person than one credential from even a top school like MIT.
Will social or demographic changes affect who we look to recruit?
There are so many interesting demographic shifts going on right now. Half of all babies being born in the world today are born in Africa. But while the rest of the world isn’t having kids, they’re living much longer; 29,000 people in Japan will celebrate their 100th birthday this year.
People are working much longer, because they can. They don’t want to just sit around once they turn 65 and then live 60 more years. What will they do with all that time? The number of people over 80 years old will triple by 2050. Are we going to have recruiters that specialize in older people? This opens up an entirely new employment market that we haven’t thought about yet.
“Are we going to have recruiters that specialize in older people?”
What one thing should employers do today to prepare for future?
Putting staff in coworking environments brings tremendous advantages. Most companies aren’t sure what their business will look like in two years, something the commercial real estate industry has failed to accommodate. Month-to-month coworking options can help. Working in a coworking space, you no longer feel the need to constantly posture yourself to look good and fight for the next promotion. It enables you to become the authentic you. There’s tremendous amounts of learning in this type of environment because different types of talent bump into each other – positive human collisions – and can ask questions and learn. It’s that type of learning that is so important.
If you have staff in coworking environments, you tend to be more on the cutting edge of what’s going on in the world.
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