The future of HR from an ordinary present day time traveller

BrightHR Content Marketing Manager, Sue Bennett, visits the future, and comes back again, sparks flying. Hold onto your HR hats!

On the 22nd October, at 9.00am I made an unplanned phone call to a Futurist.

It is 2015, and now officially a post Marty McFly future. To my great disappointment Marty won’t be turning up in a Delorionic puff of smoke within my unfolding chronology any time soon. It is also the day that marks the end of our own sense of expectation for things such as Hover Boards. It occurred to me later, that the now outdated landmarks within this film, not only signal a new era in fictionally imagined time, but in its expiration there is also a call-to-action for all of us to imagine the potential for our realities afresh — and this goes for Marketing too.

As it happened, I was sitting on the ninth floor of a city skyscraper, behind mirrored glass windows, safe from the Mancunian rain, and writing stories. The central character of the story I am writing possesses the voice of BrightHR. I was trying to understand how she will operate in the workplace of the future. If I had a flux capacitor and the coolest car ever made, how would the central protagonist of our business show up?

At present our ideal target market has been affectionately named Emma. She is a forty something, on-trend female HR Manager. She has read Eat, Pray, Love, she shops at Sainsburys, likes doing home improvements and is family focussed. I don’t know if she’d get along with Doctor Emmett Brown, but I do know she’d be interested in talking to our visiting Futurist, Mike Ryan on the upcoming developments within HR, technology and staff engagement. Through Mike’s research into innovation, developing technologies and his understanding of business strategy, he is able to make recommendations for the future of work.

I called his number.

Mike answered. We almost didn’t get to speak. He was just getting ready to jump on a train to London. Luckily wormholes, and Mike’s spare time, were working in my favour. I explained to him that I wanted to imagine our Marketing persona Emma in the future, so that I could develop a voice that would align with her professional ambitions, our product development and the reality of workplace culture as is yet to be seen.

Mike explained to me that the quickest and easiest way to imagine the future on the 22nd October AM (after Marty) is to look at all of the things great filmmakers and creatives have imagined already, but that haven’t been realised by technology yet. Hover boards were one example. Digital contact lenses that capture advertising preferences were another.

I understand the surrounding paraphernalia of marketing personas often come with a limiting character profile; understanding growth within the surrounding cultural landscape — that no one can escape — can help you to empathise with such profiles, and to see things through their eyes. In doing this you are able to develop voices that understand interpretations localised to HR managers — or whomever you woo. In addition to this comes the special ability to speak from the future from within a present vessel (wow).

The one common denominator outside of mind-blowing advancements in workplace technology is quite simply people. Certain human tasks will always be in a process of deferment or exultation. Talking on the phone has been bumped for the text message. While the simple act of thinking about someone has been promoted to the indisputability of the Friend request — the ephemeral is on its way out. The previously repeated thought of ‘that long ago someone’ has been exorcised, and the impulse to scratch the nostalgic itch is relegated, almost entirely, as it becomes clear how far your personal narratives and theirs have diverged.

Business technologies will continue to achieve the same alterations in our behaviours. The world will continue to become a new copy of itself. Knowing this, and the creative projections of various innovators, helps me to talk to Emma long term, as a thinking, feeling person.

In the words of an old temporal visitor, Virginia Woolf — time passes. I became increasingly aware of Mike’s pressing schedule, and that of the London underground. It waits for no man. Mike left the conversation and got on his train. I was left to freak out about digital contact lenses. After I got over that, I began to imagine and develop a voice that the Emma of the future will have a reason to listen to. I can tell you that right now, here at BrightHR that’s a great place to be. Listen up - it is coming soon to this new wave in workplace culture and its supporting people management software; so stay tuned to BrightHR fellow travellers…Great Scott!

With thanks to Chris Parnham, author of DeLorean — Celebrating the Impossible for the image.