Are you thinking six steps ahead?

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When a chess player moves their knight, they’re not thinking about taking a pawn – they’re figuring out how to get take a queen with a bishop five moves from now. In the same way, when HR takes the long-term strategic view they’re better prepared for surprises.

In a recent blog Canada-based ColourJar co-founder Jeff Hoffman described watching the world’s top pool player spend many minutes studying a simple shot. When Hoffman asked her what she was looking for she told him “I’m not looking at this shot – I'm figuring out where I want the cue ball to be six shots from now.”

Business leaders need to think the same way to achieve their long-term goals, he said.

“This is an inexact science. No one knows the future. But when you take the pulse of a broad cross section of your customers and business partners, who are each experienced in assessing their own buying habits and the trends that impact them, a picture starts to form by connecting what appears at first to be abstract opinions and predictions,” Hoffman said.

“That's what Zappos did...  Zappos didn't look at customer service the way it works today. They talked to potential customers to find out where they wanted service to be – six shots from now.”

Tips for HR on how to apply the concept:

Succession planning: We often have plans for the top players, but what about middle managers and even lower staff? If one person leaves or is promoted it sets off a chain reaction that you can either figure out on the fly, or have planned well in advance.

Education and training: Do you have a high-potential junior hire who could be destined for the C-suite? Why not start preparing them now? It’s easy to wait for annual reviews and job openings but, not only is career pathing a great tool for engagement and retention, for Gen Y workers it’s a necessity. If you’re not showing them their future with your company, you’re likely to see them walk away.

Recruitment: So your junior worker is being trained for middle management, your manager could be headed for senior management – but what are you doing to prepare to fill the gap left by the promoted younger worker? Employer branding, contacts at schools and other organisations and an active social media and networking presence are all key to finding the best new recruits.


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