HR in the Era of Flux #CAHR15

By Stephanie Hammerwold

The California HR Conference is in full swing in Anaheim this week. Over 2,000 HR practitioners, providers and presenters are in attendance at this annual event organized by the Professionals In Human Resources Association (PIHRA). Here are some highlights from my first day at the conference.

The conference kicked off with keynote speaker Robert Safian, editor-in-chief of Fast Company. Safian discussed what he calls generation flux, which is a way to describe both the era of rapid change we currently live in and the kind of people that best thrive in this climate. Safian explained, “We live in a mobile, social, global world where the old rules of business no longer apply.”

Safian said that the average amount of time an American stays in their job is only 4 1/2 years. We are changing jobs at a pace that is no longer focused on building a career at one company. The idea of a single career is a myth. He pointed to the success of those who move from job to job without building a career in one field. In the age of flux, he pointed out, the essential skill is the ability to add new skills.

Safian was careful to point out that generation flux does not refer to any one age group. It is an ability to adapt to a world in chaos—a world that is rapidly changing. As I wrote about in my recent post on generation X, much of what we talk about in terms of traits specific to generations may instead be attributed to various phases of life in general. Safian’s understanding of generation flux resonates with this idea that a multigenerational understanding of how we work, change and adapt is perhaps more accurate than the twenty-year generations we often use. The characteristics that we assign to groups like boomers, generation X and millennials may not accurately describe how we all adapt to what is happening in the world now. I think it is a bit misleading to say that millennials have the advantage in this game. Just look around to see who is glued to their phones in public. Peruse social media sites for an idea of the range of people using, taking on and changing the way we communicate and do business—it’s not just a bunch of twentysomethings.

As HR professionals, it is important that we understand how living in the era of flux changes the way we work and manage people. This includes everything from providing adequate training on new technology to adapting to the different ways we communicate and do business. Just think of the workplace in the late 1990s—none of us were thinking of bring-your-own-device policies and we did not have to worry about the ways employees may represent us in the online world. Yet those things are a part of how we manage employees in the era of flux.

Tuesday’s keynote speaker is Kelly McGonigal, lecturer at Stanford University and author of The Upside of Stress and The Willpower Instinct. Check back for thoughts on McGonigal’s presentation and more on the California HR Conference. I will also be live tweeting from the conference, so be sure to follow @HRHammer on Twitter.