How to tell the future…

Last week I attended the HPMA ‘Evolving Roles Enhancing Skills’ workshop. One thing that struck me was mentioning the importance of horizon scanning (HS). I have heard about HS before – in fact it was a mantra during my time at PHE, in the non-HR role. However, I have not come across it a lot in the HR world (workforce planning colleagues may say something different). Is it because we are so consumed by current demands or is our mindset still quite transactional, or is it simply we just don’t know how to do HS? I would really like to hear what you think about it.
I must admit to my ignorance regarding the ins and outs of HS and the lack of experience of systematically examining future issues and trends. According to Popper (2013), HS is a structured and continuous activity aimed to MAP (Monitoring, Analysing and Positioning) ‘frontier issues’ that are relevant for policy, research and strategic agendas. Those issues include new trends, policies, products, services, stakeholders, technologies, practices, behaviours, attitudes, ‘surprises’ (wild cards) and ‘seeds of change’ (weak signals) (Popper, 2013).
Workforce planning for health and social care is one of the areas where HS is a natural habitat with Centre for Workforce Intelligence leading the work in the UK. In the civil service, HS has been pushed for some time. However, while there have been numerous reports with lots of valuable data there has not been much action (Rhydderch, 2013).
In an ever more regulated NHS facing continuous efficiency savings, HR will need to adopt its own approach to HS. This will require us to develop the ability to apply lessons learnt to workforce plans, beyond just numbers of key staff needed to match the demand. We are getting better at being aligned to the business needs already but soon we may need to look a bit further ahead and outwards.
Another challenge is that future models of care may require a completely different set of partners that we will need to learn how to work with, even from those currently been considered in integrated care, e.g. patient groups, local authorities etc. HS can possibly help with this but can its methodology be used in the NHS where the pace and volume of change might surprise even the savviest of the strategists? Can HS actually help us to embrace change? It would be great to hear your thoughts and experiences with HS.
Agi Kertynska, Organisational Development Practitioner, Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust

Rhydderch, 2013, Horizon scanning: why forward plans are back in fashion, 

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