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2009 Predictions – HR and The Year of the Ox

Most of us cannot wait to wash our hands of 2008 – It was a tumultuous, emotional, surprising and bitter year for so many. But scrub as we might, it’s going to be difficult to remove the stains of fear, uncertainty and doubt from our collective conscious. So perhaps it’s foolhardy to continue with the Inflexion Point tradition of predicting the major HR trends for the coming year. But come on, what fool doesn’t love the idea of doing the same thing again and again while hoping for different results? 🙂

The OxSince we’re making predictions, I thought I’d turn to the Chinese Zodiac for guidance. The Year of the Ox begins on January 26th, so let’s agree that 2009 starts then, shall we? It’ll give HR most of January “off” as you’ll be buried in strategic planning and budgeting, performance reviews, merit increases (if you’re lucky), follow up on open enrollment and the initial throws of the annual health plan review. You’re also likely to be contemplating additional layoffs and planning to do more with less, the mainstay of the modern HR function.

So the real question for 2009 is this – Can HR benefit from the Year of the Ox? Let the predictions begin!

1. HR Will Add Tremendous Value, But Not in Areas They Desire

  • The Ox: “The Ox is the sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work… As one might guess, such people are dependable, calm, and modest. Like their animal namesake, the Ox is unswervingly patient, tireless in their work, and capable of enduring any amount of hardship without complaint.” (Wikipedia)
  • HR: To the external observer, you should thrive in 2009 against these Ox-like tendencies. Executives will turn to you to tackle some of least desirable work in the enterprise. They will count on your discretion, ability to navigate tricky waters and keep them out of trouble, and to do so without a single complaint. Training and experience will matter most and you will perform well. However, this is not what you hoped to be doing with your HR career as transactions will supersede transformation at almost every turn.

2. For Many of You, This Will Be Your Last Year in HR

  • The Ox: “Ox people are truthful and sincere, and the idea of wheeling and dealing in a competitive world is distasteful to them. They are rarely driven by the prospect of financial gain.” (Wikipedia)
  • HR: This is a tough one, but 2009 will really test your patience and intestinal fortitude. You will be viewed by many as judge, jury and executioner. And in some cases, you’ll be the last one the turn out the lights. There is a price to be paid for this work and you ultimately may question the meaning of it all. There is a certain burden to being “in the know” all the time and you may eventually seek greener and more positive pastures.

3. HR Vendors Will Take a Beating

  • The Ox: “Behind this tenacious, laboring, and self-sacrificing exterior lies an active mind. The Ox is not extravagant, and the thought of… being in debt makes them nervous. The possibility of taking a serious risk could cause the Ox sleepless nights.” (Wikipedia)
  • HR: The name of the game in 2009 is cost control and risk mitigation. As a result, vendors must have an extremely clear and concise value proposition, in-year ROI, a rapidly deployable solution and plenty of cash reserves. There will not be a lot of time or patience for flashiness, vaporware or finger pointing. If possible, vendors should be prepared to offer flexible payment arrangements that emphasize amortization over big upfront costs.

4. Welcome to HR 2.0

  • The Ox: “It is important to remember that the Ox people are sociable and relaxed when they feel secure, but occasionally a dark cloud looms over such people and they engage all the trials of the whole world and seek solutions for them.” (Wikipedia)
  • HR: With travel budgets frozen and the value of industry associations in question, many HR professionals will seek more creative means of information gathering and networking. Whether it’s via HRMToday, Twitter, Facebook or others, HR will embrace new media for both themselves and their populations. This may initially be more from necessity than design, but peer networking will be critical to sustaining knowledge sharing during what is likely to be a very challenging twelve months.

So what do you think? Can HR benefit from the Year of the Ox? Please share your thoughts freely and let’s keep the conversation going.

P.S. I hope most of my predictions are wrong.

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