50 Voices of the Future: Kurt Gering knows talent when he sees it

In honor of UC San Diego Extension's first 50 years, 50 Voices of the Future asks thought leaders about the trends, breakthroughs and social advances they foresee over the next 50 years.

There was a time when the average American worker figured he would stay at the same company for his entire career. But over time, there’s been a dramatic shift in how people envision their career trajectories. Today, workers are much more flexible – and much more likely to hop from job to job and from one company to another. Kurt Gering, who teaches a course about strategic talent acquisition at UC San Diego Extension, sees a big shift in the role of a company’s human resources department. Gering – director of Talent, Culture and Capability at the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority – sees a future in which HR takes a much more hands-on role in shaping a company’s culture. As the workforce becomes more flexible, so, too, must the people in charge of doing the hiring. The best HR departments of the future, Gering says, will be the ones that “see talent as an asset and something you really need to invest in and nurture and grow.”

Why is the work you do important?

Over the last 50 years, we've evolved from a production economy to one built around intellectual capital. In the past, up to 80 percent of an organization’s value was most likely dependent on tangible assets. That paradigm is gone. Today that model is reversed for most organizations; 80 percent of the value is intellectual capital and only 20 percent is tangible assets. And so the focus has to be on the human component. That is the value creator and differentiator of truly successful organizations in the future. How will human resources create value in this new paradigm? It’s really on the strategic side. It's about assuring the organization has the right people, in the right seats, at the right time, with the right skills, for the right price, and making sure that they are engaged and really giving their maximum capacity every day.

What are the influential/exciting developments happening in your field now and why?

In the freelance and gig economies, work is no longer constrained by a physical organization. I can work when I want, and I control the terms of my employment by doing that. And I can sell my intellectual capital or my product virtually. And so you're starting to see incredible flexibility in the work arrangements. You really are seeing that ability to freelance and have relationship networks that drive value creation instead of traditional organizations. And to me, that's where we'll see the biggest change. There’s also much more mobility of labor. People can work virtually. And so, people can work for companies in different parts of the world or different parts of the nation in a way that never would have been possible before. And so, your ability to identify and tap into really incredibly diverse talent is huge.

(3) What’s the next big thing?

The next big thing truly is an empowered workforce. Our definition of leadership is changing and new workers can come in with technology at their fingertips and the ability to access learning and information from anywhere. The notion that somehow the work is confined to a relationship within the organization is just eroding so rapidly. And so, how we think about leadership in that context and how we develop leaders who can manage in that context, I think, is really the biggest challenge that we face both in our organization and, I think, in most organizations, because it really does require a different type of leader, a different skill set and capability that, oftentimes, is at odds with the traditional leadership model that we've had for many years.

(4) How big an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?

I think it's actually really an exciting time to get into human resources, because what's happening is, you're kind of seeing a shift from the transactional to the strategic. In the past, we would have been manually processing and doing all the transactional stuff - the benefits administration, the compensation, the employee relations - and a lot of that can all be done online, electronically now. And so, I think our contribution is going to be, really, helping organizations, both locally andSt globally, see talent as an asset and something you really need to invest in and nurture and grow. And part of the process is defining the strategic capabilities needed for your particular organization. And I think, ideally, HR can help organizations think that through, identify it, and recruit it. Once engaged and onboard, those types of folks will really help drive long-term value creation.

(5) Hop into your time machine…what does the future look like for this field in 50 years?  How can individuals/companies get prepared for what’s next?

Five decades from now, I would imagine that our profession is much more relationship-based and collaboration-based than it is transactionally based. I would imagine that we are integrated and seen as a core function that supports flexible talent deployment across an organization. I think the HR role is going to be to help people optimize their potential and growth. This will allow them to help the organization meet their needs from a talent perspective and really stay agile in responding to a rapidly evolving market place.

Kurt Gering, director of Talent, Culture and Capability at the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, teaches Strategic Talent Acquisition at UC San Diego Extension, which is a part of the following certificate programs Business Management, Human Resource Management and Talent Acquisition.

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