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The Flying Car For HR
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Happy Back to the Future Day!

As we watch clips of the iconic Marty McFly in his self-drying jacket, we can laugh about all the things the 1989 Back to the Future II got wrong about the future, or the future Marty traveled to, which is today, October 21, 2015.

Everyone’s first question, of course, is “Where are the flying cars!?” Unfortunately in the real 2015, our daily commutes are still mostly bound to the ground (unless you have a private jet, I suppose). But it’s fun to see what the movie overestimated, like fashion trends and the Jaws franchise, and also what the movie missed completely—like smartphones and the internet.

Re-watching the movie, you’ll see payphones on the streets of Hill Valley, but we now know that these quickly-vanishing relics would have been better placed inside Cafe 80s next to the old-style shooter game. And let’s throw the fax machine in there while we’re at it.

A lot has changed

So much, actually, that our 1989-selves couldn’t even imagine what we’d see 26 years in the future. Which means, there’s no better day than Back to the Future Day to appreciate how far we’ve come. It’s easy to spot the super cool consumer products that didn’t exist in 1989, but think for a moment about how modern technology has transformed the way you live your life—and the way you do your job.

For people in HCM, tech advances have been pretty significant. I mean, we’re not riding to work on hoverboards, but think about it. Or rather, hop in the Delorian.

Let’s travel back…

In the 80s, we were just beginning to automate corporate processes like payroll and benefits. But before personal computing, these early human resource management systems were limited to companies that had mainframes (i.e., companies with a lot of capital). So if you worked for a smaller company, you did a lot of things manually. You might not have even had a computer at your desk (weird, right?).

Life in the real 2015

It’s hard to imagine doing what we do, especially on the scale at which we do it, without all the automation we enjoy today. Even in Back to the Future’s version of today—the fictional 2015 that didn’t include smartphones or the internet—we wouldn’t be able to recruit candidates on social media, request online reference checks, see HR analytics in real time, or do many of the day-to-day things that make our processes more efficient.

But Back to the Future did get some things right, like video conferencing on a big flat-screen TV (except, we can Skype on our phones now, too). This technology is huge in HR, especially when doing remote interviews with candidates who don’t live local. And thanks to new innovations in assessment technology, you can request a video assessment from a candidate before the video interview!

Ok, so advancements in HR tech maybe aren’t as exciting as a flying car. But do you really want one? (See what tech titan Elon Musk says about flying cars falling on your head.) Sci-fi coolness aside, a flying car probably wouldn’t have changed your work life as much as the ultra-smart and lightning-fast systems that exist in HR tech today. So I say, even with our wheels on the road, 2015 is a good place to be.

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