Future perfect?

Jane
Lewis previews a day in the life of an HR professional in 2030

It’s
going to be a pig of a day. Quite literally. The Ardennes sow is about to pig
(I love these archaic animal husbandry terms) and I have to be in London by
10.00 am for a pre-AGM board meeting. We’re expecting trouble from a minority
group of members over our backing of ENP (the pan-European Nuclear Programme).
I’ve spent the week planning tactics to head them off. Basically, it’s a
no-brainer. How else do they expect to run their electros cheaply? We can’t put
a wind farm outside every European city, and the argument that a return to
petrol-based transport is the way forward is clearly pie in the sky, whatever
the Americans say.

But
to return to the sow. My husband Milo says he’ll hold the fort though really he
should be in Frankfurt today. He can use the m-conf suite in the study: not
ideal, but it’ll have to do. He hates being pigeon-holed, but he’s essentially
a tri-worker: he’s a private client stock-broker/cum traditional pig-farmer/cum
career agent for me. I’ve had to endure some teasing about being in the thrall
of my husband, but 30 years in financial services have given him an encyclopaedic
knowledge of the market and contacts to match. Stupid to waste them and even
more stupid to pay commission to someone else.  

Downstairs
in the kitchen I see the groceries have arrived and immediately begin to swear.
There is no milk and no croissants. Instead there are 15 bags of
genetically-engineered crisps, three boxes of candy sushi and a carton of
beef-free jelly-shots — a retro craze at the kids’ school. At least, as Milo
observes, they seem to have forgotten about the obligatory vodka content of our
youth. But this meddling with the food delivery system has got to stop. It’s a
family joke that we can’t write an encryption programme they can’t crack within
the day, but enough is enough.

The
kids are at the Thames Valley International School five miles away, just
outside Avignon. Obviously it’s got impeccable credentials, in particular the
hot-link with Harvard Business School, and the list of corporate patrons is
impressive. But we chose it mainly because the education is resolutely
classical: they don’t even begin business strategy studies till they’re 16.  

I
jump into the electro, grab my m-com and start wondering idly at what point did
‘e’ become ‘m’. Shortly after the turn-of-the-century dotcom wipe-out I
suppose. Although I have booked a travaillette
in the train going north, I’m still shy of doing too much VR work in public —
some old fashioned restraint about talking on public transport — so tend to
dictate my docs in the car. In any case, the nuclear issue is hardly one I want
every Thames Valley commuter on the train to pick up on.     

Now
that we’re back in business mode I should probably introduce myself formally.
My name is Anna Cullen and I head up FuturePerf’s European People department.
Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of FuturePerf: you must be about the only
person in the Western Hemisphere not to have some kind of dealing with us. 20
years ago we were one of the first of the so-called Neo Co-ops that began
grabbing business from the niche clicks and mortar players. At one point, I
think, we were a publicly-quoted credit card company.  Now we’re wholly-owned by our members (numbering some 20 million
world-wide, including pension fund block members) and are largely accountable
to them — hence the jitters about the AGM.

What
line are we in? Well, what line aren’t we in? The essence of the Neo Co-op
movement is to provide anything that a viable percentage of our members say
they need. And that means everything from life’s bare essentials (health
insurance, education endowment, pension, travel miles, electric car batteries
etc) through consumer goods and leisure experiences — we were the first to
strike a deal with the Russian Space Agency for packaged orbit-tourist trips.
We’re a volume company: the bigger we get, the better our buying power and the
greater our market clout as a trading hub.

My
essential remit as head of People is to focus on, yes you guessed it, the
quality of our people. But since the majority of our people are also FuturePerf
members (the ‘virtuous parasite’ model), I’ve had to brush up on some old-style
customer service techniques for this particular role. Working in a corporate
democracy is a big culture shock if you’ve come up via the old hierarchical
route. Even second-grade corporate strategy is put to the vote, and all company
officers are up for re-election at the end of the year. I should be safe. I’ve
run a good intranet campaign (featuring dedicated m-casts to selected groups)
and have a solid track record. Who else could have secured such a good second-home
deal for B-grade managers? And since I’ve had the job 40% more worker/members
have scored top grades in their 30-plus Intermediate Skills Assessment.
Everyone knows that’s the best career passport you can get.

Arriving
in London is always depressing after a two-week home strategy break (HSB). And
it’s colder than ever. Still no progress, say the scientists, in reversing the
Atlantic Drift tidal changes — parts of Britain have become a Siberian
waste-land. I see there’s rioting in the North East again. Into the office and
straight to my station. We don’t share anymore, even though half the
department’s on HSB at any one time. But the friction caused when someone
interfered with someone else’s station-settings was extraordinary and just
administering the diary system was a time-consuming headache.

There
are three immediate problems to deal with. First, a report from our
intelligence partner (Net Eye) that our main data-crunch provider, Rejoice!,
has been discussing terms with our main rival in cradle-to-grave service
provision, It’s Your Life (IYL). Don’t ask how Net Eye finds out this
information, and frankly I don’t want to know. But it’s an unacceptable state
of affairs and clearly in breach of contract. I send an m-com alert to the
lawyers.

The
second issue is slightly more troubling. One of our key Grade B superstars has
had a dodgy DNA reading, which may impact on his chances of joining the
FuturePerf Ambassador Programme. I should probably explain this: it’s our way
of capitalising on the wanderlust of our people. Within reason we reward any
initiative to move on: the better the position, the more FuturePerf membership
points you earn (though clearly there are clauses forbidding joining an
outright rival). The scheme’s been a triumph. We’ve won incalculable
partnership deals as a result, and ten years into the programme, it’s already
clear that return-rates are high. Most of FuturePerf’s board members (myself
included) got to the top this way. We can’t afford to let such an able
candidate fall by the wayside because of potential medical condition that’s
easily resolved. I call him in and suggest a compromise: he forgoes his
second-home option for two years, in favour of sponsored genetic therapy. He’s
happy to accept.  

Having
dealt with these two issues, I’m too late logging on to Worldmediacorp’s Real
Time People Auction — my favourite bargain-basement skills forum. Damn. That
team of Malayan comms-experts I picked out in the preview showing last week has
already been snapped up by It’s Your Life. But there’s consolation. Milo beams
in with news that the sow has done her stuff. Eight more traditional Ardennes
porkers can now take their place in the evolutionary fight-back against the
Euro Standard Pig.

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