Futurist Elatia Abate Offers Three Ways to Thrive Against the Unknown

September 05, 2023

In her keynote to HR and business leaders, Paylocity’s futurist-in-residence shares her framework for creating a resilient workforce and designing The Future of HCM Now.

When all you see in front of you are obstacles, there is no path forward.

Speaking to 1,000+ HR professionals live and virtually on August 31, 2023, Paylocity futurist-in-residence Elatia Abate urged leaders to leverage disruption rather than fight against it.

Elatia, a Forbes leading female futurist, entrepreneur, and former HR executive, describes how rapid shifts in technology, the workforce, and the economy are tunnels that lead businesses down the same rabbit hole of inaction. Any one of these factors on their own is enough to create massive disruption in the job market. Today, we’re experiencing all three simultaneously at an alarming speed.

“It sounds scary, doesn’t it?” she says. “There is no cavalry coming. There is no future committee who’s out here planning what the future is going to look like. Because we are the cavalry, and we are co-creating what this future is together.”

Three Strategies to Turn Disruption into Opportunity

Elatia doesn’t shy away from the challenges of disruption. It causes chaos, creates fear, and exacerbates the isolation we already feel. Instead of being held captive by our circumstances, however, she invites us into the captain’s seat and asks the central question:  

“How might we empower our success in the face of great uncertainty?”

Disruption, according to Elatia, is opportunity that just looks different from what we’re used to seeing — and it could be our ticket to creating a better world of work. She suggests now is the moment to design new business models that let go of the paradigms of the past and forge a future boundless with possibility.

To navigate this bold new world, Elatia takes her audience through a three-step journey out of the rabbit hole and into the future.

1. Transform Chaos into Clarity

First, we need to shift our mindset from “What can we do with the resources and knowledge we already have?” to “Given that we’re here, what do we want to create?”

Before we can move forward with clarity, we need a crystal-clear vision for what we want to create and why it matters to us. To do this, Elatia says, we must declare purpose, define values, and — equally important — protect boundaries by learning to say “no.”

She explains that this process means taking a few steps back and asking three key questions of ourselves and of our teams. Free of constraints of the past:

  1. What do I want to create?
  2. What kind of impact do I want to have?
  3. How do I want to use my life?

“When we think about how this links to HCM and the organizations we’re running,” Elatia adds, “think about how these things could fall in line for recruiting, for career pathing, for helping people flourish inside your organization, for retention, and for engagement.”

2. Evolve from Fear to Fearlessness

In the face of all this change, one of the first things we feel is fear.

Elatia practices box breathing to manage or “assume agency” over the physical stress response. She also recommends being proactive and planning capacity into projects so that people have the time and space to recharge, which can help reduce burnout.

One of the most critical skills we can develop, Elatia says, is learning how to name, define, and challenge the assumptions we have.

“Because in a world where the rules are changing all the time, how the world was is not necessarily going to apply moving forward,” Elatia points out.

By challenging assumptions about well-being, productivity, and engagement in the workplace, HR can truly drive business strategy. Ultimately, Elatia says, there is a dynamic to dealing with disruption.

“If you practice it yourself, then, when the external unknown disruptions occur, you’re much more prepared to handle them.”

3. Transition from Isolation to Connection

When the pandemic thrust the world into an isolation none of us had experienced before, for Elatia, it really cemented the importance of connection with other humans. Now, as technology becomes more and more ubiquitous, the question becomes: How do we use these powerful platforms to truly connect?

Elatia explains the distinction between problem solving and solution seeking. The former is primarily introspective — why is this happening to me? — while the latter focuses on moving forward.

“Connection is about building community,” she says.

In a world where we’re physically separated, isolation can have unintended consequences for our teams. Leaders who model community by sharing their story and taking a genuine interest in the personal stories of others can have a profound impact on engagement across the organization. That’s when collaboration, productivity, and innovation thrive.

The Future of HCM Is Now

There are two approaches to preparing for the future. Traditionally, we plan for the future based on data from the past.

Elatia challenges HR and business leaders to think differently. How can we work back from the future we want to create? And what can we do in the moment — right now — to shape what that future looks like?

As Paylocity’s futurist in residence, Elatia is bringing her cutting-edge research as well as her insights as a former HR executive to inform the development of next-generation HCM solutions. She will also help Paylocity clients imagine the possibilities for creating a future that is clear, fearless, and connected.

View Elatia Abate’s keynote, The Future of HCM Now, to learn more tools to shape the future of your organization.



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