Human Resources

How Bill Gates Predicted the Future of Talent Management in 1999



Bill Gates is no stranger to trailblazing, having created one of the most successful tech companies on the face of the planet.

Back in 1999, his book Business @ the Speed of Thought laid out his expectations of how technology and business would merge together in the coming years.

At the time, these predictions seemed outlandish or even impossible. In the years since, many of these forecasts have been proven eerily correct, showing just how forward-thinking Gates was – and still is!


The Rise of Digital Recruitment

Among the chapters of the book, you’ll find early ideas on smartphones, social media and even flexible working. Gates describes a future in which workers and business owners will be connected through the internet, in ways that most couldn’t imagine at that time.

One element that Gates covers in the book is the rise of digital recruitment and talent sourcing. In his thoughts for the future, he noted that those seeking new roles would be able to broadcast their search and their key skills. For recruiters, this would mean cherry picking those with exactly the right competencies to meet the task.

He wasn’t wrong. Research shows that 79% of jobseekers are likely to use social media for their job search and 84% of companies use it to attract applicants.




Platforms like LinkedIn Jobs are experiencing exponential growth, with tools like the open candidate feature allowing employees to advertise their availability. LinkedIn’s Endorsements and Skills sections allow candidates to show off their strongest traits, and premium products and InMails further bridge the gap between recruiters and candidates.

This courting process works both ways, as companies can use social platforms to extol their virtues too. To be successful at attracting talent, companies need to cultivate an appealing brand image.


Predictions for HR

Gates also lays out the perfect digital HR strategy in this book, illustrated by an imaginary employee. He describes this employee using the internet to order their own materials, manage their paycheck, enter time off and apply for benefits.

In his ideal onboarding process, paperwork is kept to a minimum, software schedules the interviews and the employee is empowered to deal with these minor tasks. If you’ve ever wanted to approach the C-suite about streamlining these processes, then the fact that the technology to do so has been around for two decades might be a good conversation starter!

On the subject of productivity and upskilling, Gates says:

“Give your workers better jobs with better tools, and you'll discover that your employees will become more responsible and bring more intelligence to their work. In the digital age you need to make knowledge workers out of every employee that you can.”




Give your colleagues the opportunity to take on more responsibility and expand their horizons. Use technology to make this accessible and flexible, allowing employees to take ownership of their own development.

The desire to innovate, retain and reward is still very much present in the people profession in 2019, much as Gates hoped it would be in 1999. Keeping ahead of the curve with talent management and modern learning methods will help you advance your own HR career as well as the careers of those around you.


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