Before you read today’s title and totally dismiss the article, take a moment to think about recent events in our space program. Elon Musk launched SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, the most powerful operational rocket in the world. NASA has a documented plan (with a timetable) to send humans to the Red Planet. It’s possible in our lifetimes that people (not just astronauts) will be able to visit and live on other planets.
This means that individuals need to be ready with the skills that will help them be successful. It’s estimated that a one-way trip to Mars will consume approximately 500 days. So, this scenario isn’t like our current workplaces where someone signs on to go to Mars, gets there, doesn’t like it, and can simply come back. OR they get to Mars and don’t like the people they’re living and working with, so they want to quit.
To successfully colonize Mars, individuals need to have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to handle the trip as well as work with others. And unless NASA plans to send an HR pro along for the ride, then part of our responsibility as business leaders is to help individuals get the skills they need prior to leaving this planet for another one.
The reason I’m floating this idea is because I’ve recently learned about a very cool event. The 2018 Cross Cultural Management Summit is focused this year on “Going Beyond Global” to include space. It’s being held March 22-24, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. The conference has partnered with the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute to create an interactive program that will use the Mars mission as a case study to present the potential cross-cultural management issues associated with creating a permanent colony on Mars.
Of course, this isn’t going to happen overnight. Any project of this scope and size will take a great deal of time and lots of resources. But that’s why we need to have these conversations now. The human resources profession will absolutely want to be a part of the discussion. And they need to be!
Think about what happens in your organization right now when an employee says they want to take a sabbatical, work from home, or the like. Imagine if an employee asked if they could work from Mars. What would logistics like payroll, benefits, etc. look like? How would they receive training to keep their skills fresh? How would their manager evaluate performance and coach an underperforming employee? Oh, and what happens if they decide they want to resign or retire?
I know some of you are saying, “The number of employees who will want to do this is sooo small. We’ll handle it on a case-by-case basis. Problem solved.” But let me push back for a moment. First of all, Elon Musk’s plan is to put a million people on Mars. NASA’s number isn’t quite as high but it’s large enough to need a talent management and organizational development strategy. In my experience, handling issues on a “as they come” basis is sometimes how we end up with inconsistencies, favoritism, and disengagement. Again, I don’t have all the answers here. But I do believe you have employees right now who would love to go to Mars. Organizations need to be ready.
This is a true opportunity to start thinking strategically about global HR – and beyond. I’m looking forward to being there and I just think this is so forward-thinking that I wanted to share it with you. The program has also been pre-certified for both SHRM and HRCI recertification credits. Dr. Zhiqing Zhou has promised to offer HR Bartender readers a discount on registration ($450 instead of $899)! Just reach out to him via the contact page on the summit website.
Years ago, the idea of regular people living and working on another planet was only available to us in movies like Star Wars or The Matrix. Today, it’s getting much closer to reality. We need to get ready.46