Today is Square Root Day. This is an important day for what it represents as a milepost on our journey to the future of work and for talent preparedness. As the optimism of spring approaches, it’s exciting day for calendar nerds, where, not just in the US, but internationally, the square root of the last two digits of the year (16) equals the day and month. There are only nine square root days in a century. Quirky, but an important step on our continuing journey of talent rebirth. Why does this matter to HR professionals?
Well, first, there are people in organizations around the world who are thrilled by the math here – and they are celebrating and on Facebook. Diverse teams are more creative, so we need to include everyone and celebrate together!
From the ancient Egyptian aquifers replacing humans carry water to the loom revolts of Ned Ludd through Henry Ford’s assembly line; from Peter Drucker’s 1957 “knowledge worker” to offshoring to modern day crowdsourcing, mechanical turk, and gamification , humans have been in constant “retraining” for centuries, and it’s likely that these next 10 years are no different – but it’s good to plan ahead.
Square Root day is a reminder of our need to prepare for the next Square Root day - May 5th 2025. Fast Company magazine published an article on the top jobs in 2025 and the skills you’ll need. The article suggests that jobs in technology, caregiving, social intelligence, teachers and training, and business acumen will see the highest growth. What are we doing – in our organizations, training, schools, and on social media – to prepare for this future workforce? An ancient who carried clay pots filled with water for a living would have viewed the aquifer the same way a truck driver today should view autonomous vehicles.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has done tremendous research on STEM jobs, particularly those in technology – software programmers and data scientists - and by 2025, there will be a huge labor shortage in engineering and math. At the same time, the rate at which machines replace humans will continue to grow. When was the last time you talked to a travel agent, or visited a bank teller?
Autonomous vehicles, drone-based delivery, health monitoring wearables, and the internet of things will change the way we work and the skills we need to develop, and the skills we can offload to technology.
CNET did an article on the last Square Root Day on 3/3/2009 – Ron Gordon, a Redwood City, Calif., teacher, said, "These days are like calendar comets, you wait and wait and wait for them, then they brighten up your day--and poof! - they're gone"
This quote takes on a different meaning when we think about the next Square Root day, and realize how unprepared we might be. If we travel back to 2009 and think then, that by 2016, every company will be a technology company – that banks and mom-and-pop operations would be successfully competing with Fortune 500 multinationals for tech talent - we realize the trend will continue to accelerate exponentially – and for those in HR, it’s critical to build diverse and inclusive cultures, understand competitive benefits, build strong leaders, and revamp recruiting and hiring practices to engage world class candidates.
It seems odd to suggest that 2025 is “just around the corner” – but today is Square Root Day – we see the article from the last one, and the next one is truly coming soon. How can we prepare our organizations to be ready for a brave new world where the demand for tech skills cannot be fulfilled?
Confucius wrote, “Study the past, if you would divine the future.” Embrace the importance of Square Root days, their infrequency, predictability, and consistency, invite us all to give pause and prepare ourselves and our teams for a future world that will be here before we know it.
Mark your calendars for June 6th, 2036.