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The challenge of Exponential Workforce and the career-subscriber mindset

Photo by Andy Kelly via Unsplash

As part of my regular keynotes on Exponentials Technologies and the Age of Disruption: the 2nd order effects, I often touch on their subsequent impacts on jobs and how to prepare for it.Recently at the EHRC Annual Awards event, this was specifically the case. I presented the impact of the new technologies such as AI, Automation, AR/VR on the nature of the jobs themselves. This generated an interesting discussion around:The need for C-Suites and their Managers to start learning / preparing to handle a wider variety of resources than just the traditional employees of the age-old 20th century organization model.The need for HR function to adapt to handle a career-subscriber mindset of the new generation of employees (Gen-Y and generations following)

The Challenge of an Exponential Workforce

The recent advances in 2016 and 2017 on AI are clearly paving the way for an augmented workforce where chatbots and other forms of virtual assistants will play a role alongside traditional employees.As more and more platforms facilitate easy connection to freelancers (individuals adopting the Gig-Economy approach to their career), companies can now leverage the crowd instead of having all required expertise in-house and on payroll.These 2 elements will fundamentally disrupt our current corporate mindset where power, along the hierarchical ladder, is traditionally associated with a large base of direct-reports and overall managed employees. It will no doubt be a challenge for Gen-X to change their perception on the perceived corporate power.Finally, the pace at which technological improvement is happening (for perspective, we now expect Quantum computer to be more powerful than traditional computers in a matter of months according to Google Research and their new Bristletone chip), calls for a serious increase in corporate agility.Leadership teams need to pursue Internal Disruption as a key strategic objective – regardless of the size of the company.Where can one start? Look at what are the repetitive, mundane, low-value processes that can be automated. Identify the required key skillsets that do not exist in your internal talent pool and either re-train/re-tool or look for external talent that you will on-board when required for each project.

Executives and Managers need to start getting used to the concept of composing with a diversified workforce ranging from traditional employees, to crowdsourced talent and AI-powered assistants.

The shift towards a career subscriber mindset

Global trends demonstrate the shift from ownership to subscriptions. This has been slowly but surely picking up momentum thanks to the digitization of our world. It started with music (think iTunes when you’re not owning what you’re purchase anymore unlike the CD or Vinyl you had before but renting them via a license agreement, same for movies with Netflix). It then moved to car ownership (think Uber) and put even more pressure on real estate rentals. Basically, the need for ownership among younger generation is declining – which nurtured the coming of age of the sharing economy - and that is having ripple effects on career management. Much like one would do when assessing suppliers for a new on-demand food delivery, mental-health apps or luxury clothing rental (why would you even by a tuxedo or a cocktail dress today with available designer cloth as a service?), the young generations view their employers as their current suppliers for career advancement opportunities… but not with the same loyalty as their elders.Simply looking at the stats in terms of tenure within any given organization, you’ll find out that the time spent per employee in any given company is decreasing. There is a growing trend of evaluating how much benefits, be it new skills, mentoring and pay, one is getting from the investment (s)he’s making by being employed by a given company. Evaluating employers as any other subscribing-based providers. And it is a real culture shock to both parties as the gap in mindset between generations is frighteningly significant. Job-hopping is now the norm, not a fringe behavior. For argument sake, and pardon my French in using such a caricature, the following Millennial Interview can provide, in a comical educational way, insights to the magnitude of this mindset gap.

A comical caricature is always great eye-opener material for culture shock. The take from this well-crafted and played satire is that Corporate Leaders and their Talent team needs to re-evaluate the employee Value Proposition and look at alternate ways to increase the loyalty of their recruits. We have to rethink how to nurture the skillsets of their employees by re-training and giving them the new edge that is required to compete in our evolving world.

Another way is to think about the lifetime value of an employee and playing the long-term game. In creating a culture that welcomes rebounding employees, you can offset the cost of on-boarding someone new by targeting Alumni who also bring along their new knowledge. By catering to this new type of behavior, companies can also create a positive halo that will act as a talent attraction magnet.

Finally, the workplace environment needs to be better suited to today’s reality of online conferencing and teleworking. This is not accomplished by just adding free coffee, fancy couches and foosball table. It requires a very sophisticated architectural and experience design with the proper underlying technology infrastructure to support this kind of positive shift.

Due to the colliding effects of both new technologies and mindset in career management, corporations must rethink their aspirations and therefore their organization models so that their capabilities are agile enough to surf the Exponential tsunami of change.

So what now? Well as Marshall Goldsmith famous book title reads “What Got You Here Won't Get You There” – a new approach is required to think about the composition of your workforce, moving from a traditional employee pool to a Hybrid Talent Pool, as well as a pivot in Talent Management strategy to play the career-subscriber mindset to your advantage. And time is of the essence on this topic...


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