The Cultural Impact of The Future of You

Gran Canaria - Ayacata in the WinterOver at Harvard Business Review Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic has put together, just recently, a rather interesting and relevant article on The Future of You that clearly highlights three rather intriguing career suggestions for knowledge workers out there for the new year to carry out, if they would want to raise their visibility, demonstrate their subject matter expertise and build their social eminence effectively in a social world infested with perhaps far too much noise. The article itself is worth while reading on its own, for sure, as it highlights some of the challenges, but plenty of the advantages of what it is like having a powerful personal brand, as a knowledge worker. But I would think there is something missing on the article itself that makes me a bit too uncomfortable: the enterprisey touch. 

I am sure you may be wondering what do I mean with regards to that enterprisey touch, right? Well, if you take a look into the article you would see how Dr. Chamorro celebrates three suggestions he thinks are going to work really well for knowledge workers, but perhaps he forgets how the whole thing changes as soon as you enter the corporate world. Here is an example. In that article he quotes the need for more self-branding, along with plenty of entrepreneurship, as two key traits to succeed in the business world. Part of me would definitely agree with those two traits big time, specially, in the context of the Social Web and pure knowledge Web work, but then again, if I look into the corporate world itself, and judging from both first hand experiences while interacting with customers and other thought leaders in this space, self-branding, a.k.a. personal brand, would only work out just right IF (And that’s a *big* IF) the corporate brand doesn’t decide to kill it in the process. 

Essentially, the corporate brand needs to evolve and both embrace and celebrate the richness of powerful employee brands, because, if anything, they surely help amplify and augment the overall corporate one; yet, what you see on a rather regular basis is how businesses ensure that the personal brand remains subjugated to the corporate brand’s needs and wants, resulting in turning off completely the motivation from employees to even look after their own. They just don’t see the value of being just one more voice adding to the noise, which is essentially what most companies want (mistakenly). There are better ways. Never mind that thought from companies that employees with powerful brands could become a threat to the  business or they could just be snatched away by talent hunters. Well, not really. It just depends on how hard, you, as a business, would work your magic to engage, from the knowledge worker perspective, those employees to augment AND increase both the visibility and mindshare of the overall corporate brand. Right now, that hard work is just not happening. It’s non-existent. The easy way out has always been undermining or terminating the employee brand, as soon as it is considered far too powerful or a threat to the business. 

This is certainly an area where I would expect HR to take a much more active role in helping knowledge workers develop the right skills set, as much as corporations to learn how to live with that personal branding trend for their own employees, because it’s only going to become more and more relevant over time. Remember? People do business with people, not with brands. People, after all, like to talk to other people when doing business. It’s just that simple. So the sooner HR can dive into the conversations and act as referees defending with good counter-arguments the opportunity for knowledge workers to develop their brand as part of their key, essential personal development opportunities, the better off we would all become, because it will help address part of that business problem I keep referencing time and time again: employee engagement. 

With regards to Entrepreneurship, we have seen that for enterprise knowledge workers it’s slightly different. Over here, in this blog, I have been talking time and time again about it referencing it as Intrapreneurship with perhaps this specific article as the most relevant one to the context of what Dr. Chamorro talks about on the HBR article. I would love to know in the comments how you folks feel about Intrapreneurs, because, somehow, I suspect we are going to start talking more and more about them as Trust Agents, Wild Ducks, Liquid Freelancers, become more and more prevalent of the new Workplace of the Future that we are currently shaping up!

And, finally, the one other suggestion that Dr. Chamorro mentions in that article and which I think is perhaps the most exciting in the context of Open Business altogether: Hyperconnectivity. That is, the ability of you, as a knowledge Web worker, to act both as a powerful connector, as well as that empowered node to find what you need, which, in most cases, it’s not going to be down to you, but down to how well you have nurtured, cultivated and looked after your own social network(s). 

It’s in this context that I thought I would finish off this blog post referencing a webinar presentation that I hosted way back in November 2012 for IBM’s Academy of Technology on trying to define what that hyperconnectivity would be like in the context of defining the significant impact social networking tools can have in helping redefine the workplace of the future with some essential critical traits. In “Cultural Impact of Social Networking in Defining the Workplace of the Future” you would be able to see my attempt of describing the new kind of skills set that knowledge Web workers would need to excel at if they would want to thrive in an Open Business environment. Here’s the embedded code of the presentation, so folks interested in it could have a look and see what you think: 

My good friend, and fellow colleague, Brian Cragun, host of that IBM Academy of Technology event, arranged to have the session audio recorded, as well as a transcript of my speech, along with the live chat transcript and I thought it would be a good idea as well to share that across over here, so that if you would be interested in spending a bit over an hour listening to it, while flipping through the charts, you would be able to do so accordingly. I have zipped all three files into a single one and you would be able to download it all from this link.

Dr. Chamorro’s conclusion of the article highlights the need for employees to become a brand, their own personal brand, to transform the way they work and become powerful change agents with an opportunity to keep challenging the status quo of how certain things happen while at work and with an innate ability to link to useful information scattered around your various social networks. Somehow I suspect that the hardest part of making all this a reality is not just going to be down to the employees themselves, but more down to HR, Open HR, that is, as an opportunity to help prepare for those upcoming talent wars and personal development initiatives that will help define the workplace of the future in the Knowledge / Open Economy. Somehow, something tells me that this is one of the main reasons as to why HR will cease to operate, or be perceived to operate, around the edges and become *the* central hub that makes that business transformation of the employee workforce a reality. 

The challenge is on though. Will HR be capable of transforming itself into Open HR, as part of Open Business? I surely hope so. After all, we don’t have much of an option nowadays anymore, I am afraid.

Do we?

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9 Comments »

  • Wonderful webinar presentation, Luis. Wish I’d been there. On _The Future of You_ there’s the internal you and there’s the external you, with little overlap today. Given shorter employment cycles, a changing and more complex work environment, etc. I think a part of “you” needs to stay with you, sort of “belong to you”, ready to dock at another station, if you will. You already take your skills/experiences/accreditation with you today, so I think, it’s not too far fetched to take (part of) your “work” with you as well. This could be a reputation signal, personal profile, or performance metric from another company, to name a few.

    p.s. for companies who stubbornly avoid this, and keep running a closed shop, here’s a blog picture – http://www.flickr.com/photos/blakemjordan/5375326644/

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    • Luis Suarez says:

      Hi Joachim, once again, brilliant imagery, indeed! And so descriptive of what’s happening out there. Over the last 5 to 6 years I have found it really fascinating how many hiccups ourselves, knowledge workers, seem to have with that concept of liquid, freelancing, trust agent work. I guess we would need to work harder on helping folks break loose from that traditional notion of the long term job, the security it brings along, comfort, and so forth, because we need to start coming to terms with the fact it’s no longer going to be there anymore.

      I would take things further one more step by sharing how that reputation signal you mentioned above does not relate just to the work you may or may not do, but also the network(s) your bring along with you. That’s one of the huge benefits of fostering and boosting Alumni networks within the corporate world where the barriers of the firewall will become a thing of the past for a good number of the interactions and we would be more keen on following the flow(s) than stagnation at a placid lake.

      It’s what I keep telling people that, when you decide to say, lay off, people, you may not only be laying off the best people out there, but also their tremendously powerful networks who will stick around with that individual because there is that factor of connectedness that wasn’t there before, as strong as it is with social networks. Too bad most corporations don’t realise about the wider implications. Perhaps the acceleration into that Liquid State will help it get realised over time!

      Time will tell, I guess…

      Thanks again for the wonderful commentary and for the imagery! Too funny, the snapshot is from a place not far from where I live!! hehe

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      • So, heh, the first task for the new Open HR organization could be to come up with a new set of performance metrics that focus not so much on the past, but rather on the future, e.g. ESN/SN size and/or ESN/SN intensity/impact (vs. goals accomplished and assets created).

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        • Luis Suarez says:

          Hi Joachim! Absolutely! Goodness! If anything that *is* the biggest challenge HR, and the entire organisation for that matter!, would need to start facing and pretty soon! If you come to think about it, it’s how vast majority of businesses are run today, i.e. on performance metrics that focus on the individual, never mind anything else. It’s also perhaps the first pure form of gamification when you come to combine it with compensation, awards, incentives, bonuses, and so forth. Talking about disrupting the entire performance management model and make it jump into the 21st century of Hyperconnectivity.

          Got a few ideas and blog posts I will be sharing along over the course of time on the topic to see potential options, alternatives, initiatives that could very well be worth while investigating further from what I have researched and bumped into on how certain other businesses are doing it at the moment, and succeeding. Going to be a fun exercise!

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    • Luis Suarez says:

      Ohhh, and thanks a million for the lovely feedback comments on the webinar. It was fantastic and I had a great time with all of the interactions and conversations that went through on the live chat itself. Brilliant experience altogether!

      I will be doing a remake of the deck for another event later on this year, where I will be taking things into the next step: what are those traits and how to apply them to day to day work for maximum results on helping knowledge workers work smarter, not necessarily harder! Stay tuned for #Intra13! ;-)

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  • Luis, sorry to come late to the party. There’s some good stuff in here, most of which I agree.

    I’m not sure organisational brands need to take a back seat to individual ones however. I agree we could be more relaxed, and supportive, about individuals creating their brands, but imo, we still want these to be aligned to the organisational one.

    I don’t see most traditional organisations becoming networks of mainly independent contributors.

    Doing this is, again, back to HR stuff – careful recruitment for example. And enough conversation internally so that people are in sufficient agreement about the stuff which is important to the organisation.

    And perhaps that’s another difference other than increasing comfort with personal brands – its that the link between organisational and individual has to become more two-way vs simply top down.

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    • Luis Suarez says:

      Hi Jon, oh, no worries, happy to see you dropping by adding some excellent commentary as well! I will check out as well a couple of the conversations you started over as well in Google Plus! Fascinating insights there, too!

      I think we are both on agreement on this one. I am not saying that the personal brand should override the corporate one and take over, for instance. I think what I am just trying to say is that both of them need to co-exist in harmony helping boost each other’s strengths so that both parties go through a win-win situation. Unfortunately, in most cases that’s not happening at the same level that could be expected. In fact, as soon as the corporate brand identifies the personal one is becoming perhaps a bit too relevant and may consider it as a threat, it reacts almost 100% of the times in a negative manner “just to remain” the individuals who is the boss over here. Not the most intelligent and smart way of doing business, in my opinion, specially, when it’s those very same people the ones doing business with customers, so the last thing you would want to do is to kill your own business just because of a potentially silly fight of who has got a bigger ego. There are probably many more important things to get done.

      RE: “I don’t see most traditional organisations becoming networks of mainly independent contributors.” We may not be able to see it just yet, but it’s coming, and, if you notice, it’s already happening in the US, where the vast majority of the active workforce are freelancers working for large or small business, for the first time in history. I suspect that trend would also become the norm over here in Europe, specially, given the precarious situations in the work environment with the traditional concept of what we thought was a steady, secure job. Not there anymore, I am afraid. At least, in a good number of European countries… I suspect by 2014 to 2016 we will be seeing plenty more of this trend become the new norm of how people would be employed. Self-employed, that is.

      Surely agree with you on how this is stuff related back to HR, but I’m not too sure whether in this case HR can do much about it, it’s more of a decision of businesses, that think they will stay in business in better conditions becoming more agile, lenient and resilient with less full time workers and depend more on trust agents. The fascinating thing about this trend is that the corporate world doesn’t seem to understand the group that’s going to benefit the most from that trend / shift is the group of trust agents, freelancers, because the concept of the corporate will be dead. At least, to them. Talking about redefining work with the wrong end of the stick!

      And what an excellent point to conclude the commentary with. Yes, it’s the blend that I mentioned above that works best for both parties. In fact, if you look into employee engagement it’s always been seen as top-down driven, when in reality it isn! It’s a two-way street that both parties need to walk together hand in hand. And that’s what I am hoping the corporate world will awake to when thinking about employee engagement from a Social HR perspective :)

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  • Ana Silva says:

    I loved this post Luis and agree with your thoughts and concerns. Few companies I know deal “well” with employees that have strong personal brands, especially if those employees are not in the high ranks of the hierarchy ladder ;)

    I’m curious to see how the intrapreneurship/change agents movement will develop (as you know I’m all for developing an entrepreneurship mindset inside orgs). As Deb Lavoy always writes at the end of her posts, the best is yet to come (or so I hope).

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    • Luis Suarez says:

      Hi Ana! Thanks much for the heads up and for the lovely feedback comments, including the Tweet Love :-)

      Goodness! Your quote “especially if those employees are not in the high ranks of the hierarchy ladder” is just so spot on! That’s exactly where it is at! It’s that perceived notion of a threat by those strong personal brands from people not in the higher ranks that I am still trying to figure out where such aversion comes from. I have always believed it’s one of the strongest signals of the business value from social networking and seriously think, if anything, businesses should embrace it vs. treating it more like a threat. It isn’t. It never was, it will never be. We need to move on from that perception, because it’s not reality.

      I think you bring up an excellent point as well to tap into Intrapreneurship, because in a way it’s what’s helping knowledge workers to shake off that static, always waiting for orders from high above, mentality and instead it’s an open window into freedom, autonomy, opportunity to learn, to converse, to collaborate, to share your knowledge. Yes, indeed, the best is yet to come. I long for the day when Intrapreneurs are no longer looked at as weird objects, but as the dynamic knowledge workforce that would change the corporate world, for good!

      Let’s do it!

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