The 2020 Workplace: Interview with Jeanne C. Meister Author of The 2020 Workplace

Ten years ago Google was operating out of a garage, Apple was in the skids, and the founder of Facebook was in high school. What a difference a decade makes. Mihaly Nagy, the chief moderator of HCM Excellence Network recently spoke to Jeanne C. Meister, the author of The 2020 Workplace. This conversation takes you to the future yet is anchored in the leading edge talent practices of today and sheds some light about what is required from an HR perspective to attract, motivate and engage tomorrow’s workforce. Learn about how companies are innovating today to prepare for the future.

Mihaly Nagy: Jeanne is an internationally recognised expert incorporate learning and development, whose name is synonymous with the establishment and institutionalisation of corporate universities and customer education programs among Fortune 1000 companies, agencies and Federal Government. She is a leading thinker, researcher and author of The 2020 Workplace: How innovative companies attract, develop and keep tomorrow’s employees today. Jeanne welcome, it’s a delight to have you here.

Jeanne C. Meister : Thank you very much for inviting me, I’m thrilled to be able to share The 2020 Workplace with you and your audience.

MN: I believe that there is no more timely topic than today of how innovative companies attract and develop tomorrow’s employees today. I think everyone would like to get an answer, especially now that the world of work is changing. There is a greater demand for work like bland, engagement in a workplace, finding meaning at work. In addition to the multiple generations entering and working in a matrix environment. Based on your research, what do you find are current trends that require HR professionals to rethink the role of HR in the 2020 workplace.

JM: There are 3 trends that we talk about a lot in the book, and they include: globalisation, global access to markets and talent and how that is going to reshape business, the emergence of the social web and social media tools and technologies inside companies. And then the third, 5 generations in the workplace, that we see happening in the year 2020. So let’s just take them one at a time.

Millennials really have a very large appetite, to experience global opportunities earlier and earlier in their career, and they are really looking for companies that share their values.

Globalisation, we know today that where most of the growth is happening in the BRICK part of the world, Brazil, Russia, India, China and of course now Africa. The question becomes, “Well what are companies doing to build a global mind-set among leaders?”, and that’s really the impact among companies, not that there is globalisation happening, but the need to understand how important it is to build a global mind-set.

And a global mind-set is defined as the ability to work with individuals, teams and organisations that are different from us. And what we see happening now is companies creating formalised training programs on building a global mind-set, mentoring, 360 degree programs and then, perhaps the most innovative is companies redefining their corporate social responsibility programs, to build global leadership opportunities in them, so employees have the opportunity to live and work in one of the emerging markets that the company is growing in, and actually experience the company live at a very early stage in their careers.

Let me tell you why it’s being really quite a driver. In many of the studies we see on global millennial, we believe that millennial are really a global generation, meaning that they are like each other than they are with a baby boomer that they may be working side by side with in their country. Millennial really have a very large appetite, if you will, to experience global opportunities earlier and earlier in their career, and they are really looking for companies that share their values.

So, those 2 drivers are leading companies to rethink and re-imagine corporate social responsibility programs. Here in the United States, the term us frequently used in ‘International Corporate Volunteerism’, and that’s being used by companies like IBM, Accenture and Deloitte. A lot of the pharmaceutical companies, both Pfizer and Bristol Myers all have these programs which have redefined their typical corporate social responsibility, made them more strategic and provided opportunities for young employees to live and work in one of the emerging markets. So, globalisation is the first big trend.

The second trend is the social media, the emergence of social media inside companies, as we all know, this trend is happening faster than any of us could have expected it. And in the book, we looked at how companies are establishing corporate internal social networks, which are really changing the way works get done. In a sense, creating community platforms, a combination of Facebook and YouTube behind a firewall, where you are able to collaborate and drive innovation faster. Some of the early adopters in the United States, one company profiled in the book ‘Cerner’ a health IT Company has now expanded their corporate social network to all their customers as a way to engage with their customers and help their customers solve problems faster. So, we have social media inside companies and this is happening at a very fast rate. Companies are also using these social networks as a way to attract and source employees.

And then finally, the third trend, ‘Multiple generations in the workplace’. We took a look at the census data in the United States and estimated that by the year 2020, millennials, those born between 1977 and 1997 will be 50% of the workplace. As we know, the generations differ by country based on the social economic and political events in each country. So the names of the generations are slightly different, the years might be slightly different but you know, the big headline is that millennials are going to be a greater part of the workforce and with that, we also have older workers, traditionalists and boomers. Traditionalists in the United States born before 1946, and Boomers between the years 1946 and 1964 are continuing to stay in the workplace and delay retirement. So, what you have are these – we are predicting – 5 generations working side by side. Now you have to ask yourself, what’s the impact on HR and on companies? Well, there are new demands and new changes in how companies are recruiting, are developing, are communicating with multiple generations. They all have specific needs and companies are really looking at this in a very professional way, rather than a haphazard way.

MN: We talked about generations, we talked about social media as well. Not it’s not only technology but millennials Gen Y, Gen Z have a totally different social interaction online than the baby boomers. So, how does social media itself changes the workplace, especially considering that many companies even up today still ban Facebook, they still ban Twitter, or even YouTube within their corporate network. What do you see? How will it change in the future?

We are beginning to see is the days of traditional annual performance reviews, or a 360 reviews, are now being done immediate and in more open transparent ways.

JM: Well first there is something called ‘the consumerisation of IT’ that I am now calling ‘the consumerisation of HR’ and what that means in the IT world is that the innovations used to happen in companies and then migrate to consumers. And now the reverse is happening, with the enormous rise of media tablets that recent research with Gartner estimates that there are 64 million media tablets that were sold to date. (over 100 million as of today, 8th march 2012) Consumer employees are coming to the workplace really demanding that choice in the productivity tools they use. So we have companies that were quite accustomed to having their own technology package, of be it a ‘PC’ and a ‘Blackberry’, are now required to take a look the needs of individuals joining the workplace for choice in technology, it’s called the BYOT, Bring your own Technology’. So that is really driving how employees work. What happening on inside the company is the enormous rise of what I’m calling the ‘social leader’, and we have open sites like ‘glassdoor.com’ and ‘ratemyprofessor.com’, where it is very easy to go in and get a sense of a company’s values, how a leader is being rated, what individuals say (both past and present) about different job categories, about the organisation and the structure of a company. And this is giving rise to in a sense a new set of competencies for leaders – leaders that have to feel comfortable working in an open and transparent workplace. So I think that is really a very big new competency for leaders.

MN: That is probably the most 360 a leader can get from their subordinates. Now let’s talk a bit about the current talent observations which are already in place. There are many forward thinking companies practicing innovative approaches to talent. What do you see happening nowadays in regards to talent, and how will it impact in The 2020 Workplace?

JM: Well I think there is a rise in interest in informal and social learning, that’s one/ A big trend, and what social learning means is that companies traditionally have spent a lot of their budget on formal training programs, creating formal face-to-face or even formal web based programs. Now companies are stepping back and saying so much of how adults learn is learning in a social way, in a collaborative way. And how can we accelerate more social, collaborative and informal learning in the workplace. So what they are doing is, they are rethinking and re-imaging their Corporate Learning Department, their structure, their offering, even their roles and responsibilities. We see a rise of a new job title called ‘The Social Learning Manager’, which has a mix of of social media skills and training skills inside company corporate training departments. So, social learning is certainly on the top.

The next thing that we see is that every time there is a survey done of young workers, when asked how they prefer to be developed, one of the methods of development that always comes in almost No. 1 or No. 2 is mentoring. And traditionally mentoring had been offered in a more senior time in somone’s career, and now what you have with technology, we have the rise of anonymous mentoring or group mentoring, which means that mentoring is happening more either peer to peer or actually anonymous is almost ‘Twitter’ like. These are firms here in the United States where there is an on-line mentoring platform, and you as an on-line mentoring platform, and you as and employee can reach out to people in your community, your Manager and let’s say the top 20 people that you normally work with. And then, every time you do something substantial that you want feedback on, give a presentation, deliver a Podcast like this, write a report or a White Paper, you can quickly and easily send out a note to your community in 400 characters, so it’s a little longer than ‘Twitter’, asking for feedback. And the feedback usually says something like, “ What are the one or two things I can do differently next time to improve my performance?” And the feedback happens immediately. So what we are beginning to see is the days of traditional annual performance reviews, or 360 reviews, are now being done immediate and in a more open and transparent way.

MN: So social learning, team based learning, anonymous mentoring, there are lot of new trends that come to picture. What else will affect the leadership model of the future?

JM: Well I think the next thing that we see that’s going to be required for the leadership model is, all leaders being digitally confident and insisting that all employees be digitally confident to work in the future workplace. So, one of the predictions, we have a Chapter in the book “Twenty Predictions for the Workplace in 2020”, and while we don’t predict the future we do think we are helping to create the future. One of the predictions is social media literacy training will be required of all employees including leaders. And what that means is that as companies increase their usage of social media inside, and as employees increase using social media externally. As you know, you take your employer brand with you on a site like ‘LinkedIn’. So companies are beginning to say, “ We want to ensure that our employees use social media, both inside the and outside the company in a responsible and respectful manner”. So we have companies like ‘Intel’, “Deloitte’, ‘Unysis’, ‘Pepsico’ offering actual certification programs in social media literacy. A number of these companies are offering re-certification programs every year because let’s face it, a couple of years ago we didn’t have ‘Google Plus’, did we? So we see being digitally confident is a new skill and an important and critical one for all employees and especially important for our leaders.

A new generation of employees entering the workforce and will be a predominant factor in the workplace, that value transparency and openness as a core value of how they operate. Workplaces will become more democratic, whether they pan it or not. It will just happen, because employees will drive that result.

MN: You close the book indeed with 20 predictions, so in about 9 years time’ we can hold you accountable for that. One of the predictions you say which is quite provocative, is about employees electing their a leader. This has already been established in certain companies such as ‘SEMCO’ in Brazil, but dismissed by others. And in many places, unfortunately such workplace democracy is still in it’s infancy in the corporate world, and most companies still believe and build in a traditional pyramid model. Why do you believe that a workplace democracy transparency will be more important in the future than a future workplace of 2020?

JM: Well the prediction in the book was called “You will elect your leader”. And the case for this prediction was the company WL Gore & Associates, where it is common practice, where senior leaders do not necessarily appoint junior leaders but they ask a question, they poll, a cross section of employees are asked ‘’Who do you want to follow?”, which in itself is a provocative question and sets the stage for having members elect their leaders. So taking that one case study and looking at it over the course of the next decade, we see a couple of things happening. We see already we have a ‘glassdor.com’, we have ‘ratemyemployer.com’, we have on-line influence ratings called ‘Peer Index and Klout’, where individuals can rate their on-line influence. So, what we see is that this workplace democracy, as you say, is in fact being driven by a confluence of factors.

First and foremost is the rise of the social technologies which are commonplace and will continue to be more commonplace. We are beginning to see people put their Klout scores on their Resume next to what University and Certificate Programs they have, as an indication that they understand and use social media to drive business results. What you also have is a generation of employees entering the workforce and will be a predominant factor in the workplace, that value transparency and openness as a core value of how they operate. So you have a number of these factors coming together, where I think that workplaces will become more democratic, whether they plan it or not. It will just happen, because employees will drive that result.

MN: Jeane Meister, thank you very much for your time today. And those of you who are interested in finding out more about ‘The Future of Work’, purchase ‘The 2020 Workplace – How innovative companies attract, develop and keep tomorrows employee’s today’. Thank you so much for your time this afternoon.

JM: You are very welcome. Thank you for having me.

HCM Excellence Network
HCMEN is an online networking and knowledge sharing community on Linked In for human capital professionals operated by Stamford Global. Share ideas, get engaged in conversations and network across borders. Our main interest lie in Leadership Development, Employee Engagement, Performance and Talent Management, Creating High Performance Workplaces.

Stamford Global
Stamford Global is an elite provider of business events, thought leader research and publications in the field of Human Capital Management, Project Management, Information Technology and Sales and Marketing. Our motto: “ Never Stop Learning” encompasses both intellectual and professional ambitions.

Future Workplace
Future Workplace is an executive development firm dedicated to rethinking and reimagining the workplace. Future Workplace works with heads of talent management and corporate learning, diversity officers and communications officers to develop a strategic approach and plan of action to prepare for the changes impacting recruitment, employee development and engagement.

© 2012, Stamford Global


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