In their recently published book, Hacking Work, Bill Jensen and Josh Klein argue that business has lost control of the conversation with their employees and still hasn’t admitted that or dealt with the shift in control that has occurred. I think they are right on the money!

The authors argue that three things are ’killing’ businesses: The love of lingering bureaucracy; legacy technologies, and deeply embedded procedures. However they argue that all this is about to change as a tipping point is reached. The tipping point in question is the arrival of Gen Y (those born in the early 80‘s or after) in the workplace. They plot the coming demographic in various countries, showing that in the case of Brazil and India (two significant emerging economies on the global stage) the tipping point is already occurring. Between 2011 and 2014 most countries will experience the arrival of Gen Y  in the workplace and the resulting shift will be profound.

The problem is an inherent incompatibility between the current work environment and the way Gen Y will choose to work and live. The design of most companies has been to focus on building things they can manage, control and regulate. That, argue Jensen and Klein, is ‘corporate-centered’. The shift that is required is to become ‘user-centered‘ with the ‘user‘ including those both inside and outside the four walls of the business. In 2007, the Economist Intelligence Unit found that CEOs believed that the “most significant risk” to their global operations was human capital risk: losing you  or not equipping you to do your job properly. In spite of this assessment, this was also the risk that CEOs felt they had managed the worse. You might be wondering which were the risks that corporate leaders felt they had managed the best? That would be financing and credit! Given the past two years then we may be in more trouble than we had ever imagined! IBM found out through their Global Human Capital Study (2008) that the biggest organizational barrier was in human capital systems – the tools and processes designed to help you achieve your best. More recent studies serve to confirm these findings.

So, the thing that has been identified as the most critical to business success, is the very thing that we are the worst at! The more it seems that we have put in place systems and procedures to enhance personal efficiency in the work environment – and to ‘control the conversations’, the further we have moved from the desired goal. Gen Y will expose all this through their refusal to ‘play ball’ and it will be the smart companies that harness this as opposed to restrict it. Control of the conversation has shifted and with it the need to find new measurements for that which we believe important.

A mindshift is required!

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