Innovation Key to Attracting and Retaining Talent

By Aliah D. Wright Oct 1, 2014
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LAS VEGAS—You’ve probably heard of Uber, which allows everyday people to turn their cars into cabs, but what about oDesk, TechShop and MakerSpace? These new online communities—where people buy, sell, and share resources, talents and skills—are transforming the nature of work.

Organizations need to both be mindful of and take advantage of these transformations occurring within the world of work, said Marina Gorbis, executive director of the Institute for the Future, to attendees at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Foundation’s 16th annual Thought Leaders Retreat, held Sept. 29-30, 2014.

Gorbis listed six different archetypes of innovative workers who are leading the change:

Always-On Employees take work on the road and in virtual spaces, and follow the latest technological advances to gain a competitive edge in high-pressure industries.

Microworkers engage in a string of tasks that shape the rhythm of their work in any given day. These workers may use resources like Gigwalk, which “offers them little jobs” such as delivering groceries, she said. “These workers move in and out of multiple work platforms. They sign up to four or five platforms and collect all of these tasks into a living. And they love it—it gives them flexibility and gives them control over their time.” She pointed to people using their cars as taxis for the driving service Uber as an example of this kind of worker.

Dream Builders are people who totally separate what they do for money from what they do for meaning in their lives. They balance jobs and careers that pay the rent (for example, service jobs) with passion projects and big dreams.

Platform-Makers are the “re-combiners,” she said, who train, code and find creative solutions to streamline processes and enable disruption. “Their whole focus is to build the next generation of platforms,” she said.

Amplified Entrepreneurs are people who are “basically using all of these platforms. They outsource everything. They hire people through all of these resources. Work is an adventure for these self-starters,” she said.

Culture Hackers are like the group of hackers on the HBO show “Silicon Valley” that lives and works together on projects to earn a living. These workers “break down divisions between work and life, colleagues and friends, profession and family. These people are totally blending work, life hobbies [and] everything else,” she said. “People are sharing, living and creating companies.”

Gorbis said the trend is that people are moving from organizations to coordination platforms; from managers to algorithms; from money to multiple currencies; from resumes and test scores to reputation metrics.

“People are increasingly creating these very sophisticated reputation systems,” she said. “From Facebook fans to Twitter followers, they’re using their reputations to garner goodwill to help them earn more money.

“Microworkers [who use different platforms] are trying to be in the top 5 percent of the best workers on that platform.” The better their reputation, the more money they can earn, she said. “People [who hire these online community workers] aren’t assessing their GPAs or college degrees. They’re looking at their reputations.”

In this burgeoning service economy, fueled by the Internet, traditional companies will have to rethink how they hire talent.

Innovation at 3M

At 3M—maker of Post-it notes and other products as diverse as library systems and renewable energy—being innovative is key in attracting talent to the workplace of tomorrow.

“We have to captivate … both our current employees and … our future employees,” said Jan Shimanski, the company’s vice president of global talent solutions. “As we look at the workforce of tomorrow, we have to be innovative in everything we do.”

Part of that includes developing and finding talent using new tactics.

For example, 3M representatives recently attended South by Southwest, the annual music and film conference held each spring in Austin, Texas.

The visit was used as a “recruiting tool and as a way to build our employment brand. We were able to build an idea exchange so people could come in and ‘pet’ our technologies and products and experience them firsthand.”

Stepping outside of what the company normally does, Shimanski said, has helped the 89,000-employee business in 70 countries to expand. 3M sells more than 55,000 products and had $31 billion in global sales in 2013. “As we look to attract the workforce of the future … we’re looking at marketing innovation to attract the best and the brightest as we go forward.”

3M holds a Young Scientist Challenge for fifth through eighth grade students to inspire young people who may one day fill science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) jobs. Ten finalists will compete in a science challenge for $25,000 in mid-October. 3M is replicating the project worldwide.

3M also held a contest for college students in central and eastern Europe where the prize was a trip to the United States to see 3M’s Innovation Center. The three students who won, she said, eventually went on to work for the company in Russia, Poland and Turkey.

Aliah D. Wright is an editor and manager for SHRM.

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