“Did you ever see the film where the man is given spectacles, that make the world look upside down. He falls about the place but in time he somehow readjusts. And when they take the glasses off, the eyes he’s always had see sky below him, and he falls again…ah, but you hold that thought, and I’ll hold that thought…” –Ben Folds
That’s when I asked the analyst in the room what she thought. The fact that companies go from a centralized to decentralized to outsourced to resourced talent strategy; one that impacts how often they review and retool their talent technology ecosystem, every couple of years.
It’s not just a vicious cycle either; she said it’s like a pinball machine where the shiny metal ball of frenetic change criss-crosses, jumps and banks between all of the above, eventually hitting the glass so hard it shatters. The bumpers and flippers and flashy lights may get replaced on the inside over time, but the shattered glass remains, making it difficult for individual contributors to navigate.
Combine that, she told us, with the economic, social and cultural forces bending that “light” in ways unimagined by most — two global busts in less than a decade, with the latter still in a 12-step recovery program; the rise of social networks, 24/7 mobile connectivity, peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and the informed consumer; the Millennial drive for more work flexibility including virtual work and unlimited time off when needed (and how it’s now permeated every generation in the workplace); the business case for both efficient employer and entrepreneurial employee for increased contract and project work; the longing for an elevated “why of work” and greater emotional commitment, the aspirational employee engagement grail.
And it’s only the beginning of how dramatically the world of work is changing, multiple pinballs ricocheting over and over again. Add to that leadership change after leadership change propels the pinballs faster and faster, changing teams and strategies and technologies with each plunger pull.
All the while the individual contributor sees sky below, and falls again; the last pinball sinking into the bottom center hole.
It’s a wonder we attract, recruit and retain the right people at all. But we do thankfully, because there are those organizations:
- That are talent-centric, not process-centric. They focus on the employee regardless of title, classification or generation, for profit and non-profit alike. These are the organizations that encourage flexibility and engagement, and understand the bevy of business outcomes that follow — the extra discretionary effort, the collaborative ideas, the drive to revenue growth and customer retention, and so much more.
- That encourage the individual to shine self-paced. They continuously develop and readjust to the constant barrage of change, that deploy the configurable talent acquisition and talent “engagement” systems, while at the same time not wasting ongoing time or resources on those who can’t. It doesn’t do the organization or the workforce any favors when it’s not working for either party, especially when the individuals can’t adapt and produce. Authentic leadership also means knowing when to let go, not just when to celebrate.
Which is why when the analyst said “it’s these moments that matter,” the perpetual candidate-to-employee “customer experience,” I smiled.
Because in time the workforce always readjusts when given the chance.