To Change the World, First Change the Way We Manage Our Employees


NewCo Shift Forum 2018/Ignite Series

The impact of digital and social technologies on business, media, culture and society.

Jen McClure is founder of Consultants Collective and a speaker, board member, and program manager at the Conference Board. In this Ignite session at Shift Forum, McClure urges employers to rethink how they manage their most precious asset — their employees. (The full overview of Shift Forum’s Ignite series is here).

Jen McClure: Hi, I’m Jen McClure. I’m going to be talking about the complex relationship between digital and social technologies and humans at work. This is actually a topic I’ve been thinking about for 14 years when I helped to organize the first Congress on the Future of Work back in 2004.

Even back then, we were thinking about many of the same topics we are today, most specifically, “How can we ensure personally satisfying work experiences for employees in an increasingly technology-driven business?”

Back in those days of early digital and social media, we saw a great opportunity for things like blogs, wikis, and podcasts to humanize businesses, to improve employee communications and collaboration. We called it blog religion.

What we didn’t realize was how quickly digital would disrupt businesses, incredible disruption to business models, and how unprepared the business world would really be for the level of disruption that they would experience.

Yes, out of digital came the collaborative economy, which is amazing. It has solved many problems that needed to be fixed in many of our businesses. It has created new opportunities and new ways to work.

It has created the gig economy. Along with the gig economy comes not only concerns about real quality jobs, but that coupled with concerns about AI. “Will the robot take my job?” has meant that, in addition to having new and exciting ways to work, more flexible ways to work, different kinds of relationships with our employers, that we also have a lot of fear.

We have employees that are increasingly feeling disengaged. In fact, we have only a third of US workers who feel engaged at work. Less than that, one-fifth that feel like they’re managed in a way that motivates them.

Only 13 percent that feel like their leadership can communicate with them effectively, so much for blog religion.

Businesses need to think really comprehensively about digital ethics to regain the trust of their employees. This is more than 15 seconds of conversation, so cocktail conversation.

I can’t stress enough how important digital ethics is to employees. A recent survey said that, “Good treatment of employees is the most important way that businesses can contribute to society.”

This is important for businesses to really think about because, today, employees are the most trusted source of information about their companies, far more trusted than the CEO, far more trusted than the brand itself. In fact, in many ways, the employee is the brand.

Where companies haven’t always been effective at using social technologies, employees are. They are determining the best companies in the world.

This is the list of the top companies, according to the Employees’ Choice Awards. If you’re in the room, congratulations. This is foundational to recruitment and retention of the employees of the future.

We held a panel of millennials recently at The Conference Board. One of them said, “If you don’t have a 2.5 or a 3, nobody wants to work there.” The bar is high.

They also told us that they look for organizations whose mission and values match theirs. Being involved in the community is really important to them. Having the support for their involvement as employees in the community is something that they look for.

This is my colleague, Edward Ford. He tweeted the other day, “My soul is full as we explored closing the diversity gap. So proud to work for a company working to make a difference.”

Lauren Friedman at Adobe, her whole role is social business enablement, teaching employees how do use social technologies, both personally and professionally.

Training and development in a digital word is incredibly important. So is the commitment to things that are not technology-driven, like fairness, diversity, and inclusion because, in order for the future of work to really work, our boardrooms and our C-suites have to look like the society that we live in.

Our boardrooms need to look a lot less like this and a lot more like this. We’ve got a long way to go.

We also have to value what only humans can bring to work — curiosity, courage, commitment, compassion, collaboration, community, and communication — things that technology can enhance but is really core to the human experience, because it is people that will make sure that business is ready to lead.

Thank you.

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