Why Your Best Employees Won’t Work for You in the Future

The way that we work may be changing, but that isn't a bad thing.

by Dustin Haisler and Daniel Charboneau / December 12, 2014

What We Do Today

Today we recruit and retain our best employees primarily through financial means. We attract talent using extrinsic incentives, such as an attractive salary, good benefit package, and flexible work arrangements. The competitive nature of hiring the best candidates has forced many companies to offer creative (and expensive) packages. Once the talent has been recruited, companies then shift toward paying attention to how to retain their best assets, dealing with issues from boredom to competitors. This presents a constant challenge. Money is rarely a viable solution to the problem of retaining talent -- not that money was ever a good solution in this case. 

What’s Changed?

Today’s employees come from a different generation and subsequently have completely different motivators. Money is not the primary driver for this new generation. In fact, one study shows that 50 percent of millennials would rather have no job than have a job they hate. In addition, there are two other trends that are redefining the workforce of the future. 

1. Hyperconnectivity: Company offices were once the central hubs of the workforce. Computing power and connectivity were only available in the office. This is no more. In most cases, the pace of change in consumer technologies has equipped employees with more powerful devices and put faster connectivity in their pockets than their workplaces. Companies struggle to keep up with the pace of technological progress, which is affected by factors including culture, knowledge gaps and major capital investments in technology infrastructures that are now considered legacy.

2. Sharing Economy: The sharing economy is a new economic force disrupting industries in every vertical. Essentially this new collective behavior is about consumers selling their excess capacity, whether it be their mind, time, home or car, for economic value. This has led to the rise of many people-powered companies with disrupted workforces.

oDesk is an online company that allows anyone to post a need they have and others can bid on completing it. For example, let’s say you need a logo designed. You can find a design agency and pay a premium or you can put out this need to the crowd on oDesk. The oDesk crowd is composed of people from all over the world with specific talents in a variety of highly specialized areas. Within 48 hours of listing your request for a logo on oDesk, you get six compositions and the ability to pick (and pay) for the one you like best. Your total cost is $50. It would be easy to only look at the economic benefit to the person requesting the logo, but let’s look at it from the flip side -- the person doing the work. Individuals who participate in crowdsourced work sites like oDesk are able to work from the comfort of their home, make their own hours and have as many clients as they would like.

The sharing economy doesn’t rip these talented workers off, but rather gives them a platform to sell their talents to a larger audience on their terms. We are at an inflection point where this behavior has become not just more common but a new standard in how people will do work for companies. This new behavior is also the foundation of the future of your workforce. If you want to have the most talented employees on your team, you’re going to need to know how to go to them.

What We’ll Have to Do in the Future

As the title of this article alludes, your best employees of the future will not work for you directly. How do you prepare your organization for this new reality?  

1. Embrace flexible and distributed workforces. First, you must recognize that your future dream team may be a hybrid of full-time employees and crowdsourced consultants. While in the past, remote working has been stigmatized, you must understand that this is a new normal that your future workforce will expect.

2. Hire employees who share in your greater mission. The days of working without a mission or vision are over. The millennial generation is heavily motivated by a sense of purpose. In fact, mission is more influential than many other perks. Your future workforce will need a larger vision or goal to wrap their arms around and -- as Jim Collins notably points out in his book Built to Last -- your vision must be more than words. It must be something you live.

3. Let go of command and control leadership. Micromanagement is still rampant in companies today because most employees will tolerate it rather than face being without a job. Your future workforce of millennials will not tolerate this behavior. They will quit the moment they smell a micromanager. This requires that we provide employees autonomy in their domain, which will make them more effective as a byproduct. Autonomy doesn’t mean employees shouldn’t be held accountable, it means that we give them breathing room to innovate and master their roles. If you’re curious about other strategies to engage and manage these employees, read Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken, where she breaks down how to gamify business.

4. Don't abuse the crowd. It is in your best interest not to abuse a crowdsourced labor pool, either by undercutting value or by using it as a concept board without monetary exchange. A crowdsourced labor pool is only as valuable as the built audience, meaning if you take advantage of the audience you risk losing access in the future. It is a symbiotic relationship and must be treated as such. 

What’s the ‘Good’ Thing?

Disruption of the workforce is not all bad. (We did promise a ‘good’ thing.) Thankfully there are four good things to look forward to when you embrace the workforce of the future:
1. Your workforce will be engaged.
Your future employees will actually want to work for you and will be vested in doing their best work to continue the business relationship. If a crowdsourced worker doesn’t work out, then you part ways without all the complexity of the current labor system. If you let go of command and control, your employees will demonstrate mastery. 
2. Your workforce will be more innovative.
Your crowdsourced future workers will be more innovative and productive. The fact that they are enabled to work for you and other clients will provide consistent inspiration and new ideas that they will readily bring to you to implement. In addition, this new work environment will provide a constant flow of new stimuli and experiences not available in a structured corporate environment with a singular base of employees. 
3. World-changing work gets done.
What can you do when you combine an engaged workforce with a greater purpose? You have all the elements you need to do work that can fundamentally change the world. This may sound crazy, but it’s completely possible and it will happen for companies and organizations that embrace their workers and the work they're able to do. 
4. Business accelerates.
Another benefit to plugging into an external pool of skilled workers is that you have access to a talent pool that scales with a business. It’s like applying cloud infrastructure to human resources. The talent pool grows with you, without added complexity and offers a distinct competitive advantage for any company that takes advantage of it.

Where We Go from Here

There is no easy button or magic formula to prepare you for the coming market changes. Rather, we encourage that you experiment -- test and adapt new models today to prepare your organization for the coming phase shift in the near future. More than 3 billion people are now connected to the Internet, which is roughly 42 percent of the global population. We are at the beginning of an inflection point, or phase shift, of new economic models being driven by the hyperconnectivity of society. Pools of talent and labor are now available as easily as a accessing a website. It’s time to embrace the future. 

Dustin Haisler is the chief innovation officer of e.Republic Inc., the parent company of Government Technology.

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