As part of our Future of Work report, PSFK reached out to experts to get their take on the changes we’ve identiﬁed that are currently going on in the workplace. We recently chatted with Steve Faktor (@ideafaktory), author of Econovation (Wiley), founder of the IdeaFaktory incubator, and former Vice President and head of the American Express Chairman’s Innovation Fund. Following Steve’s popular series of articles on work and happiness in Harvard Business Review, we asked him to share his thoughts on how social media, the generation gap, and the changing nature of employment will alter the workplace of the future.
Is there a marked difference in the way the workplace operates now as opposed to 5–10 years ago?
Lately, yes. And it’s just beginning. There are macro and micro forces starting to change what we do and how we do it. We are shifting from consumerism to what I’m calling “producerism.” Which creates a different mix of opportunities from the credit-juiced economy of the last 20+ years. On a micro-level, the economics of abundance created by cheap digital tools are eliminating entire professions, but empowering a producer or creator‑driven economy. As a result, the workplace will need change dramatically. To motivate this generation of workers, employers will have to sell ‘actualization.’
How can companies bring these two generations together and get them to enable one another?
Burberry is one company that created an interesting marriage between the two. Younger workers are told, “Dream big. Act unconstrained. Tell us what the big ideas are.” An older, more seasoned execution committee tries to ﬁgure out how to make those ideas work in the real world. It’s an interesting two‑tier approach. There are very smart, industrious young professionals who still need help with some of the heavy lifting and polish. Things like business models, consistent execution, networking, credibility, and professionalism. That’s what gives prospective customers conﬁdence you’ll deliver on time. And it’s not their fault. It comes with seasoning. This new generation has no time for that. They have swagger and big expectations. And that digital saavy bargaining chip temporarily gives them unprecedented access and clout.
Is there a way to evolve that relationship of checks and balances to something more?
Deﬁnitely. But there’s no universal formula. Each company’s culture is the biggest reason ideas succeed in one company and ﬂop in another. Plus, every company has a different starting point. Some aren’t attracting them in the ﬁrst place. Top grads and interns have gone on interviews and told me, “I felt like there was no air in the room.” That stiﬂing feeling doesn’t just hurt your younger workers—it hurts innovation and productivity across the board. Changing culture to accommodate young workers isn’t what I’d recommend. It should start with your mission or vision. Then, the path for engaging young workers will become clear. It’s the same exact thing as relationships. Young workers are attracted to companies with purpose and ambition, similar to the dating world. Deﬁne that purpose, communicate it well, and you will become a magnet for like-minded people. If you build it, they will come.
Has social recruiting changed how companies ﬁnd employees that are a cultural ﬁt?
Many big companies still use byzantine web portals that I would compare to cars with hand-crank starters. Other companies use social media as a ﬁlter to see what a candidate’s social persona says about them. Creative companies know that people submitting resumes aren’t necessarily the ones you want to hire. People are using blog posts, videos, or software as a resume. In my book, I call it “Auditioning 2.0”. It’s where you actually start doing the job before you’re hired—or before there is even a job. Days after Google Instant came out, a Stanford student built the same feature for YouTube. He got a Tweet from the President of YouTube telling him to come work for them. We’ll see more of this as our lives become public and people can easily create and publicize their creations.
So, the ‘new’ workplace needs to be a place that fosters collaborations while also rewarding a varied and malleable skill set?
You need to have people who are adaptable. You need people who can learn quickly to do X or Y. Impermanence needs to be baked into everything. Everything should be built with an expiration date in mind, or an option to renew, whether it’s a project, a product, or a new business unit. In order to have life, you have to have the conception of death in renewal. It forces you not to rest on your laurels and anticipate the changes you need to make to stay alive. Our current system of guaranteed renewal is what makes organizations and workers stagnate.
You recently wrote an article, How Ofﬁce Dwellers Can Become Doers. What does that mean and how do you motivate employees to make that shift?
The companies that can best provide or simulate these three things missing from digital ofﬁces will have happier, more motivated workers. The ﬁrst is tangibility. Can you show that the world is different when you leave at the end of the day, or at the end of the project? Can you see the impact of your work?
The second is sensory stimulation. Ofﬁce environments are sensory deprivation chambers. Interactivity is important, activity is important, physicality is important. Experiencing things through all of the senses is important and sorely lacking in most companies.
The third thing is that you want to feel like you’re helping the world or the community or customers. That’s probably the greatest source of satisfaction in any job. There is a huge, unmet opportunity to connect employees to the ﬁnal product – no matter how far in the back-ofﬁce they might work.
Catch more Future of Work sneak peeks as we reveal highlights from the full report throughout the month, including new trends, futuristic concepts, expert interviews and opportunities. Still want more? Watch the summary presentation, buy the entire report and see everything that you’ve missed so far here. Join the conversation to get involved and share your ideas about the future of work with the #FoW hashtag on Twitter.