I read recently that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012), the median number of years an employee stays with their employer in the U.S. is 4.6. On the surface this seems like a long time. However I suspect that it will be significantly shorter soon as the “Gig Economy”, where tenure and titles will matter little as mobility is the norm, takes off. If trends continue, I suspect two things will need to change in organizations:
1. Faster Trust Building. Trust is the bedrock of collaborative and cooperative work which quite frankly is the future of work (well, work that won’t be automated anyway). Today we know trust is developed over a long period of time and even then it’s with a select and small subset of people in an organization. Trust is often limited to those we work closest with on projects or in departments. So if the average tenure is 4.6 years, it’s safe to say as soon as real trust is being formed, people move on.
I think one practice organizations can take to build organization-wide trust is to support and encourage Working Out Loud (WOL). If work is done in the open (not just status updates and summary posts) in collaborative spaces and with opportunities for critique and contribution from all levels, it creates an environment for honestly, altruism and transparency. Additionally, when new employees enter an organization that engages in wide-spread WOL they can quickly see the sincere interactions and reactions that have happened within the connected workforce. Many from people who may no longer even be there. These artifacts can be inspiring, bringing about the same behaviors in these newest members, as it’s seen to be a activity that is safe and encouraged. It’s self-reinforcing.
2. Focus on Residue over Retention. Related to my last point about WOL is one that, with people coming and going as often as they do (and increasingly so), successful organizations will need to harness the energy of continual movement. The new economy is fueled by the Internet and Web 2.0 acts as a amplifier, a spotlight for talent. Talent can now be found anywhere, investing heavily in inane engagement activities to retain talent makes little sense. For organizations the smarter move is to put greater emphasis again on capturing the inertia of the pass-through employee, in other words their residue. Organizations now need to focus more on creating an ecosystem suited for capturing and tagging contributions in a form that they can easily be discovered, used and built upon. This is the grease that lubricates the perpetual motion needs of today’s organizations.
If the Internet has taught us anything it’s that everything moves now and moves quickly; money, knowledge, opportunity and even people transition faster and easier than ever before. It’s ludicrous to think otherwise and try to slow things. The success of an organization will be based on it’s ability to embrace rapid change and understanding the necessity of being porous inside and out.
We’ve been sitting on the idea of an organization-wide mentoring program for quite some time. This is mostly due to being a small team, just Nona Gormley and myself, with other short-term initiatives to address. As a key component of our overall learning vision of “A Connected and Continuously Learning” organization, mentoring is something we’d like to see become a part of the culture. However since it is currently not, a more formal framework to kick start it may be warranted.
Until now we have shared the concept and conversation in our ESN in an effort to invite opinion and ideas. Today though I felt compelled to expand our working out loud and invite the world to our approach. Mentoring is nothing new and frankly one could argue that our Sponsored Mentoring is a misnomer really since I believe a true mentor is not selected for you, but by you. Like I said above however, a mentoring culture is the long-term goal, and quite possibly a more formalized framework could support the effort until it is institutionalized and the scaffold could simply fall away.
Of course any program should be taken with a grain of salt when there is no context behind it. So to help understand why this approach has been chosen, I’ve shared a bit about my organization here which can be found in detail along with our vision in Dr. Clark Quinn‘s new book “Revolutionize Learning and Development: Performance and Innovation Strategy for the Information Age.”
Systems Made Simple (SMS) is a privately owned Healthcare IT company with concentrated attention on government contractual work (primarily in health care clinical and delivery systems at the Department of Veteran Affairs, Military Health Systems, and the Department of Health and Human Services). Systems Made Simple specializes in four core areas of competency: Program and Project Management; Systems and Software Engineering; Infrastructure Management; and IT Services. Systems Made Simple uses an extended workforce model. With roughly 450 employees working on more than forty contracts, we work closely with partners and subcontractors to ensure the right talent mix is in place to meet the customer’s need. Systems Made Simple is geographically dispersed throughout the United States, with offices in Syracuse, New York, Vienna Virginia, Salt Lake City, Utah, Austin, Texas, and Clearwater, Florida. Our project teams include a mix of work from home, in government facilities or in an System Made Simple office. The workforce is not only extended by time and geography, but also by function and relationship to the organization. Many Systems Made Simple employees are accustomed to working closely with other project team members to function as a single, cohesive team as seen by the customer. While a large number of employees are hired for direct contractual work, the intention is to provide career growth opportunities for each employee. Our employees are more often experts and practitioners not novices; well versed in their craft, often coming to us often with a wealth of experience.
So with that, I invite you to look at what we’re thinking about – click here. Far from being a complete set of thoughts, I believe the materials will give you insight into the approach, give you a chance to offer an idea or two and maybe some take aways for your own efforts in building a mentoring culture.