SI Review: January 2011

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The 2020 Workplace

Jeanne Meister is coauthor of The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop and Keep Tomorrow's Employees Today (HarperBusiness, Hardcover; $26.99). The book is a guide to the strategies that today's top companies are employing to create a cutting-edge workplace that recruits and maintains the best talent.

The book is based on key findings from two global surveys and over 50 case studies with companies including Cisco, JetBlue and NASA.

We asked Meister about the trends in her book and the role of contingent work in the future. See the interview below and the following two excerpts of the book.

Q: A lot of the trends you mention, including mobility, flex time and social networking, seem to favor the contingent or independent worker. Is that the wave of the future?

A: Yes, we believe contract working will be a trend for the 2020 workplace.

Q: Tell us what a savvy recruiter should be doing now to prepare for the changes to come.

A: Start recruiting on social networks. Do not stop with LinkedIn [but] experiment with Facebook fanpage, Second Life and starting a dialogue early with possible recruits.

Q: With so many generations in the workplace, communication would seem to be more important than ever. How will people be connecting with one another? Are there ways managers will have to act differently?

A: Yes, companies are starting to create formal workshops on how to manage and communicate across the generations.

In the book, in Chapter Four, we profiled L'Oreal doing this as they have a multiple generation workforce. Also, companies should treat their age-diverse workforce as they would various segments of customers, meaning knowing and understanding each segment and using various communication tools directed at each segment. 
 
Q:  The 2020 world would seem to be very diverse and, at the same time, wired in. Do you feel optimism for the future of work and the workplace?

A: Yes, the workplace of the future will be mobile, personal, social, hyper-connected and highly customized to fit each individual employee's needs. If we can customize our jeans and music, why not our jobs?

 
Q: What advice would you give to a staffing firm owner today?

A: Recruit online where your employees are.

Think like a consumer goods marketer: know each segment of employee and customize how you approach them based on their segment.

Take a global view of the world – understand what your peers are doing in BRIC to recruit.

Become a 2.0 employee yourself: Use Facebook, Twitter, Second Life, YouTube, FourSquare, and have a point of view on how these can be suited for your profession.

Building a Portfolio of Contract Jobs Will Be the Path to Obtaining Permanent Full-Time Employment

Top talent in specialized skill areas will have plenty of opportunities. For the rest of us, full-time, permanent employment will start with a series of projects acquired though our social networks or through contracting agencies. Today, you can bid on work on sites such as oDesk, Craigslist and Elance, and employers can test out skills on short-term projects by using people sourced through agencies or Websites.

By 2020, prospective employees will become more comfortable starting with a portfolio career by working on several projects for different employers at the same time. The path to full-time, permanent employment may first include an unpaid internship, then a series of project-based assignments obtained via social networks or through search agents gleaning Websites for work. According to Steve Rodems, a senior partner at Fast Track Internships, a company that charges a $799 fee to help an intern find an unpaid job, "Internships are no longer the province of college students. More unemployed professionals are seeking them – whether to test drive a new career or just keep themselves occupied." Rodems continues, "Ten percent of my clients today are college graduates changing professions compared to just one percent in 2008."

Cautious about repeated cycles of hiring and laying off, companies will farm out more work to be done on a contingency basis and, in so doing, test potential future employees to ensure that there is not only a fit of skills but also a cultural fit. For prospective employees, building a reputation with several companies will allow them the opportunity to select a company whose brand and culture resonates with them and thus help reduce attrition for companies. Since more people will be doing work on temporary, contracted assignments and blogging about them, building brand loyalty beyond employees will be essential for companies.

The New Questions Employers Will Ask Job Candidates

How many followers do you have on Twitter? On Facebook? On LinkedIn? How many of these followers are in your industry?
How many people have recommended you on LinkedIn? Can you tell me why each one recommended you based on your current and/or previous business relationship with them?

Have you turned any of your Twitter followers, LinkedIn colleagues or Facebook friends into new business?

Do you blog regularly about issues related to your job/industry? Can you share the link?

Have you participated in any internal employee innovation contests at your company or external innovation contests? Which ones? 

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