In a new study conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) that explores the evolution of work, most business
executives we interviewed--many of whom are the heads of human resources in their organizations--agreed that a radical
shift in the employer/worker relationship is underway. The concept of employment is changing too, a trend being driven in part
by a growing contingent of skilled workers who expect more control and flexibility in the work they do, to include when they
work, where they work, and for whom they work.
Facets of this evolution are already in progress in some organizations, yet less prevalent in others. Nonetheless, the consensus
among the senior executives with whom i4cp spoke is that the change is significant, gaining momentum, and here to stay.
The report, Beyond Uber: Driving the Evolution of Work, identifies a handful of trends shaping workforces and the ways and
locations in which work is done: economic shifts, generational and lifestyle preferences, rapidly evolving technologies, talent
shortages, and governmental regulations.
3M's innovations in talent and HR
Among the business leaders taking part in i4cp's
qualitative study was 3M Senior Vice President of Human
Resources, Marlene McGrath. Under her visionary
direction, the HR function at 3M stands out as a leader
in multiple areas that illustrate how HR is not only
keeping pace with the evolution of work, but setting
new standards in driving competitive advantage through
optimal talent practices.
3M is ahead of the curve in several key areas: choosing
when to draw on employees versus non-traditional
talent sources (contingent, freelance, and other nonemployees),
redefining talent management processes,
and understanding implications of change for HR.
1. 3M bases talent strategy on business strategy
"We hear of companies that are taking on microwork as a
non-traditional labor model 100%," says McGrath. "I don't
see our company going to that extent, but I do believe
the trend [toward greater use of non-traditional workers]
is here to stay. For our organization to remain lean and
competitive, we certainly have to look at different labor
models that will enable us to best meet our evolving
business needs. That's an imperative."
To meet those evolving business needs most effectively,
3M already is using different kinds of workers (both
employees and non-employees) and has a history
of doing so, owing to the diversity of businesses and
business needs within the organization.
McGrath says, "The more receptive and inviting we
become to various labor situations, the more attractive
we also become to the new workforce. 3M has long
been at the forefront of pushing for changes that make
sense--whether being cited in the Peters and Waterman
international bestseller, In Search of Excellence (1982)
or Built to Last by Collins and Porras (1994), the latter of
which was based on a multi-year study to identify what
makes enduring, visionary companies so successful--and
see this as a natural continuation.
"Yet, when you consider most of our businesses are
driven from strong technology platforms," McGrath
explains, "it should not be a surprise that our core model
is characterized by full-time sales and technical service
representatives selling our technology advantages and
benefits. For example, in our automotive business the
customers are exclusively OEMs (Original Equipment
Manufacturer), large car companies. Given the knowledge
and expertise of 3M needed in this business, they will
continue to rely heavily on employees."
"In contrast," says McGrath, "you can compare this to
another one of our consumer businesses where it is most
important to get product on retail shelves and to keep
those shelves stocked. In several countries, like Brazil,
we have sales agents (who are not 3M employees) who
place product on shelves and deliver items for customers.
These are typically small stores for our Consumer Health
Care business, selling bandages and such. In another
country the same role may make more sense to be a fulltime
Another facet of talent use at 3M involves using technical
specialists in some of their safety or health care
businesses, where great depth of expertise is needed,
and such talent doesn't necessarily mean 3M employees.
"We often contract with nurses, physicians or others who
may already be employed by or providing services to
other organizations. So even in our core product areas
we use multiple labor models now, and we'll continue to
do so. We try to be very open to new and better ways of
doing work, especially if we can also lower our costs and
get the same high quality of work done," McGrath says.