True story. Siemens developed a new hearing aid product for children. The business didn’t have marketing experience with this product, nor with this potential market. The natural instinct in most companies is to go out and hire talent that does. But that is not what Siemens did. They initiated a collaboration in 2005 with marketers from a company with a long and storied history of successfully branding to children: The Walt Disney Company. No one had to leave their employer. No sad goodbyes. No signing bonuses were paid. No regulations were breached. Collaboration and knowledge sharing did occur. Egos were set aside. Compromises were reached. And in the end, work got done, demand was created, products were launched and patients were satisfied. This is an alternative model for how work gets done in the future.
Presenting to the i4cp Annual Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, noted author, researcher, and academician John Boudreau shared this story of the Siemens/Disney collaboration and challenged the audience to acknowledge that alternative models for getting work done is becoming much more prevalent—maybe even more than we know. He gave another example of researchers at the University of Washington who involved software gaming developers in a challenge to solve a difficult math problem connected to cancer research. What had been heretofore unsolvable was solved in three weeks by volunteer gamers who got caught up in the competition of solving a riddle that could end up saving lives.
In a panel discussion led by i4cp CEO Kevin Oakes, Dr. Boudreau joined Cindy Ballard, CHRO of Tribune Publishing and Jim Duffy, CHRO of Ally Financial, to discuss their views on how alternative models of work are making their way into the business environment. Jim commented that while some of this sounds very conceptual and esoteric, in reality he sees financial services using the science of artificial intelligence to assist in how lending decisions are made. Cindy spoke about how the business of news reporting is changing, from a conventional model with editors and reporters centered in a geography, to having its best talent mobilized to the scene of a news story anytime, anywhere.
Another conference presentation focused on the future of rewards, as millions of U.S. workers have chosen to work as independent contractors, temporary workers, and/or become self-employed. A new report published by i4cp, “Beyond Uber: The Evolution of Work,” cites findings that currently one in three (34%) of U.S. workers do some freelance work, a population expected to grow to 50% by the year 2020. Jay Jamrog, one of the report's authors, states that “the driving force behind [this] change is that people want flexibility.” Michelle Clements, a former chief human resource officer, challenged employers to embrace needs of the workforce for flexibility and portability. Employees today are attracted to an employer who adopts practices like flex-time, teleworking, compressed workweeks, and job sharing. To support this notion, Working Mother Magazine has reported that 95% of its Top 100 companies have incorporated these practices into their culture. For example, one employer in the retail space is offering sabbaticals, days off for outdoor activity and supporting commuter alternatives in large metropolitan areas. Organizations need to modernize their policies and practices, inspire employees to perform value-added work instead of occupying jobs, and extend concepts of culture, engagement and brand management to all types of non-traditional workers.