Learning to work together Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2010

Predicting the future has never been more difficult. When backed with empirical data, the art of doing so becomes a little less daunting. Jeanne C. Meister and Karie Willyerd attempt to provide a comprehensive look at the talent pool that will populate the workplace of tomorrow in their book, “The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop, and Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today.” In this interview provided by Soundview Executive Book Summaries, the authors discuss three trends every company must anticipate as well as IBM’s penchant for getting its employees engaged in giving more.

Why are we on the cusp of a major leap forward in the pursuit of talent?

We created a survey of our own social network of 2,200 global working professionals and a second survey of 300 heads of human resources and learning. We identified three trends that are going to transform the workplace as we enter the workplace in 2020.

The first trend is globalization. Companies will continue to experience tremendous growth in the BRIC part of the world: Brazil, Russia, India and China.

This opens up all new areas for global talent, access to sourcing and identifying global talent.

The second trend is one of the multigenerational work force. We say in the book that it’s five generations working side by side by the year 2020. Hence, age diversity will be the newest diversity issue for HR executives.

Finally, (the third trend will be) the use of social technologies in the workplace. As the hyper-connected generation that we’ve identified as “Generation 2020” enters the workplace, millennials will be 50 percent of the work force. They will demand and expect a workplace that is as wired, and one that can be as easily connected to their friends and colleagues, as they’ve been used to in their personal lives.

You say the 1990s were the E decade (e-learning, e-books, etc.), but 2010 to 2019 will be the S decade. Tell us what this means and what we can expect over the next 10 years.

The ‘S’ that we refer to in the book stands for ‘social,’ and it represents how much people are going to be socially connected through the ways in which we learn. Right now, it’s estimated that you can keep only 8 to 10 percent of the information you need to do your job in your head.

You need to be able to connect to other people who are, kind of, your ‘guild of experts.’ They connect with you socially so you are able to perform your job. Social collaboration includes things like jointly designing products. We cover a couple examples in the book of companies that are open-sourcing and crowd-sourcing the development of products. So, people who might have been competitors become collaborators in what is sometimes called ‘co-opetition,’ a combination of cooperation and competition.

The Workplace Engagement 2020 (or WE 2020) was a highlight of the book. Can you tell us about a company that demonstrates WE 2020?

IBM is a stellar example throughout the book. They have something called the ‘Corporate Service Corps’ where they are identifying high-potential IBM managers around the world and inviting them to compete to go to a part of the world where IBM is experiencing growth. It could be anywhere from India to Russia to Ghana to Romania and they join a team with a local outfit and the employee brings his or her skills, be it project management or finance or marketing, to live and work in this part of the world. IBM calls this an opportunity to grow each and every employee’s global citizenship skills.