Employee Engagement

Too Bad Our Workforce Aren’t Consumers

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Oh, wait … They are.
Gee … Wonder what we could learn from that?

I had an epiphany back in the ‘90s, when getting a Masters in organizational change: 100 percent of the workforce are also consumers.

I wondered: If we really wanted to improve engagement, and the war for talent, and learning and development, then why are we stuck with approaches like Gallup’s corporate-biased engagement surveys and metrics? Why aren’t we looking at the earliest indicators of trends and behavioral change — us as consumers? Because consumers vote with their feet — running toward or away from something — for the exact same reasons as they do as employees, only a lot faster.

So for the past 30 years, I’ve been coaching senior execs from a different perspective than most — translating consumer trends and changes into workforce and workplace change strategies.

For example, let’s see what we can learn from a recent Chief Marketing Officer forum conducted by CMO.com.

The Ugly Truth


Almost all companies truly suck at personalization for employees,
and are way behind marketers in seeing this as a super-critical deliverable. If we want to start hiring, retaining, and leading a 21st century workforce, we damn well better understand a new law of competition …



The biggest competitive challenge companies that face is not what they think it is.
It is competing for every single employee’s and contractor’s time and attention. We know how to do this for consumers, so aren’t we doing it for employees? Because 90 to 95 percent of companies and their leaders (yes, I have surveyed this) still operate under the very dead, very stupid notion that leaders can mandate how employees spend their time and attention. Once employers accept that they have to compete for those things, everything changes!

The Cognitive Era Wakeup Call


HR and corporate IT need ethnographers, design thinkers, storytellers, and data visualizers, as much as marketers do.
Combining Ray Wang’s and Rana June’s comments, and applying them internally: We need to start competing for our workforce’s time and attention with as much effort as we do for a consumer’s time and attention. We need to provide them as much value in getting their stuff done, or achieving their dreams, or having fun, or learning, as they would expect as a consumer.



Once we do that — once we start making cognitive era investments in every individual:
We’ll soon see that the entire workforce can exceed our wildest imaginations — because we unleashed their capacity.

The workforce is waiting for the cognitive era to design workflows and information and learning for them, not just for the company.

Once we start doing that for everyone inside our companies, then, and only then, can we claim to be in the cognitive era.


~Your humble @simpletonbill


For more from Bill Jensen on the future of work and simplicity, click his name below.

Join the conversation on Twitter with futurists like Bill Jensen by using #NewWayToWork.


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