Creating a culture for hyper-connected employees

It is widely acknowledged that the business context in today’s connected world is characterised by a change of pace, and a more chaotic environment. However, it is not only the speed of operations that matter, the actual nature of organisations themselves has changed. To succeed today, organisations must be more aware than ever of interdependencies and networks, outsourced functions and collaboration with external stakeholders. It is this complex, externally focussed system that creates competitive differentiation. Think of airline partnerships where companies who compete against each other offer joint loyalty programmes to maximise their commercial opportunities and broaden their customer base. Rarely can businesses today focus simply on their bottom line, they must be keenly aware of the value they are giving and receiving right down through their supply chain.

A group of people who are absolutely central to propelling business forward in a Connected Nation are our employees. Who might these employees be, who survive and prosper in this hyper-connected world? Those who are successful do so because they bring a fluid and proactive mindset to their careers. No longer linear, reactive or predictable, these careers are characterised by change and energy. The term ‘generation flux’ describes individuals who are continually learning, and often adopt a mantra of ‘At least one lesson a day’, developing and hoarding new and varied skills on a daily basis. They are ‘new’ technology savvy, not reliant on legacy media, so they always have up to date information.

As well as keen awareness of the environment around them, these people have a strong sense of personal mission, and a sense of self, which they confidently prioritise. The reason for their success is their heightened ability to operate in complexity. They are excited by change and are not only able to respond to the present, but to take that complexity to create unexpected futures. The challenge for organisations in recruiting and retaining such people is that they expect more recognition of their individual needs, more involvement in driving processes and results, more participation, more information and more transparency. Gen flux wants to learn how to achieve their own, unique goals, and organisational loyalty can only be earned if those individual needs are met as well as those of the business.

Small businesses and start-ups can do this far more easily. They are often driven by personal relationships and it is individual motivations that are usually at the heart of a new organisation. However, larger businesses struggle with systems and procedures that interfere with personal connectivity. Those that do this well are those that invest in fit-for-purpose performance management systems tailored for people who are used to personalised, immediate and relevant information. These systems will incorporate collaborative mechanisms to share performance feedback anywhere, any time; real-time updates of goals and development, and eventually include online social networks with sub-communities of organisational stakeholders with vested interests in creating shared value.

It is not only the management processes in a business that need to change in order to attract these high–value and hyper-connected individuals. They expect to lead, and to be led differently.

Coaching and mentoring as styles of leadership and management are buzz words at business schools all around the world in the twenty first century. Good leadership used to be thought to exist in the character of the leader. Contemporary thinking holds that it resides only in the quality of the relationship between the leader and the led. Received wisdom now believes that great leadership listens and responds to the aspirations and concerns of employees. It understands that true engagement cannot be ‘pushed’ down the line, but has to be ‘pulled’ together with the individuals involved. This does not make leadership skills any less important in the steering of a company to success – only that those skills must be different and tailored to the demands of gen flux if the value that they can create is to be harnessed.

Leaders who do this well create a culture that allows ambiguity, is excited by change and allows mistakes. Most importantly of all they create a culture in which learning is an everyday occurrence, where organisational agility provides dynamic competitive advantage keeping both gen flux individuals, and investors happy.