Sunday, February 20, 2022

Rebalance inequalities to build the trust you need to win in ecosystems


The situation: Employees have been taken for granted for too long. Rampant and widening pay inequality between those at the top and those in the ranks is just one measure of an unequal world spiralling out of balance. CEO compensation rose 1,322% between 1978 and 2020. Typical worker pay? 18% (Source: The Economic Policy Institute (EPI). The pandemic – and the resulting Great Resignation - coupled with the rapidly emerging business paradigm of HFS OneEcosystem, is creating a perfect storm ready to sweep talent and partnerships away from those who focus only on shareholder value and towards those prepared to align themselves with a wider group of stakeholder needs; employees, partners, society, and our planet, among them.

Employees have become mercenary – moving from gig to gig for money and perks. The only weapon leaders have to resist with is more money and more perks. That’s a sticking plaster of a solution that lasts only until the next better offer.  It does not resolve the worst attrition rates many have seen in our lifetimes – and it never will while you make the cost to change so low.

Stand for something to believe in to earn loyalty beyond the paycheck

To prove worthy of loyalty beyond the paycheck, you must set out a purpose that partners and employees can believe in. Fail to deliver on that purpose and your rivals will scoop up your best talent with nothing more than a bag of gold and flexible working.

Nine in 10 leaders realize the need to reposition their organization to unleash people in the post-Covid world (with 50% boosting talent development spend, and 48% retraining managers and leaders (source, HFS Research, 2021, sample 400 Global 2000 enterprises). Just as critical is the realization that in OneEcosystem, the impact we make reaches way beyond the boundaries of our own organization. In 2021 HFS Research found that among 158 C-level executives in Global 2000 enterprises, 9 out of 10 predicted ecosystems would be even more critical in the post-COVID-19 world.

Establishing a purpose will prove the difference between success and failure in the emerging HFS OneEcosystem. Here success relies on businesses building long-term relationships of trust and mutual benefit in networks of stakeholders.

Purpose attracts customers and builds stakeholder networks of trust

Purpose is just as important in attracting and retaining customers. Accenture found 62% of consumers want companies to take a stand on issues that they are passionate about, (Source: Accenture).

Fortune found 64% of consumers say a company’s primary purpose should be to make the world a better place (Fortune, 2019). Not only does doing the right thing attract consumers, employees, and partners, it also convinces them to put their money where their hearts are. US consumers are more likely to be loyal (83%) to brands that lead with purpose. And 72% say they feel it is more important than ever to buy from companies that reflect their values. (Cone/Porter Novelli 2019)

Grow talent pools, and your market – by standing up to tackle inequality

Purpose isn't a mission statement on a wall, it is lived through actions. You must act now to demonstrate what matters to you. Because the pandemic has exposed the deepening ravine between rich and poor, taking action to tackle inequality has become a prime purpose target with which to attract employees, customers, and partners.

Of course, stakeholders want more than just your alignment with them on inequality.  Sustainability, inclusion, diversity, and philanthropy all matter just as much. So think of this as a start. And since Inequality limits access to education and therefore the size of the talent pool you can draw on – as well as constraining market size, it would seem a worthy win-win place from which to start.

Brutal inequality got worse during the pandemic

The pandemic has thrown the reality of brutal inequality into sharp relief. During the first two years of the pandemic, Charity Oxfam found (January 2022) that the world’s ten richest men (note, all men) more than doubled their nest eggs from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion. Between them, they have six times more than the poorest 3.1 billion people have between them (the global population is currently estimated at 7.9 billion).

In 2020, CEOs of the top 350 firms in the U.S. made $24.2 million, on average. They earn a ratio of 351:1 versus a typical worker. In 1965 that figure was 20:1. This isn’t just a problem of Jeff and Elon’s making. You get to own it, too.

Crazy, and rising pay gaps are not the only route to success

Does it have to be this way to build a successful company? U.S. credit card processing services company Gravity Payments shows there is another path. It raised the company minimum salary to $70k for all 120 employees in 2015 – including the CEO. It has almost doubled in size since, with 90% employee retention.

And when revenues fell 50% almost overnight in the early part of the Covid crisis, staff volunteered to take a pay cut to keep the business afloat. By July 2020 the company was back on an even keel. And boss Dan Price paid back everyone who had sacrificed part of their pay in the interim.

Inequality kills someone every four seconds – and locks out millions more from opportunity, and out of our demand-ravaged talent pools

Disposable income (or its obvious lack) makes a real difference when facing the ravages of inflation. UK average energy bills are going up 54% (BBC, February 3, 2022), food bills are soaring more than 10% (so far). Now food banks are an alarmingly normalized part of day-to-day life for many with 700,000 families using them in 2020 alone (source, The Trussell Trust).

Globally the impact of inequality is real, and it is harsh – particularly among the poorest 3.1 billion. Oxfam says (in its report, Inequality Kills) that while a new billionaire was created every 26 hours since the start of the pandemic, one person every four seconds dies as a result of inequality – lack of access to healthcare, hunger, gender-based violence, and climate breakdown. Many millions more are shut out of opportunities – limiting the talent pool just as the world’s economic recovery faces growth-crippling skills shortages.

Bottom Line: Start to set things right with measures and rewards that prove you care, to reap the benefit of the networks of trust your purpose attracts

Leaders must now make a stand, demonstrating what they and their company stand for, through their actions and through how their performance is both measured and rewarded.

We have to stop rewarding pure bottom-line outcomes as if they come guilt-free. Instead identify measures that better reflect our business’s role in creating a safe and just space for humanity. In doing so you will show the world the purpose you prioritize, attracting those customers, employees, and partners who will form the networks of trust your success in HFS OneEcosystem depends on.

Start with what you can control. To reduce basic wealth inequality within your organization take a lead from the UN Sustainable Development Goals. These suggest that by 2030 income growth of the bottom 40% of the population should be at a higher rate than the ‘national’ average. Substitute ‘company’ for national and make a start today.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Usage beats technical capabiliity - every time

When the internet first emerged it was damned hard to use. Creating, posting and distributing content - it was all do-able. But you needed the time, patience and inclination to work out how.

Then (eg) Facebook came along. The internet with training wheels on. Anyone could play. 2.8bn users later - everyone is a publisher now.

We need the Facebook moment for application and workflow development. Yes, a plethora of no-code/low-code drag-and-drop solutions promise much. But most are no more user-friendly than a typical Wordpress blog.

Low-code/No code has been with us for a long time now. Yet no vendor has delivered the UX to match the experience of a Facebook.

Imagine how rapidly a solution could scale through an enterprise if it enabled everyone to build apps and workflows as effectively as the social software experience enables everyone to publish.

Usage beats technical capability every time.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Be kind to India. It's crisis is deeper than it looks

The nature of today's global supply webs and our distributed ways of working mean many, if not all of us have colleagues in the midst of crisis in India right now.

Yes, we have all had our burdens from Covid-19. But I fear India's is way deeper than most - and provides a warning of what still may come to others if we do not come together to vaccinate the globe.

India has been setting record, after unenviable record, for the highest number of cases. The Indian health ministry reported almost 353,000 new cases and 2,812 deaths on Monday (April 26).

For comparison the UK peaked at around 60,000 new cases a day - with around 1800 lives lost per day.

Yes, India is a 'younger' country - and this may account for a substantial reduction in the per capita total deaths. But the UK health service - though stretched to its absolute limits - did cope. There was no shortage of ventilators, beds, treatment or oxygen as we are witnessing in India.

IF, India's deaths per capita is broadly the same as the UK experience, I fear deaths due to Covid may realistically be peaking at in the order 10-11,000 per day.

We can but hope that the authorities get to grips with the actual numbers, get serious about lockdowns and go military scale on vaccine roll-out, or things will only get worse.

in the meantime, all of us with colleagues, friends or family in India need to care for each other, accept delays and late deliverables with good grace, and understand the anxiety and grief of others.

It's harder to be kind than it is to be clever (as Jeff Bezos is quoted as saying... I'll be kind and let him have that (but you may also want to reference some Buddhist texts).

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Leadership in an age of abundance

Automation transforms the priorities - and therefore the skills required of - the leaders in a new age of abundance.

By offering limitless low-cost labour it provides:

1. Immediate abundance of capacity.

2. Learned abundance of capability.

Before the opportunity to automate - particularly the opportunity to engage ML/AI-infused automation - successful management was all about control and direction of constrained and relatively fixed capacities and capabilities. These primarily existed in the employee cohort.

Over time this extended to out-sourced cohorts which offered a little more flexibility - but essentially capability and capacity resided in the people you directly or indirectly employed.

The scarcity of labour made the wise and timely allocation of it an essential business skill. That created an entire industry of strategic planning, roadmaps, business case development. HR and logistics to identify the need for new capacities and capabilities and scale up (and down) accordingly.

Pre-digital it was ok to have five-year plans. Digital typically thrust an annual cycle on leaders; the combined effect of the cloud and of globalization has already been to rapidly close any gap a 'strategy' may initially provide by way of competitive advantage.

With automation, there is no cycle. Leaders can summon up or switch off entire new swathes of digital workforces in seconds. Enabling this friction-free recruitment and redundancy through the cloud and appropriate pricing models is the near-term competitive battlefield for automation vendors.

And it closes the enablement gap between strategy and execution in ways 20th century leaders could only dream of.

But it also threatens some fundamental relationships between the organization and work. How many times have we heard leaders proclaim 'people are our greatest asset'. Now our leaders command a digital workforce - to both do the grunt work and augment the decision-making and creative delivery of their human teams.

Today's leader must become skilled in directing an automated workforce to deliver on decisions made by a human workforce, augmented and amplified by their digital peers.

Their choices are less about how many people they direct to to do what, and more about carving out the differentiation that informs what data they seek, where from and how it is interpreted for insight.

With so much data available to understand needs and wants, so many systems available to listen-learn-respond to those needs and understand customer contexts, and such limitless low-cost labour to deliver vs those needs in more and more customised configurations, business process operations will be honed  in ever-improving, self-learning and natively automated iterative cycles.

Recognising and assembling the technologies to do this (as described by the OneOffice Emerging TechPlatform) at least places the enterprise on a level playing field with all the others that are smart enough and fast enough to recognise how digital transformation gets out of a strategists head and into the systems of the organisation.

Make no mistake, first-mover does offer an advantage here. The first to set their systems of learning rolling will accelerate their self-improving processes, and get faster and better at doing so - opening a gap that laggards will find hard to close.

But it is in the will to break down silos, in the quality and systemization of change, the emphasis on scaling their organisational digital fluency, and in the selection of a domain to extend expertise in, that competitive differentiation will emerge.

These then are the areas in which tomorrow's leaders must accelerate their skills. Not all come naturally. Selecting the domain comes down to legacy purpose or establishing one. This is where vision and belief come together to encompass both goals and ways of working to attract employees, partners, and customers and to inform and be reflected by the algorithms of the business - as much part of your brand as anything.

This will require a step-change in the embrace of data and insight for decision making, driving process and supporting the employee and customer experience.

Tomorrow's C-suite must be skilled and able to coach their intelligent automation processes to assist and complement their expertise - just as much as they coach their human reports to better support them in the future.

They must learn to trust in, and act on, the new opportunities their systems of anticipatory insight present them. They must accept that much of judgment now resides in backing the real-time data - ready to press the go-button on instant new divisions of digital labour to take advantage.

For some, the trust will only come when they understand and believe in the decisions embedded in the processes that deliver that data. They have to go on their journeys of discovery right now. Because before long we will stop talking about lucky generals and ballsy decisions.

The complete leader will be an insight-led pragmatic decision-maker, combining a scientific approach to data with the emotional intelligence, imagination and empathy to guide both people and bots towards an intended future in which the shared values and concerns of the humans engaged are brightly and clearly reflected.

Photo by Raphael Rychetsky on Unsplash

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?