Introduction to Talent & Culture
Illustration by Mariana Rio
The word Inflection comes from a variant of the Latin word inflexion or “inflexio”, which is defined as a bending. Businesses characterize an inflection point as a time of significant change in a situation or a turning point. We are at an inflection point in advertising, again. Digital has been around for more than two decades. Traditional advertising, once thought dead, is like Don Corleone shot seven times by the digital handgun at the orange stand. Guess what, traditional advertising is still alive! Holding companies continue to gobble up independent agencies, while new but familiar sounding players enter the market. These new players are no longer small digital or design shops, but huge consulting companies that are making a grand entrance into the digital arena.
Besides the businesses and players changing quickly, the talent and work itself is changing these days rapidly. Years ago, being digital meant having a website, but now it spans across the web, mobile, commerce and social media. Digital also has added new paint colors to its palette. These include, but are not limited to, virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning. As Bob Dylan so poetically exclaimed - “for the times they are a changin’”…again.
What does all of this mean for companies that touch the digital landscape? It means the disruption of traditional methodologies of thinking and working. Digital transformation is the hot topic being Google searched by CEOs, CMOs, CTOs, and CIOs in every major Fortune 1000 company. So, what needs to be reconsidered from a talent perspective to change the way we think and act digitally? Here are a few suggestions.
Think Digital - a digital mind is found to be a very different than an analog mind. Most of the consumers in a buying position these days have extended exposure to digital in their personal and professional lives. Having a digital mindset also means different things to different people, so leadership must honestly assess her/his teams’ capabilities and find resources and tools to get them trained to think more digitally. Whether its design thinking or agile, we need to find ways to train our teams on how to think with digital experiences in mind.
The Maestro - the way we organize ourselves changes too. Siloed structures can no longer exist in a digital world, where competencies, technologies, and teams overlap. We need to think of our teams as an orchestra that at times plays very different instruments, but must play in sync to create beautiful music. Leadership’s role is that of a Maestro, showing the team how to play their individual instruments to the best of their abilities, but also guiding them all to play great music together.
Innovate Inside - while most digital agencies claim to be innovators, most focus their innovation externally, rarely ever looking internally to ways that their organization can innovate around people, operations, or even business strategy. We must think about trends, watch their movement, and be ready to change or pivot if the industry changes. That said, we shouldn’t just jump on the hype wagon, but understand the shifts in the industry and then react to them. Our organizations must be able to scale, but also pivot at some point to adjust to a changing landscape.
Purpose - when you consistently have inflection points in industry, you must have strong resolve in your Purpose. A Purpose or a Massive Transformative Purpose (MTP) is defined as by Salim Ismail, Yuri van Geest and Mike Malone in their book Exponential Organizations. A Purpose is a highly aspirational tagline. When we have a definite purpose, we can pivot and move our organizations based on industry trends, but continue to have that permanent “north star”.
Employee Experience - if we live digital or claim to be born on digital and then ask our employees to fill out printed-out HR papers during onboarding, we are NOT digital. It may sound silly, but all employees specifically millennials, expect us to have beautiful internal digital experiences. What we do to onboard and communicate to our teams is equally important to how we attract them to our organizations. It’s Economics 101 in relation to supply and demand - with a highly skilled talent pool in great demand and a low inventory, it’s super easy for folks to move between organizations. We must create digital experiences that “wow” people externally to attract them and then internally to retain them.
John F. Kennedy was once quoted saying “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future”. We need to be open to different mindsets, structures, and ways of doing things, to be ready for a new future. The organizational models, ways of doing business, and people strategies of the past will help guide us, but to excel in the new future, we must start to invest and innovate within our people and human resource functions.