Understanding What it Means to Be a Human Business

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AirBNB, Uber and Upwork are part of the Uberisation movement that is revolutionising the world of employment. Some suggest these technology platforms are not just facilitating work, but are also creating a people experience for their workers that eclipses the company culture as we once knew it.

We know that Uberisation enables people to reach clients that would have otherwise been nearly impossible to engage and this is why some have hailed it as the catalyst behind the recent freelance/ self- employed movement. The technology platforms that make up Ubersiation don’t have employees but the people who work with them are being provided with the opportunity to be autonomous in the work they choose, the hours they work and who they work with, while getting to see a direct reward for the tasks they complete. That would suggest Uberisation provides the complete company culture for their people, right?

Not necessarily, No

There is an argument that while isolating people’s services through technology platforms into a simple equation of input and output can be seen as logical and liberating, it arguably moves us further away from the concept of what it means to be human. Once upon a time businesses were charged with creating a culture that not only provided their people with autonomy but also enabled them to identify with the human concepts of purpose and community. John Nisbitt once said that ‘the most exciting breakthroughs of the twenty first century will not occur because of technology but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.

Are there any businesses out there that can compete with Uberisation’s autonomy and at the same time identify with the biggest concepts of what it means to be human? If these businesses do exist can they attract and retain top talent in the face of Uberisation and if so what is their secret?

For instance, our workplace was based on the idea that ‘people build your product, people sell your product so your people are your business.’ The Media iQ workforce possesses some of the most sought after skill sets in the technology industry but to this day they still maintain a 93% employee retention rate. They claim that if you live as a values driven business and gear your talent towards hiring, harnessing and progressing people who are autonomous, responsible and relish freedom then you won’t just compete with Uberisation you will surpass it, but only if you know how to bring people and ideas together.

They say that two heads are better than one but an aligned team with a diverse set of skills and ideas wins overall. What most people forget is that coming together in a group to pursue a common goal in an environment that supports you to take risks and feel psychologically safe is one of the most fulfilling activities for us as humans. There have being amazing technological advancements that enable us to connect and collaborate virtually but we must not forget our human need to work and establish relationships with people in person. To illustrate, a core company value of the business I work for is community and we invest more in our people travelling to other offices than ever seen before in our industry. This doesn’t stop at senior managers, as we make a conscious effort to have all levels of our people building connections in all of our offices, all of the time. If as Bob Mudge said ‘collaboration is no longer just a strategy, it’s the key to long term business success’ then investing in our people building lifetime experiences and friendships is creating a competitive business edge in more ways than one.

The word culture didn’t always mean everyone having to be the same, it was originally focused on the human concept of the ‘refinement of the self’. We know from pop psychology that self- development is key to our happiness as humans and that is why every business should have its own dedicated Learning & Development department if it is committed to its people. Only people can learn but you must pursue a whole workforce approach to development if you are to support your people reaching their own ambitions, while also building workforce capabilities that will safeguard your future.

These are some of the initiatives that businesses can offer their people that Uberisation simply can’t, but there is always a good and bad side to everything, what about the autonomy that Uberisation facilitates among its people?

You don’t need to be self- employed to feel autonomy, businesses can forge this through their people practices. A perfect example is Netflix’s 5 word expense policy, which simply states ‘Act in Netflix’s best interests’ demonstrating that practices can have a human concept too. Other initiatives that embed a culture of freedom and autonomy is the way smart businesses position their people’s remuneration. Media iQ interweaves company success with that of their people by offering industry leading commission schemes that provide their people with the opportunity to flex their input according to the output they wish to receive, and guess what, people enjoy being given the choice to put in more work if they get to see the real time rewards of their efforts.

To truly understand what it means to be a human business you must be a values based business and to achieve this you must always hire based upon your values. However just as important as shared values is the need for someone to be different, human, quirky, endearing or unique, they need #toBeiQ. This diversity of character catalyses a variety of creative ideas and suggestions, which in turn creates an insatiable quest for innovation. With flexible working hours, global mobility and the opportunity to perform in the highest role of their career, our employees have an array of choices and challenges. If our people choose to stay at Media iQ for years then it only makes sense to remunerate them on their levels of output, provide them with career progression, invest in their development and support them to connect and collaborate with one another to build lifelong friendships across the globe…. but hang on a minute, could that be why they stay so long in the first place?

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