Capitalize on Talent and Technology to Steer Your Career into the Future

stock_businesswoman9When you’re working your way up the ladder, do you feel like you only see the rungs in front of you? Stop and take a moment to drink in the long view.

The future is made of two key words: talent and technology. They represent the biggest changes in the workplace and opportunities for your career.

First, talent. In 2007, having a great career means doing more than a great job. Successful senior managers and executives manage more than their workload; they are CEOs of “Me, Inc.”

That’s the consensus among executives and the businesses watching global workforce trends.  Companies like ExecuNet, which surveys corporate executives, recruiters, and human resources leaders every year, credit a thriving economy, globalization, increase in high tech spending, and demographic changes as driving market forces. What does that mean for the future? “Executives who can implement the most precise career management strategies will be aptly rewarded,” writes Robyn Greenspan in ExecuNet’s 2007 Executive Job Market Intelligence Report.

What do you need to know right now? Several cause and effect trends are changing how companies manage their workforce. For example, in 2002, executives averaged a new employer every four years. In 2007, it’s every three years. This greater job mobility results in a “war for talent.” Where’s the proof? In 2007, global consulting firm Deloitte surveyed HR executives and made a surprising discovery: the biggest companies (those with revenues over $1 billion) are more concerned with hiring and retaining employees than rising healthcare costs.

Think of it this way: when the importance of keeping you happy outweighs the (always rising) cost of keeping you healthy, you have leverage.

One strategy in the “war for talent” is bigger executive compensation packages. But what if you’re on the management track but not on the executive floor yet? According to ExecuNet, the “war for talent” means companies want to keep you with perks like:

  • Increased access to top executives
  • More challenging assignments
  • Coaching and mentoring programs
  • More flexible work hours

If those perks don’t work, the good news is that recruiters are projecting a 27 percent increase in placements this year. So as president of Me, Inc., you may need to ask: what can I offer in the war for talent? Or what can the war for talent do for me?

All about me?

Don’t confuse “Me, Inc.” with the oft-maligned “me generation.” Being successful means being able to do a very thorough assessment of your capabilities and competencies and knowing how to sell them. “Regardless of generation, the most successful leaders see themselves as being solely responsible for their own career,” notes Lauryn Franzoni, vice president of ExecuNet.

That’s not being self-absorbed; it’s a response to corporate change. In the late 1980s, the road to a gold watch became the path to a pink slip. Since then, an economic boom, bust, and recovery have taught two generations how to weather change successfully.

“Women still believe that if I do a good job, I’ll be rewarded,” Franzoni says. “But if you have your head down in a fairly senior position, and you’re balancing home/family/work commitments, it’s still not the most important step to success. While you’re investing all that time in doing a great job, nobody but you knows about it.”

What to do? “In the age of the mobile workforce, be known for what you can do, rather than just doing it,” Franzoni recommends. “Successful executives have strong professional and personal networks. You need to be referred for what you know. Ensure people know what you know.”

Join the team

What if you’re happily working in the trenches while the war for talent is waged? You like your job. What else do you need? Even if you are content, people around you may be making changes. Example number one: Men and women are asking for greater flexibility in their jobs, says Boston Consulting Group vice president Deborah Lovich. To retain top talent, companies like BCG are creating flexible work environments. “As competition becomes more intense, having a more friendly work/life balance can be an advantage,” Lovich says.

These arrangements really put the emphasis on teamwork, she adds. “The consulting industry naturally works on teams to do projects. We work as teams within BCG, with our clients and even outside of projects. It gives us more flexibility to cover for one another.”

Teaming may not come easily to MBAs and other high achievers. But becoming a strong team member has an upside. “You can actually do better for yourself individually because you have the whole team producing,” says Lovich. “To team well, it takes an incredible amount of trust they pull for you, you pull for them.”

Lovich says her team uses a daily blog to keep her informed. While technology doesn’t replace conversations, it makes her more prepared for weekly meetings. “It sure is an effective way to stay updated,” she says.

Web in the Workplace

New technologies are sweeping into the workplace to change how we communicate on the job. “Web 2.0” is a broad term that refers to many new ways that people share information on the Web whether on the Internet or a corporate intranet. The blogs at the Boston Consulting Group are part of a growing wave of new tools for improving collaboration at work.

Information Week magazine reports that companies such as Wells Fargo are plunging into these emerging technologies with their employees and their customers. “Within a few years, rich, collaborative software platforms that include a slate of technologies — such as wikis, blogs, integrated search and unified communications — likely will be the norm,” said associate editor J. Nicholas Hoover.

Along with Web 2.0, “unified communication” technologies are changing voice and video communications at the office. Placing phone calls from your desktop and creating and sending video messages means that you’ll have more choices than you ever imagined.

Learning to communicate well with technology offers a huge opportunity to save time, communicate better, and make your ideas stick with your team and your supervisors. Because, as Lovich explains, “if you can’t get everyone on board and win their hearts/mind, then your answer is useless.

“That’s when communication/technology can be your friend,” she says. “You need broad and deep communication to get all stakeholders on board using all channels. Winning hearts/minds is as important as coming up with the right answer.”

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