Two key trends are forcing organizations to rethink how they operate, even causing some to adopt Hollywood's best practices to manage the twin challenges of an accelerating pace of change and innovation on one hand, and the decreasing average tenure of employees on the other.
You'd be challenged to find anyone to argue that their business is not contending with increasingly frequent changes to their technologies, processes, systems and tools. But as Ray Wang explains in his new book Disrupting Digital Business; "Incremental innovation is now the norm". Which has raised the bar for all of us. When constant, incremental improvements are expected by markets and investors, then it takes truly "blockbuster" breakthroughs to separate your company from the competition.
At the same time, companies are attempting to identify and implement these breakthrough ideas with a less and less tenured workforce. Employee turnover is at all time highs and expected to get higher as Millennials become the majority of US workers. It's not that they're unhappy. According to Mercer's 2015 Inside Employee's Minds Survey, 42% of employees who are 'very satisfied' with their organizations are still looking to leave. It's that, more than any previous generation, younger workers show lower interest in job security and higher interest in ensuring constant intellectual challenge, professional progress and the pursuit of purpose. We're no longer directing a complacent Willy Loman, we're actively persuading Keanu Reaves to "take the red pill".
The cutthroat and mercurial American entertainment industry exemplifies an extreme edge of these two concurrent trends. Successful Hollywood studios have developed a unique business model beautifully adapted for this inhospitable environment. In it, highly specialized teams are assembled, work with incredible creativity and efficiency and then disband as their show or movie inevitably loses a fickle audience. These skilled professionals expect to work together in the future, and the studios expect to re-hire them, so all relationships are managed for the long-term.
How can your organization compete and succeed in this environment of constant change?
I suggest taking cues from Hollywood to reframe three strategic processes now.
Hollywood doesn't wait until the first day of shooting to find the right zombie makeup artist. They book them a year before production begins. Similarly, if you're waiting until a role opens to recruit for it, you're already too late. Constant recruiting should be your new theme song. Glassdoor, LinkedIn and The Daily Muse are exceptional tools specifically for branding your company and seeding relationships with talent well before you need them.
Other critical tools include your current employees' Contacts, Friends and Followers. With high employee turnover, your people are exposed to a much larger number of potential recruits than ever before. Back in the day in Hollywood, a writer might have made a whole career working on Gunsmoke (20 years and 600+ episodes). Now, my most successful Hollywood friend has written and produced for The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, White Collar and Sleepy Hollow - in just over ten years. It's part of the reason why "referral bonuses" have become the norm in Silicon Valley. Make sure you're mining your own people's Little Black Books.
And when an employee does ride into the sunset, don't end the employee relationship at the exit interview. Go for a sequel! At Mindflash, we've rehired two amazing Software Engineers, because of the long term relationship we maintained after they left us. Another former employee just emailed me last week saying he'd like to return. A recent Workplace Trends Survey found that 46% of Millennial workers would return to work for a previous company. Consider using scalable communication tools like Slack to maintain your relationships and keep alumni updated on your organization and your future talent needs.
Onboarding and Training
Hollywood production teams don't have the luxury of spending months figuring out how to work together. Because every day on location is a huge expense, they have to hit the ground running with clear roles, goals and deadlines. When they encounter a new challenge, like how to realistically make Brad Pitt age backwards, they know how to quickly find an expert, learn as much as they can, and execute. Sounds like a great goal for any organization, frankly.
Tools such as Asana and Betterworks are emerging to make setting and managing clear goals, roles and responsibilities simpler and scalable. At our customer, Zenefits, new employees are able to identify and connect with the right people quickly, leveraging a conference attendance app, of all things. It's one of my favorite management hacks.
Whenever possible, pay for the highest level of skill you can afford. Hollywood certainly does. Chances are their expertise will pay for itself with faster time-to-productivity which becomes even more important with employee tenure under the Incredible Shrink Ray. When you can't afford to pay for that A-List player, make sure you have a plan in place to fill the skill gaps with quick, measurable training. And use tools that capture the best practices of your strongest salespeople and engineers before they move on. Highly mobile, rapid content development training platforms like Mindflash (spoiler alert: our product) and others are excellent tools to enable fluid knowledge transfer.
In Hollywood, the credits always roll. But when a project ends, everyone involved walks away with credentials that move their career forward.
It may sound counterintuitive, but companies that build a reputation for supporting their employees' interest in skills portability are finding they have a strategic advantage in hiring expert talent. These organizations are relaxing their focus on proprietary training, that could have limited application elsewhere, and becoming informed consumers and providers of more universal certifications that employees can include in their LinkedIn profiles. Examples include certifications for Salesforce Administration, Amazon Web Services and Google Search Advertising.
In business, as in Hollywood, even our best work is "moving from the Big Screen to On-Demand" faster than ever before. To "keep producing the hits" with an increasingly short-shelf-life "cast of stars," organizations must embrace the new reality of constant change and adapt core practices like recruiting, training and skills development to create and retain competitive advantage.