My first real post-college job was with a start-up software company that sold a desktop publishing solution. Of course, these days “desktop publishing” sounds about as fresh and edgy as, say, “pocket pager,” but at the time it was the cutting edge of pre-Web high-tech hipness. We took great pride in the fact that we were bringing true publishing capability to the masses, at least those masses who had a Mac and a laser printer. One of our favorite slogans was the old adage, “the power of the press belongs to those who own one.”
I remembered that adage as I was reading this piece over at ExpertHR. As part of an ongoing series, Kevin Grossman provides his answer to the question, “If I could change one thing about HR.” Grossman’s one thing to change:
If I could change one thing about HR, it would be the how of what we do.
Organizations need a much more flexible and adaptable model for their entire workforce, like on-demand, guided and self-guided methods of on-the-job training. HR leadership can and should drive this.
These sound like reasonable ideas, but they wouldn’t have sounded particularly reasonable in the recent past. I mentioned desktop publishing — imagine someone in 1969, 15 years or so before widespread availability of the Macintosh and laser printers, declaring that everyone should have the capability to produce professional typeset copy with high-resolution graphics. Not that long ago, the kinds of on-demand and self-guided training that Grossman is describing would have been prohibitively expensive or simply impossible for most organizations. But thanks to the Internet and the advent of social media tools, that is no longer the case.
Grossman references this CLO review of a book by The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion, by John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison:
The book describes the ongoing shift in power from institutions to individuals through what the authors call “pull,” a mechanism that allows people to find and access relevant resources at the point of need. Hagel said the dominant model for institutions today is one that pushes, rather than pulls.
I noted yesterday how the shift from push to pull has made us all into our own gas station attendants and travel agents. But it has done much more than that. We pull the content that is interesting or useful for us, whether personally or professionally, when we want it, in the form we want it. Social media is the power of the press on steroids, and it now belongs to all of us — all the time –in a way that the desktop publishing pioneers of a 25 years couldn’t begin to imagine.
And it isn’t just the press — anyone who wants to can be a radio talk show host or a TV star. The same technology that allows us to pull content has made it easy for us to be producers of content. This is the age of the prosumer.
The new “how” that Grossman is looking for in organizations is enabled precisely by this shift from push to pull, from consumer to prosumer. The organizations that will thrive in the coming years will be those that enable their people to learn what they need to knwo when they need it. That enablement must go hand in hand with the realization that the workforce itself is one of the best sources of knowledge, and that the interactive social media tools that allow employees to learn on-demand are the same tools that turn employees into teachers.
And the shift to a prosumer model will not end there. The next step will involve tools that empower employees to take control of the career management process — identifying a career path, defining skills gaps, and working to close those gaps.