In 2003, I began to work for a multinational company and my routine tasks included the development of a project: to create a manual-guide for new recruits.
This already seemed rather bizarre: a new recruit responsible for creating a guide for new recruits. It must have seemed a clever idea to my boss: to exploit my own condition as a newcomer to obtain suggestions that would help to make life easier for disorientated people of the future.
Thus, while I was still trying to find out where the toilets were, I found myself answering strangers’ questions on things I knew nothing about. I had no idea about how the printer worked yet I was supposed to be writing a bible for new recruits.
As neither my boss nor other colleagues had any intention of explaining to me what this manual was to contain, I wandered along the corridors and around the offices and refreshment rooms, questioning busy, suspicious strangers about their history at the organization, their survival strategies and about “how things work here”.
But I made no progress with the manual (except for the map of the toilets).
I had plenty of technical skills and good intentions but nothing else: no vision (I didn’t know the company well), no ability to select adequate contents (my level of understanding of the setting was too low) and, above all, no access to the information.
There were no knowledge sharing mega-platforms, internal social networks, real-time debate forums, gamification software or project management apps.
The cloud? What it is? A sign of bad weather?
I was lucky to get an e-mail address and password for viewing a series of shared files on an absurd intranet, in which you’re more likely to drown than navigate.
I was groping blindly through folders, presentations, pdf files with enlightening titles such as “doc riun meet 2001” and hardcopy documents in Times New Roman size 9, trying to get operating indications and ideas from them.
For the first time, I was wondering if this difficulty in finding clear, useful, explanatory and well-structured information was the fruit of a deliberate choice to concentrate the power in the hands of a chosen few or had something to do with basic ignorance on how efficient companies work. At least in their basic procedures.
A lot has changed since then, however, but the point continues not to be clear.
The point is not “to create a slick, hypertextual platform with likes and emoticons, so the millennials feel at ease”, but to determine what “enabling” behaviours-tools the organization must adopt to facilitate the internal processes, smooth out bottlenecks, unchain workers’ potential and increase the sense of self-efficacy?
The paternalistic company-organization relationship (come here and I’ll get you to earn more and more every year) has been replaced by a conception of work in which professionals expect to be allowed to influence their environment to some degree, setting up networks of expertise autonomously and using widespread, well-organized and easily accessible know how. Possibly at a click of a mouse button.
Alessandro Donadio in this HRevolution points out how:
“Organizations have lost the classical exchange resources but can relaunch themselves by satisfying the modern-day requests made by their people [….] In the relationship with their organizations, people ask for
- progressive gain of decisional autonomy and self-determination
- full access to operating and strategic information
- opportunity for exchange and growth through discussion with colleagues
- challenging environments in which knowledge and personal attitudes can play a major role
- environments in which innovation is a process characterized by collaboration and participation
- the possibility of giving importance to their work”.
On the basis of these assumptions, it is evident how the role of the digital transformation confirms a markedly humanistic, training and motivational connotation, not only managerial, operational, for simplification or, even worse, only an apparent renewal.
In these new settings, the company’s presence needs to take on more advanced and conceptually significant forms of “let’s demonstrate our ability to create engagement by launching an internal competition with two tickets for a concert and then post the photographs on Instagram”.
If the organization wants their workers to stop “simply doing their homework” and to implement “other” resources of the new, modern production philosophies (personal reputation and image, influence on their network, abilities that are not specifically a part of their job, overtime, original ideas, etc.), it must clarify how it intends to constantly sustain this exchange of energy and opportunities, making its processes and contents transparent, available and organized in a way that is easy to use, even for a fifth wheel.
But is this really its intention?
Now, please, excuse me, I’d better get back to writing my manual. Finally, after 15 years, I know what to put in it.