In our fast-evolving global economy, sharing is the way of the future, says social innovator Rachel Botsman.
Last year David Arkell, GE’s HR leader for Australia and New Zealand, addressed some 120 Qantas employees, sharing insights about GE’s approach to leadership and values measurement (see HR Monthly August 2012, page 27).
While Qantas and GE have enjoyed a business relationship for upwards of 30 years, this type of company sharing and openness has been relatively rare – up until now – and GE is one of the forerunners of this brave new world.
A social innovator, speaker and writer, Rachel Botsman has spent some time with the GE team, which has also been tapping into external open-source communities such as Quirky and Kickstarter.
“These cultures are quite hard to recreate internally, so [GE thought] ‘let’s get our organisation collaborating and innovating with these outside organisations’,” says Botsman.
Sharing or collaboration is the name of the game in today’s global economy, spawned by social media and the internet, and made popular on an individual consumer level by the desire to live a sustainable existence. For Botsman, the concept of a global movement came about through her consumer preferences. “I started to realise I was using Netflix to access and download videos, rather than buy them or rent physical copies. I was using eBay and Craigslist. I had given up my car and was using Zipcar,” she says.
“I started to wonder how these things were connected and I had the hypothesis that digital technology would transform the way we consume. I felt that the disruption we see around the way we share music, photos and media would extend into completely different categories.”
What’s Mine is Yours
Botsman decided to write a book (What’s Mine is Yours) to produce some rigour around that idea and articulate what was fast becoming a global movement. “There were a lot of players emerging, such as Airbnb and Zipcar, and even those guys were saying it was hard to articulate how they were all connected, and that’s where I saw my role come in,” says Botsman.
In the sharing economy, on a peer-to-peer basis individuals share bicycles, cars, housing and holiday accommodation and lend each other money. Botsman says Daimler, BMW, Peugeot, Volkswagen and Ford are heavily invested in or running their own car-sharing systems.
“What they are saying is that the future of their business is no longer in selling product, but offering mobility services. They are recognising the disruption before they get disrupted. It’s really important for senior leadership in companies to come out and say ‘we can see the deeper shifts that are happening and we are not going to get disrupted; we are going to adapt our model now’.”
For the HR profession, the biggest shake-up the sharing economy will make is in the area of recruitment, says Botsman. “If there’s one industry it’s a complete blessing for, it’s recruitment. The whole idea of sending in a static resume that you control, which doesn’t update itself in real time and doesn’t have any influence or objective opinions from peers will be seen as really archaic – and I think this is going to happen within the next three years.
“For the candidate, it gives you a wonderful way to demonstrate your skills and show what your peers really think of you. For recruiters, it gives you a real window into how someone behaves and how they fare against their peers.”
Who are you recruiting?
While they all have slightly different functions, their ultimate goal is to give the recruiter a real window into who the potential recruit is. Botsman says, “One site will put different candidates up and get people to rate them, not just on skills such as programming, for example, but whether this person is collaborative or if they can work fast – so you can get a sense of how that candidate compares to a whole pool of applicants.”
Botsman says these new-age recruitment sites are in their infancy and have yet to crack the successful formula yet. And of the early start-ups, only Connect.Me, a professional recommendation site where individuals vouch for each other’s skills, appears to be fully active. However, she predicts that with the next generation the recruiter might be able to give the site a shortlist of five candidates under consideration and it will receive back a real comparison of what their peers think of them.”
Sounds harsh? Botsman says: “Well you have to believe that greater visibility leads to greater empowerment. I’m a passionate believer that the way so many people get hired is through old boys’ networks, so you are really going to be scared of this if you have something to hide.”