Technology and the intergenerational workforce: transforming business with Holly Ransom Part 1

10 Feb 2017 |

Holly Ransom, Emergent CEO, was one of the keynote speakers at the Mobile-ising Women in Business event in Canberra in 2017. Ahead of the conference she spoke to Biz Better Together about how the rapid pace of change and the intergenerational workforce is shaping the future of business. Here is part 1 of her interview.

Holly Ransom:

We live in a time of rapid change

This is without a doubt the most rapid pace of change in business and technology we’ve seen since the Industrial Revolution. Technology has fundamentally transformed the game, in part just because how quickly those changes can take place. Think about the speed of transactions now and information exchange and the extraordinary amount of information the global community uploads every day. It used to take a supercomputer to deal with that amount of data and now it’s what one person is transacting in terms of data over the course of just one day with their phone.

The other important thing to understand is that pace and change is in the hands of our consumers as well. We need to make sure we understand the value-drivers of our business, the way our consumer market is moving and where it is heading so we can position ourselves to take advantage of all that movement.

It’s not just that we as business owners can increase the rate at which we’re operating and transacting, but it’s also that consumer-led change can happen to us. People can vote with the speed of their thumbs now at an extraordinary pace and we see new ways of doing business; think about Uber and Airbnb and other extremely disruptive business models that became the new normal almost in the space of overnight. And it’s because people went, wow – that’s efficient, that’s easy, that’s the way I want to be doing things.

Trust is built on new platforms

Business owners have to be alive to just how dramatically the business landscape can change on us. One of the big transformations we’ve seen is around ‘trust’. People are gravitating towards a ‘social proof’ way of deciding who their service providers are.

Trust is a word that’s been thrown around fairly casually for a long time in business, but now with the rise of conscious consumerism and particularly the way millennials are interacting with brands, it’s not enough. There have been too many organisations that’ve made promises of this nature and broken them. For example, Enron, an organisation that had half their executive go to jail for corporate fraud when their number one value at the time was integrity. Consumers now won’t tolerate that mismatch between the public picture and what’s going on underneath. Consumers now want proof that they can trust your business and that your brand is reputable.

So what we’re seeing is a move away from trusting the company or the people within the company to tell us they’re trustworthy; people are turning to “real” people to tell them that story. It’s where we’ve seen a real shift from the old standards and stamps and accreditations that used to hold the weight of people’s trust. People now go to sites like TripAdvisor and check ratings, they look your business up online to find user reviews to get a sense of people’s genuine experience and they use that to decide whether this is a good product to buy or whether it’s a good place to work.

We’ve always known word-of-mouth is unbelievably powerful for business, but with digital tools and online communication it’s word-of-mouth on steroids with how interactive these digital communities can be and how much information of that sort of nature is available at our fingertips. Companies who are not watching the social reputation of their brand in the community and in the chat online do so at their own detriment.

Social media a major driver

Social media has played a massive role in this transformation; it’s the new way we are interacting. As just one example of how things have changed, if you want to track digital trends you just need to look at how teenagers are communicating; they’re not even using email now, increasingly it’s Snapchat and other short-form instant messaging.

These are powerful and significant platforms; social media is increasingly where people go to get their news and increasingly how they communicate with family and friends. Having a presence and making sure you are engaging in a way that serves your business is important. If you’re in business, it’s not a case of whether you do social media anymore; it’s a matter of how well you do it.

We’re increasingly coming to that understanding, that social media is not just a mouthpiece for media releases. Companies who do it really well have that genuine exchange and interaction, they write back to people who tweet at them. A few of the airlines do it really well, and some of the telecommunications companies have a reputation for good social media management.

It’s a new frontier in customer-facing communications that you’ve now got to think about how you manage. I know for myself, if I’ve got a challenge for a particular product I’ve bought, I’m much more likely to send a tweet to the company Twitter handle than I am to pick up the phone and wait on the line for 30 minutes trying to get through to a customer service representative. I’m expecting Twitter to be a medium where I can get better support.

For some people the scale and breadth of the transformation is a little alarming. In the Australian economy we’d been very fortunate with the mining boom and great terms of trade, we had a period where we didn’t undertake the kind of economic reform we probably needed to and then when things got a bit tough when the global financial crisis hit, we needed to have that focus on competitiveness and value delivery again. The challenge is that for some organisations we haven’t had that habit of continual innovation, continual critical evaluation and improvement of how we work and now we’re in this environment where we’re being told we need to change on multiple fronts with an enormous time impetus. This is a whole new culture that a lot of organisations have to establish within their businesses.

Read more from Holly about the critical role people play in business transformation and the challenges and opportunities represented by the intergenerational workforce in Part 2.

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