The NetForum will meet again on September 26th at 830am to continue our peer-to-peer conversations about the most topical subjects for executives charged with scaling Digital Economy businesses, whether they are CEOs of Expansion Stage companies or corporate executives in charge of strategy, corporate development and revenue generation in large media, technology, and other Web-transformed businesses. Our host will be General Assembly, and we will meet at their 902 Broadway location, on Level 4 (that’s in NYC for all my out of state readers!)
Our topic of discussion will be “Human Capital — the New Reality. Have you felt it too?” Like an earthquake that is unexpected, the disruption in the world of Human Capital is everywhere. At the NetForum, we will ask “Did you feel it too, and HOW BIG IS IT?”
Some trends are continuing their slow march — the hold that large enterprises have on their employees is diminishing. It’s not just that employee mobility (voluntary and involuntary) continues to rise. I think that close observation would lead one to think that perhaps the social contract that is at the foundation of corporations is being rewritten. The great economist Ronald Coase (who passed away this month at 102!) helped us understand how a “contract” between various resources (including labor) led to the emergence and stability of corporate organizations. In my mind, the analysis is still very useful but the contract is being recut. Initially, I think it was the corporations who rewrote the deal by beginning to reallocate their purchases of labor to multiple locations — essentially price shopping now that the cost of doing so became manageable. But labor reacted to this with the advent of the Web by learning to sell its capabilities better. The Web flattened the world, and networked it like never before, lowering the cost for labor to shop for work. In Coasian terms, the transaction costs that formed the basis for corporate existence were lowered dramatically, forcing a rewriting of the corporate social contract, and corporations will never be the same.
The rules then are changing. What employees expect from their employers is changing, and what employers are expecting is changing too. Some things won’t change. Most people do expect that getting a job is essentially an insurance policy, a respite from having to market oneself everyday to fund one’s life. And employers do expect that people hired will be around at least to finish the tasks they were asked to perform when hired. But how to get from these minimal expectations to creating a Good Job, where the employees come, stay and are fulfilled and thus motivated, and where the employers feel they would do everything they can to keep these employees as opposed to recycling them for cheaper labor, that’s the question!
And to do this when you are at the epicenter of the earthquake, in places like Silicon Valley or Sillicon Alley, where the ambitions and dreams of highly skilled employees, their access to superior information, and their demands for transparency collide with the reality of VC funding or public markets, customer demands, and hyper-competitive markets, is even harder. But that is exactly what the members of the NetForum are doing day in, and day out.
So, let’s see how we do it.