Thursday, December 22, 2016

Linkedin UK Country Manager talks about bringing your whole self to work

This post talks about transparency in the workplace and Microsoft's recent acquisition of Linkedin

You arrive on your first day at a new job, you're ushered into the induction room for your first day of training. The first thing the HR Director tells you is that they know you will leave the company one day.

This seems strange but is precisely what happens on your first day at Linkedin. Reid Hoffman, the CEO, in his book 'The Alliance' says that the days of the 'Company man', where you could be expected to work at the same organization for 30 or more years are long gone.

Nowadays, Reid sees a job more as a Military 'Tour of duty'. The Company needs your skills to fulfil specific problems they have. Once you have completed that you are on to the next job solving the next set of questions. Apparently, Linkedin has lots of great data showing that employees leave companies!

A few weeks ago I attended an Audience with Linked organized by Sandy Pepper, a Management Professor at the LSE. He has plenty of real-world experience since before this position he had a long career at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) where he held various senior management roles, including the global leader of the Human Resource Services consulting practice.

Joshua Graff, Linkedin UK Country Manager and EMEA Head of the Marketing Solutions business, began by talking about his vision for Linkedin. Linkedin's mission statement is to create economic opportunity for the entire Global Workforce. This seems like a wildly ambitious aim. However of the 780 million Professionals worldwide, already 487 million have LinkedIn accounts; and that number is proliferating.

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook coined the term 'The Social Graph'. Linkedin has tremendous amounts of social data that can show what skills are leaving your company and what skills are coming in. They can even predict what skills will most be in demand in 5 years time. For example, the job 'Data Scientist' was relatively unknown 5 years ago. Today it is one of the most sought-after job titles in the world.

Josh told a great story about a High Tech company that he had worked with that was growing exponentially and hiring massive amounts of salespeople. Linkedin was able to show that they were only reaching 1% of their potential talent pool with their current methods.

He elucidated some of the more detailed aims of the company which revolved around creating value through their talent solutions business (60% of Linkedin's revenue), Marketing Solutions, including sponsored content (20%) and of course Premium Subscriptions (20%).

All this is going to drive the company forward, particularly now that Microsoft has just completed acquisition of Linkedin for $26 Billion on the 8th of December. Josh said it was ironic since before working at Linkedin, He was working at Microsoft, and now he will be back there again.

 He rounded off the talk with a discussion of values. 50% of employees would not consider taking a job at a company unless they had visibility into its culture and what it stands for, so obviously this is important. Linkedin espouses compassionate management, which is not necessarily empathy, but rather being able to imagine what it's like to do your colleague's job.

Josh said that empathy may debilitate you if you feel too much. But to understand what, for example, your team members are going through will enable you to manage them much more effectively. As he put it, it's merely 'walking a mile in someone else's shoes'.

 Equally, he talked about Linkedin's culture of transparency. This was the most potent part of the discussion since He shared his own deeply personal story of coming out as a gay man in the workforce.

When He first came out to his parents, he immediately went back 'into the closet'. This is what 60% of Millenials and Generation X's do in the workforce. Yet on Linkedin He finally published a piece talking about his homosexuality and embraces that in the workforce today.

Josh was apparently keen to get everyone publishing on Linkedin. In addition to his own story, He shared two other situations where publishing stories had had a really positive impact. The first was around the well known Cyber breach at Target.

At this time the CMO of Target wrote a piece on Linkedin which admitted Target's mistake, apologized and showed the steps they were taking to rectify the matter and ensure it never happened again. This was widely shared and appreciated.

Similarly, when a very unpleasant article came out in the New York Times, criticizing the work culture at Amazon, an Amazon employee published a piece disputing this and saying it was a great place to work; this quickly went viral and garnered more than 1 million views.

I was inspired by this value. According to research, workers who are more transparent about who they are, end up as more productive, more engaged and happier.

After the talk, we all retired to the bar/restaurant in LSE's new building. I met a fascinating array of Professionals from all walks of life; Financial Services, Marketing, Recruitment, Management Consulting, even a Surgeon.