It’s time to start thinking about work as a product

I keep a post-it on my desk that reads “I imagine a world in which companies are engines for creating work that makes people feel whole and alive.”

That’s my North Star. And from that, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what would make that a reality, and studying which norms in our talent world keep us from getting there. Once I take that future image and I know what’s keeping us from getting there today I can take steps  towards attaining that future image.

My framing of the future is that we see employees as customers.

And because employees are customers, work is a product that we are selling.

This means some very fundamental things to how we run our companies. One of the things it means is that all of our companies are multi sided businesses. We have 2 customers; the traditional customers, and the employees. And we need to structure ourselves and change our business models to reflect that.

This has impacts in each step we take inside our day-to-day work. 

When employees are customers, the role of the manager changes fundamentally. Managers are customer-facing. For many managers, this may be new and require new skills. Managers also become product designers – the product of work. This demands that they deeply understand what the customer (in this instance, the employee) wants so that they can design to their needs.

Managers also play a pivotal role of brokers between two markets – the traditional customer, and employees.  They act as brokers, orchestrating the demands of these two ecosystems to optimize value for both sides. 

This sounds like an enormous change. What can we do Talent Acquisition to take steps in that direction? Surprisingly, if you just start acting from within the new frame people will start to follow along. So, for example, when you’re looking to hire somebody, ask hiring managers questions that relate to work as a product: 

  • What product are you selling?
  • What kind of customer wants to buy it?
  • What questions might we ask candidates so that we find out what kind of product they want to buy?
  • As a manager, how are you going to be flexible to adapt to the variety of things these customers want to subscribe to?

And with just a handful of questions, you’ve re-oriented the conversation to face toward a different North Star. 

Want to know more? Join us at ATC2023 at Luna Park Sydney on 22nd & 23rd November where Dart will be presenting about Work Is a Product, Your People are Its Customers, & That Changes Everything

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