Never underestimate the ability of someone who thinks there are no limits.
What is a career, really?
During one’s working lifetime, we go through a complex system of learning and service. The service we provide is our career. We develop skills in areas that we enjoy and we perform them in exchange for currency, satisfaction, and our personal goals. Our careers can become our identity. When people ask us who we are, we respond with our career label. Therefore it’s very important to understand that the successful performance of our careers depends on the felicitous entanglement of our job with our personal identity, goals, and satisfaction.
Modern business media follows themes in employee trends. They show that the desires of highly adaptable workers, the changing face of business due to technology and globalization, and the future of the workforce are predominantly based on community and knowledge. The workforce is evolving, and polymathic-minded employees are setting the pace. A different employee identity, the Flux Agent, has emerged. They are boundaryless. They don’t see limits. They are a coterie of those who not only adapt easily to the changing business landscape, but also thrive in it. For them, institutionalism, traditional business practices, and conventional Human Resource methods are insufficient.
What is a Flux Agent?
Flux Agents are people who have boundaryless career attitudes and a growth mindset. They want to grow their skills and stretch beyond the boundaries of their assigned projects and job titles. They have personality traits of extraversion and openness to new experiences, therefore they thrive on building ideas with teammates and being part of a community that envisions a better future. Flux Agents have a skill set that includes adaptation and awareness. They will notice trends first and adjust quickly to changing situations. That makes them great with technology, strategy, and new ventures.
As the world and the workplace become more connected, employees and customers become more aware of how your business affects the world. And it’s important to them. They want more than a brief mention of sustainability in the company’s financial reports. They want to be part of the bigger picture. A significant part. They are skilled, they are constantly learning, and they are motivated- until they are not.
The Big Opportunity for HR
There is a huge opportunity for HR departments to harness the energy of your Flux Agents before they become disenchanted with your organization. They want to grow. You can help them grow in, with, and on behalf of your company- or they may just choose to grow somewhere else. That physical or psychological detachment is a great cost that can be prevented.
How Everyone Can Succeed
So how can you affect a win-win for Flux Agents and the company? Treat their careers with purpose. Ensure they have depth and breadth. Get them involved. Flux Agents not only want to be part of the next company campaign- they want to help develop it. Ask them to be part of a pilot group for the next innovation. Let them develop their own training programs. Put them in charge of change platforms. Send them out into the community with a goal of supporting your business with their personal skills. Company programs need to become more personal. Ask employees to set their own annual goals that foster and support the overarching goals of the company. Become a true service center for Flux Agents so that they might exercise the rich diversity of thinking that you hired them for long, long ago.
If employees feel free to express the enthusiasm they have for their life’s work within the walls of your company, then they will aspire to grow the company as well as their own talents. Establish methods of ongoing technical skill improvement (depth) as well as out-of-scope experiences (breadth) for employees at all levels.
It's Not Easy, But It's Possible
Holding both depth and breadth as equally important in a career system is no easy task. But there are ways that HR can provide a structural foundation of support. Make known what opportunities, training programs, and unusual job opportunities are available to people regardless of their assigned department. Strive for a comprehensive exploration of employee interests and how they align with company objectives.
Flux Agents want to be involved. They are curious and future thinking. Not everyone is oriented towards this mindset- but those who are may not be as engaged as you’d like. Foster their desire for a career that’s propelled by their values and need for challenge.
HR’s role is much more than onboarding, training, and exiting. The most valuable decisions the company can make about employees happen in everyday circumstances. Ensure your Flux Agents are growing, challenged, and part of a community where they can do boundaryless work. Your company will thank you. Your Flux Agents will be devoted.
This article was originally published for the Association of Talent Development, October 25, 2016.