Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

On the importance of disintermediating real, 2-way communications in business organizations 6

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on December 14, 2017

This is my sixth installment to a brief series on coordinating information sharing and communications needs, and information access filtering and gate keeping requirements (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 275 and loosely following for Parts 1-5.)

And I have been discussing stakeholders and stakeholder groups through most of this series, as a defining and orienting area of consideration, and how differences arise both between and within those groups. This is ultimately a series about communications between and within stakeholder groups. Similarity and alignment of goals and perspectives, and of needs and priorities are always matched at least in part by differences there, and with all of this burdened by at least a measure of miscommunication and incomplete communication, and by the friction that this engenders. It is perhaps the most important defining goal of this series, to discuss and offer remediative approaches for limiting that friction and for more effectively bringing the right people into the necessary conversations, that both those participants and those stakeholder groups that include them, and that businesses as a whole need to have take place.

To take that out of the abstract, consider my union negotiations example from Part 5, where I have in fact seen union negotiators “throw selected groups of members under the bus” as expendable negotiating chips, disowning what had been union supported work categories and job titles, and all who would be included there in order to gain a margin of benefit for those who would remain in the union and continue to benefit from it. I chose that particular stakeholder category for this type of review precisely because I do value unions – and because I and most anyone else would at least start out presuming that unions, by their very nature seek to protect their own, and with that held as a unifying vision and understanding throughout the entire stakeholder group. But even there, differences, and exclusion of essentially impacted upon participants from crucial conversations, can and does happen.

Think of the above comments as my effort here to more effectively tie my discussion of stakeholders and the demographically defined groups that they fall into, to the overall discussion flow of this series as a whole. And in anticipation of discussion to come here in this series, I explicitly invoke the term “disintermediation” here. When certain union members with their more limited by numbers representation in that stakeholder group, are both categorically singled out as bargaining chips in this manner and left out of the conversations within that union and at the bargaining table – when they are talked about but not talked with for this, that extra “intermediary” layer added into the conversation, excluding their direct voice and participation, can only sow the seeds of at least concern if not outright distrust and for any who might wonder if their turn for this might come up next with the next round of union/employer negotiations.

Part time, temporary and other employees who are explicitly brought in and retained, for however long that lasts, who are explicitly not hired or treated as in-house employees and as insiders there, never have reason to see their employer as “their” employer; they never take on a sense of pride of ownership that a well run business enables and encourages for its in-house staff, and as one of their defining sources of strength. I intentionally left “consultants” out of that here and for a reason. People who work as outside consultants enter into this more voluntarily and they generally have separate and at least somewhat distinct positions there that set them apart, and even if the intent on the part of a hiring business is to retain them on a same assignment and with that same employer long-term and in an essentially open-ended manner. Part time and temporary employees often find themselves doing essentially the same types of work that their in-house colleagues do, who they often find themselves working side by side with. And it is common for them to seek opportunity to go in-house there and to become regular employees of that business. In that, temp to perm is a common goal with starting as a temporary employee can be seen as a way into a business, and an opportunity to prove oneself as a valuable asset there.

Some businesses, and even some major corporations do or at least have brought in long-term temps and other outsider employees, routinely and at least seasonally for significant numbers of workers. Fed Ex for example, routinely hires expansion-staff temporary employees during peak workload periods such as the year-end holiday season. And they wear ID tags that identify them as such. But for a more extreme example, I would cite Microsoft, for how it at least used to have large numbers of long-term outsider employees who worked as if in-house members of their staff but who did not have, or have opportunity to gain in-house benefits. Their Microsoft ID tags were color coded, making it easy to identify who was who for this and even at a distance, with orange reserved for those brought in from outside agencies or as stand-alone consultants or through other outsider mechanisms, and blue reserved for in-house people. I cite this as a more extreme example because it was common for orange badge people to continue working at Microsoft and at the same positions there for years and a great many of them did.

Temporary employee ID and orange ID people and their counterparts through an increasing number of gig economy hiring businesses, do not receive the benefits that accrue to their in-house counterparts, which can be very substantial as was the case for Microsoft’s orange name-badge employees who did not get the long-term savings and investment options, with stock share options that in-house employees received: a very significant compensation difference for the same work performed by different people. And they have never for the most part seen themselves as having any real stake in any such employer either. For purposes of this series and its discussion, they do not belong to any organized involved stakeholder category within the business per se, even as they work there and directly do. How can you systematically give them more of a direct voice there as a group, and how can you better manage the communications flows in place to include them? At least for here and now, I leave those as open questions that merit thought.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next installment where I will at least begin to tie the narrative and its set of issues as raised in this posting, to the questions and issues of information access and communications and their challenges. And as called for in the title to this series, I will also discuss all of that in terms of communications organization and layers of accessibility, and communications disintermediation as it can simplify them. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. And also see Social Networking and Business 2 and that directory’s Page 1 for related material.

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