What's up, everybody?
It's the end of 2022 and the time has come to name our first annual "TalentStories of the Year"!
Forty-seven newsletter issues gave Usman and me over 150 stories to choose from. We discussed and debated our shortlists, and below -- we present the top 3! 🏆
The winners aside, we also want to ID a clear theme across the stories: the erosion of trust between employers and workers who -- pushed to their mental and physical limits by the pandemic -- experienced a total reimagining of the way they worked.
And if that pandemic was the proximate cause, 2022 was the year in which a long-simmering cold war went hot. The "war for talent" is now passé, folks. The way in which the world of work is best understood is as a "war with talent".
Like any battle, this one is about power: a struggle for power in the workplace; power over the terms and conditions of work; but also power over why we work in the first place; over the fundamental role which work is meant to play in our lives.
And like any battle, the outcome will depend on decisions that individuals, leaders and organizations take; and on external factors -- like the economy, inflation, and interest rates -- which impact the leverage that both sides have.
This then is the lens through which we'll be watching, with bated breath, the evolution of work in 2023. In the meantime, thank you so much for exploring with us this year. It has been a blast! 💥
Aki + Usman
P.S. Last week, we teased our first podcast -- and it's now live! 🎙️ In the interest of speed and not overthinking it, we ID'd the format, shot the (~18-minute) podcast, edited it, added the intro music, and put it up -- in the span of a week! 😮💨 So it is raw; but it is also "out there"; a first rep that places us on a great learning curve. We'd love it if you gave it a listen, subscribed -- and told us what you think! email@example.com 🙏🏻
#1 - The Rethinking of Work
#TalentStoryOfTheYear #Trust #Power #Reprioritization #TheMeaningOfWork
Issue: #39, Story #1
Why it made the cut: Rex is a card-carrying member of Gen Z; and an astute analyst of work trends, broadly. But while generational differences in approach to work are real, our time in lockdowns and working from home was a global, cross-generational experiment. By nearly all measures, businesses remained at least as productive, delivering a massive blow to the post-war, industrial model of work. And a massive blow to the trust we had in that office-and-commute model as the only viable one. So much that has followed since -- Great Resignations, talent shortages, hybrid and remote debates, Quiet Quitting -- are ultimately variations on a theme: a global questioning of how, why -- and in some cases, whether -- we should work.
#2 - The Remote Work Debate
#TalentStoryOfTheYear #Trust #Power #RemoteWork #MeaningOfWork
Issue: #30, Story #1
Why it made the cut: It's hard to think of a trend or story that better encapsulates the tension and anger that we saw boil over this year between employers and managers, on the one hand, and employees on the other. Calls to come "back to office", hybrid work, indecisive leaders, stressed out bosses, reluctant employees -- it felt like remote work was in the news all year long (making it one of the most oft-featured themes in this newsletter, too).
Why choose this Malcolm Gladwell story, in particular? Because it captures the downright shrill tone of so many managers' arguments (Gladwell is an author, but he's also the CEO of a firm of ~90 employees). It's a stunning example of the emotion, anger -- and tears, in this case -- that the issue often triggers.
But this story also ties squarely to our first, above: Gladwell appeals to people's need to belong and feel wanted. But he fails to fathom that people could have an evolving sense of what it means to belong; that they might have different expectations of what can be taken from work. And he fails, completely, to appreciate that they might be able to draw meaning from other, non-work parts of their lives -- or from spaces other than their offices.
#3 - The Managers Are Not Alright
#TalentStoryOfTheYear #Trust #Power #Management
Issue: #38, Story #2
Why it made the cut: This crucial, under-the-radar trend is our sleeper pick. Managers are the key source of an organization's leverage: get the layer "right", and enjoy massive upside; do it poorly -- or fail to make it attractive in the first place -- and we're in for a world of hurt.
Laszlo Bock, quoted above 👆🏻, is building Humu, a maker of manager coaching software. Humu's study of 90,000 employees paints a stark picture of the stress on managers who must lead in the context of today's theme: the deep erosion of trust. And on managers needing to lead through the challenges in stories #1 and #2: a fundamental questioning of work, and a polarizing debate on where and how it should be done. Dose in trends like higher-than-average burnout at the manager level, crippling labor shortages, and an employee base that is increasingly aware of its growing leverage, and you begin to understand why more and more people feel like a pay rise and a fancy title are no longer worth it. 😮
Thanks for reading. 🙏🏻