It’s time to stop hiding behind the “employee” mask. That title is dying right along with the Industrial Age it was coined in. While we’re at it, let’s toss the “boss” title out the window, too. Change is upon us, and all of our futures depend on one very important observation:
If you work with the public in any capacity and earn an income from those interactions, you are performing the FUNCTION of every business in the world: The acquisition and maintenance of customers. And you are likely doing this with some goal in mind: To provide for yourself and your family by making money, which is coincidentally the GOAL of every business in the world.
Why the assertion that everyone is a brand? Because the Internet has made it that way. Everything we post online is a representation of who we are and what we stand for. Our values, beliefs, loyalties and oppositions are reflected in our words, expressions, clothing, vehicles, homes, possessions… you name it. Don’t believe it? Have you ever seen a Ford pickup with a window sticker of Calvin (of the cartoon Calvin and Hobbes) pissing on a red bowtie (aka Chevrolet) emblem? That’s an example of brand loyalty, albeit an extreme one. Do you know people who ONLY wear clothes of certain brands? How about people who refuse to eat at certain restaurants or drink certain brands of beer? Each of these is an example of brand loyalty. “But how does this apply to the ‘employee’ label”, you ask? To answer that question, we must first clarify your own priorities:
- How did you choose your career? Are you driven first by (a) intrinsic factors like personal passion and fulfillment, or (b) extrinsic factors like money and power?
- How did you choose your employer? Are your employer’s values and beliefs: (a) well aligned and complementary to your own, or (b) inconsistent or conflicting with your own?
- How committed/loyal are you to not only your employer, but all of the brands that you “endorse” by being directly or inadvertently connected to them? Are you (a) proud to be associated with them, or are you (b) paid to be happy (i.e. with salary or discounted goods and services)?
***If you answered (a) in each instance, you’re probably an employee/brand advocate, whether anyone inside your organization realizes it or not. If (b) was the choice each time, your work environment probably restricts or discourages advocacy because neither party in the equation knows what the other might say. Very unfortunate, indeed.
In the Industrial Age, passion and alignment with an organization’s values wasn’t part of a job description, especially for someone applying for work on a factory assembly line. However, as the Industrial Age began fading, assembly lines became more automated and less human. At the same time, educational institutions began shifting their programs away from “blue collar” careers and toward “white collar” ones. The paradigm that still exists, unfortunately, is best explained by visualizing the factory environment.
Walk up to nearly any factory and what do you see? Big doors, solid walls, and a few windows. The windows aren’t there to look out of, though. Rather, they are windows usually located a few feet below the roof line. They’re not intended to allow passers-by to look in and see the workers…they are intended to allow natural lighting into the building. The walls (and placement of the windows) allow the majority of employees to remain anonymous to the outside world.
Look around today: You won’t find many offices and businesses without windows. Organizations know that great work environments attract great people. Even cubicles, the trademark of ‘90’s office spaces, are being replaced by mobile technology leveraged by teams in remote locations with wi-fi that turn Starbuck’s seating areas into satellite business locations.
As mentioned earlier, the LABOR shift from human to automated, specifically in the industrial sector, began years ago. What has been clinging on to the Industrial Age is the Employee/Boss “MIND”-shift. It’s time to let go.