Monday, April 16, 2012

Does Technology Make Us Better Connected or More Isolated?

The power of the independent workforce

If you can squeeze in the time, take a few minutes to read Ross Douthat’s Op-Ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times “The Man With the Google Glasses.” If you’re in sales, marketing or business development, you’ve got to find a way to connect with customers who are “more electronically networked, but more personally isolated, than ever before.” Can the remarkable capabilities of Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms “make up for the weakening flesh-and-blood ties and the decline of traditional communal institutions?” Douthat ponders.

Our take: Don’t pass judgment on the narcissistic, always-wired generation. They might be more comfortable e-mailing and tweeting you than meeting for lunch or golf, but that’s how the next generation of decision-makers and policy-makers gets things done. The sooner you embrace their style of communication, the sooner you can start closing deals and getting the leg up on your competition. Just keep it real. By that we mean, learn the basics of social media and networking, but don’t try to pass yourself off as an expert and if there’s something that’s still baffling you, just ask. The younger generation’s a little more altruistic than their Boomer/Gen X elders. Chances are they’ll appreciate your honesty and will be willing to help you get up to speed. Nobody likes a poser, whether it’s in the real world or virtual world.

The independent contractor is here to stay

On top of the social networking generation, you also need to pay heed to the freelance, independent free-agent contractor generation. If you’re in any kind of creative, technology or other business that’s based on fresh ideas vs. policy manuals, the rise of the independent workforce won’t be receding even when the economy improves. As Alexandra Levit related in yesterday’s NY Times, “independent work is a choice,” not a sign of desperation. “Given the direction the corporate world is going, I think many workers need to prepare for the possibility of going out on their own some day.”

Here at HB, we’ve found the independent contractors aren’t interesting in kissing anyone’s ass or working their way up an imaginary ladder. They’re interested in having a high income/high quality of life with the flexibility to choose when and how they work and what work they take on. Are they selfish? Perhaps, but we’ve found most independent contractors to be highly disciplined, highly skilled and honestly interested in helping you grow your business and solve tough challenges in innovative and cost-efficient ways.

At the end of the day, that’s what we do for our clients, investors and boards. You owe it to yourself to get the best available athlete on whatever challenge you have—it doesn’t matter if you pay them 1099 or W-2.


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