Thursday, 4 February 2010

Lynda Gratton on the Future of Work


   I’ve been reading Lynda Gratton’s newish blog on the Future of Work over the last couple of days.

It’s a blog that a definitely recommend to you, full of the deep insight that you’d expect from Lynda Gratton, and particularly valuable as it’s based on her Future of Work consortium and therefore the inputs of 200 executives from some of the world’s smartest 20 companies.

So for example, the consortium has identified five themes which will most influence the future of work – demography, globalisation, societal change, low carbon and technology.

In her latest post, Gratton lets rip at executive reward and its negative impact on collaboration

“For decades, there has been a belief that the talents to be a CEO are very rare and the impact they make on corporate performance is very strong. That’s why, the argument goes, CEO’s are paid on average 531 times the blue collar workers pay (up from 42 times in 1980). However, if we reflect on the five future forces – globalisation for example is uncovering talent pools around the word, which no longer makes these executive competencies rare. At the same time, social technology has enabled ‘wise crowds’ to make the decisions only CEO’s could have made in the past. Plus of course increasing market turbulence will impact on the control the top team actually have on profitability. All these factors suggest that senior executive pay needs to change.”


Also, in a recent article on HR Magazine, Gratton suggests

"Talent management needs to completely change its way of building top leaders. The role of Top leaders will fundamentally change. In the future they will need to learn how to ignite communities of people. The company will no longer be the hub of loyalty and affiliation - instead value will come from various communities and ecosystems , and engaging such communities requires very different skills from today's leader.”

"The questions to ask are why is there such a huge discrepancy between what companies think they need to pay their top leaders, and if a collaborative, team-based approach will prevail in the future, do we need to pay our top leaders so much


Gratton goes on basically to suggest that the situation is only sustained by widespread collusion to support the status quo.  She suggests however that “very few HR teams, or consultants, or CEO’s are prepared to talk about this”.

Her advice to tackle this and other contested areas is as follows:

  • First, take a dispassionate view of the subject
  • Next, begin a conversation, create a task force, create a buzz, which surfaces the ‘undiscussables’
  • Third: make a stand.


I think this is really important advice, and taking a stand, in particular, which I’d suggest is a vital part of our role (eg in being one of Ulrich’s ‘credible activists’) is something we don’t see HR doing enough of.  (As I note in my comment on Lynda’s article at HR Magazine, “we've seen very little progress on new reward frameworks in the banks for example, despite a fiercely burning platform to change here”.)

On a personal note, you can certainly criticise me for not being dispassionate – but then passionate opinion is what blogging is about – but I hope you won’t feel that I don’t make a stand.  I think regular readers will all already understand my own views on executive & bankers’ reward, for example.

If not, see:


Enough “being prepared to talk about it” for you Lynda?!




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