You have to marvel at what LinkedIn has achieved. They’re closing in on 250 million users, will generate nearly $1.5 billion in revenue in 2013, and even just raised $1 billion to strengthen their balance sheet.
In commercial terms, their numbers are extraordinary.
But what’s happening at the more human scale of work?
Well, the most recent research shows that 63% of employees don’t like or are actively disengaged with their work. It’s a frustrating statistic because we know people desperately want to enjoy their work and make it count. (A recent report on millennials showed that “meaningful work” was now more important than pay.) Equally, companies obviously don’t relish the prospect of office zombies wandering the corridors.
So why is the right work so damn hard to find? And how is it that “the world’s largest professional network on the Internet” doesn’t seem to be making a dent on professional happiness?
Work is the laggard in the open age
We‘re in the middle of an unparalleled age of openness, but the world of work is still relatively closed and opaque.
What do you actually do day-to-day? What are your approaches, techniques and methods? Who do you work with? What do you stand for and aspire to?
This type of information is what really matters about work, because it’s not so much about the job per se. It’s about you and your interaction with the people and the workplace you’re surrounded by.
Unfortunately this treasure trove of insights is still hidden behind closed doors, stuck in the 20th century mindset of controlling and protecting IP. Some vertical platforms like Behance, GitHub, Dribbble, and notably Quora, have proved that people have appetite (and find great value) in being open and sharing their work.
That’s because openness creates value. And true openness involves sharing what’s important.
When you look at the job and recruitment industries, they’re still hounded by a lack of openness and a fixation with types of information (e.g., job titles, uni degrees, skills and more) that are terrible proxies for showing who we are and what we do.
Companies are often guilty of a similar thing. They’re trying hard to market themselves, but it‘s a lot of work to go beyond presenting a sanitized ‘employer brand’, of writing less generic job descriptions, or of creating less torturous recruitment processes for new prospects.
For too many it remains some type of danse macabre. When this is how so many professional relationships start off, it’s no wonder the outcome tends towards mutual discontent.
When you reflect on LinkedIn’s role in this process, they’re still quite fixed to a more outdated notion of work; where most people have a succession of full-time jobs (not for much longer), where job titles and descriptions are supposed to represent who you are (don’t get me started on endorsements), where your number of ‘connections’ is an indicator of your reputation, and where people only update their CVs or online profiles every couple of years when they’re back hunting for a new job.
Far from changing the dynamic of a flawed, impersonal professional exchange, might LinkedIn actually be perpetuating it?
There are certainly many people who take delight in variously eviscerating or gently mocking the professional network. Which stands in stark contrast to their epic success over the last 11 years creating a company of substance and increasing commercial returns.
The future world of open work
The revolution of opening up the world of work is, of course, well underway. There are no shortages of people and organisations doing great things. Of companies creating more transparent and inspiring places to work. Of programs dedicated to exploring and building company culture. Of people being incredibly open regarding their personal work. And of organisations hacking platforms that aren’t even designed for work purposes.
Of course it’s easy, perhaps unfair, to pick on the 800lb LinkedIn gorilla and lay blame for the global work malaise at their doorstep. [Disclosure: We’re tackling this very problem at Somewhere]
But work is simply too important to people and their happiness to let this dismal disengagement — these frequent mismatches and fake exchanges — to go on and on.
The industry needs to wake out of its slumber and catch up with the explosive, personal sharing revolution being driven by the Twitters, Tumblrs, the Instagrams, the Pinterests and the Snapchats. If they’ve taught us anything it’s that beyond the fun and entertainment, these platforms help satiate a human deeper, intimate need to express and connect.
Sharing drives learning and connection. In the work sphere, imagine unlocking hundreds of millions of people’s creativity, engagement and energy.
That type of shift can change the world, not to mention helping ensure a whole lot of Monday mornings where instead of waking with the blues, people wake with a smile.