Diaspora Business Networks – Is this the coming Corporate Model?

Diaspora Business Networks - Is this the coming Corporate Model?

New thinking from Devonshire House. Envisioning major changes re-shaping our businesses– 2.5.21

(Version 2 – 2.5.21 – Dates are relevant when statistics, views and information are changing quickly and often.)

Diaspora Business Networks are designed to get us there faster and better.

Diaspora Business Networks are exponentially expanding personal contact and community-building mechanisms reflecting the ESG aims of the innovative business and managed through modern technologies and underscored by discrete but firm commercial motives.

The aim of Diaspora Business Networks is to position the business at the heart of a growing number of networks in order to best achieve ambitious business objectives and plans whilst conforming with developing ESG best practice.

Within this Definition – and research will reveal different definitions – a Diaspora Business Network is a new idea and concept within a business but developed out of what existed before.  Or will be. It is “new” in the same way that Marketing started as a new function within Sales and is now a separate and key Department – and in the same way that IT started as a new function within Finance and is now a key and separate function and Department within a business. Now, it looks like ESG is going the same way. Its impact is accelerating and will soon be represented at Board Level. Where it actual settles within corporate hierarchies needs to be determined but it does need to have strong influences and impacts over all departments and functions in the business.

Contents

1 – Introducing Diaspora Business Networks.

2 – Major changes have taken place – particularly over the past two years.

3 – Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG)

4 – Tools and approaches now making Diaspora Networks desirable and possible.

5 – What would Diaspora Network Resources do? How would they work?

6 – What would Diaspora Networks look like?

7 – Why start with HR? This may well be the new Resourcing Paradigm

8 – Next Steps

Warning Notes

Warning Note 1 – Who is responsible for who?

Warning Note 2 – Who owns the contacts?

Warning Note 3 – Is this just another management fad?

Warning Note 4 – Watch out for the long and unexpected tentacles of the Bribery Act 2010

 Approached through these sub-heads, this Paper makes the case that how a business succeeds depends on having instantly available on an interactive basis whatever is required. It needs to invest continuously in this community-development capability and maintain it.

Done well, answers become available before the questions are formulated and asked. This capability should also create and deliver opportunities – new ones and/or ahead of the competition.

1 - Introducing Diaspora Business Networks

Driven by a unique mix of Covid, Brexit, technology and human factors – and now driven by ESG –  many see radical changes ahead for the role of people at the heart of these changes in the workplace. Some see it as a new Industrial Revolution – the Revolution of the Individual.  What this will look like will be driven by a complex mix of these new circumstances – in the world, in the economy, in business and in the minds and hearts of people.

It is difficult to define the detail of what will now be happening but if you think about what has changed and also about what new tools and approaches are becoming available, you can see some shape developing.  Read on……………….

What we’ve got is a unique confluence of rising unemployment (April 2011) – a significant  part of furloughed employees now back at work – others drifting back to the office amidst much debate and mixed emotions.  All this changing thinking needs to be seen against the background of unquantified and tighter business conditions.  There will be a mix of changed and changing business models.

May 2021 has seen a resurgence of positive media sentiment – which may well be transitory with many taking the view that Sept 2021 will be a testing time.  Notwithstanding any further Covid incursion, the pent-up consumer cash will have come back into the system, and current Government support will be receding and we will be seeing what the real business conditions are. It’s difficult to suppose that the huge amount of damage that has been sustained by Government, business and people will simply evaporate.

2 - Major changes that have taken place – particularly over the past two years.

  • Impacts from Individuals’ newly articulated aspirations, primarily arising out of WFH and including WFH – are extensive.
  • Line of sight management is now being replaced by “trust” and the emphasis is now also shifting towards what is delivered rather than from time spent – outcomes rather than process. Trust is moving towards becoming a matter of contractual arrangement.
  • Work/Life Balance has had a fairly rough ride at the hands of Covid – and, to a lesser extent Brexit. Working from home has blurred the dividing conventions; in practical terms, most people have spent more time working than hitherto, particularly when you include little bits of time – EG: finishing off a task;  leisurely wind-down at the end of the day; more frequent looking at your mobile to see what’s new; catching up on emails.  Sharing equipment between work and home seems fairly natural; give and take has been finding its own levels and tolerances; families get to know more about parents’ work activities; sharing parental and domestic duties tends to be less disruptive.  But there are negatives.  Proximity frictions within families; practical equipment difficulties; and, significantly, lack of personal interfacing work.
  • Individuals are still driven by money but also by broader elements – which will vary between generations – and seen as balanced packages which include aspects of “security” less than by corporate loyalty.
  • Concepts of loyalty are also moving towards becoming a matter of contractual obligation, but tending to differ between generations. Where loyalty is relevant is where it is generated around individuals – and tends to last as long as the individuals last. It is becoming much less of a corporate thing – due primarily by the increasing rates of overall change and uncertainties. Rhetoric can often be a bluff.  But –  try saying this to a member of the armed forces!  Loyalty, here, would seem to be as strong as ever.
  • Corporate development action with an employee’s skills are increasingly being seen more for their personal benefit than the employer’s. This may well be an accidental recognition that the most important attribute of any individual in the workplace is their skillset – their professional competence. This is what has a value and is what an employer/ engager will pay for. Keeping that sharp and up to date is vital. Leaving for a new company for reasons of protecting one’s core skillset is invariably a good reason.  There are often hidden dangers for one’s future in accepting internal offers of a broader exposure and/or  retraining to create promotion opportunities.  Upmarket odd-job men and women can be vulnerable. Being very good at something is invariably the best form of personal security.
  • Changing attitudes to “Security” becomes less about jobs, more about work. This is a crucial area. What does “Security “mean?  Are we grown-up enough to be able to re-balance personal responsibilty with the need for the state to look after its people? How incursive should Government be? See Warning Note 1 at the end of this Paper.
  • Extensive and fundamental IT and AI developments…………. huge leaps forward have taken place over the past two years. What we have all learnt from Covid is higher levels of IT management and things that the company said could only be done in the office, can be done at home.
  • Changing thinking about face-to- face working.  Will meetings come back to pre-Covid levels – with more being done through Zoom, Teams, etc? Continuous and mixed views here – but things will be different and sensible balances will be found.  But the outcome will be less time spent in the office compared with pre-Covid.
  • There will be new and immediate needs to vary headcount levels – almost continuously – over and above pre-Covid infrequent exercises.. Thinking of this as hiring and firing is old fashioned!  Practice over the past few decades indicates that where the redundancy process has been used once, it will be easier to use it again. Another nudge away from employment towards engagement. What many say will happen here is that all will become inured to corporate reactions to peaks and troughs – given that enough money is involved and personal skill sets are up to date and relatively easily transferred. Making this easier is a current challenge and an ongoing task.

3 - Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG)

ESG stands for Environment – Social – Governance. All well documented – and developing.  All responding to separate needs, drivers and changing circumstances – but all interacting and with a cumulative impact which demands effective responses from all businesses.

Ivestopedia defines ESG as follows:

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria are a set of standards for a company’s operations that socially conscious investors use to screen potential investments. Environmental criteria consider how a company performs as a steward of nature. Social criteria examine how it manages relationships with employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities where it operates. Governance deals with the company’s leadership, executive pay, audits, internal controls and shareholders’ rights. (Missing seem to be the positive bits about efficiency, better performance and making money.)

Originally, businesses may well have wondered why these three elements were being grouped together.  They paid lip-service to it,  seeing it as a distraction and with their loyalties clinging to the focus on profit. But, as soon as you get into it, you realise that it is all about resources and behaviours – and is interlinked.

But – now – strong compliance with all aspects is being seen as vital.  ESG matters will need to be a visible part of Corporate Business Plans, budgets and internal and external communications. The cumulative impact of the combined ”E”, “S” and “G” will be felt in all aspects of a company’s operations.

4 - Tools and approaches now making Diaspora Business Networks desirable and possible.

These are:-

  • All the socio-economic changes that are taking place and accelerating, including…..
  • ………..social networking
  • Major moves forward in technology.
  • People – their attitudes, aspirations and feelings. (EG: “I’m not coming back into the office because we’ve now got a dog”!)
  • The recognition that resourcing needs to mirror speeded-up and changing markets, economic conditions and politics – all leading to greater fluidity of labour, immediacy coupled with accuracy of profile.
  • What many are seeing as a new Industrial Revolution – in People

If you don’t develop and action these ESG philosophies, you’ll lose out to the competition!

5 - What would Diaspora Business Networks do? How would they work?

Facing outwards, the business would seek to create and build communities reaching from across the whole business and delivered through its three key activity areas – People – Products – Profile – see below.  The aim is that these communities would connect with one or more of the key activities of the business.

The business would create plans and programmes continuously – to identify in-any-way suitable targets; to create suitable campaigns and to roll them out. Creating suitable campaigns requires some skill.

The guiding philosophy is that the business should and – now – can – create and establish ongoing contacts with external parties which – importantly – are ahead of any specific need. When a need arises – much of the work has already been done and the method of approach will have suggested itself.  Payback is when these networks actually get used.

The contrary argument would be that the creation of an infrastructure of a type advocated here would be a waste of time and money and it would still be better to create a specific exercise for a specific need as and when needed.

Points to bear in mind:-

  • GDPR/ Privacy – Care needed to get this right. Many things have changed. Generally, GDPR is not a problem with Social Media. But security,  integrity of data and Privacy are
  • If you Irritate or bore the targets, you’re doing it wrongly! But it is important to develop engaging topics ………………..
  • Generally, ”engaging topics” will derive from ESG areas, themselves part of the Business Plan of the organisation – including stories about relationships.
  • Collaboration with external/third parties is an integral part of Diaspora Business Networks. With Talent Network Resourcing partnering with a recruitment business would be important. Protection of IP needs care.
  • As regards IP, an interesting question arises around ownership. Generally, social media attaches to individuals but the business needs to have ownership. (With Talent Management Professionals, much of their value to a business relies on their personal networks – if they leave, so do their contacts and research material

 

Probably for the first time ever, a business has a viable capability, the opportunity, the newly discovered mind-set, the need and the resources to create Diaspora Business Networks. The underlying principle is that, in an increasingly competitive business world, success relies more than ever on individuals.

Notwithstanding a perception that all the major changes that have taken place over the past two or so years dumb down the individual in preference to technology and immediacy the reality is that what really matters is what individuals do – what they want and how they make decisions.

What this means is that getting closer to as many relevant people as possible is the best way of getting the best people “engaged” in the business (and doing the right things at the right time and in the right way).  It is the best way of building a happy customer base and it is the best way of mobilising support for intangibles – such as reputation, image, branding.  In short, it is the best way of finding new answers to old and current challenges – including those coming next.

6 - What would a Diaspora Business Network look like?

It would look like a huge, complex and actively supported and integrated CRM system – but applied beyond “Customers” – which it will now likely replace.  It would be developed beyond what is currently seen as best practice – which is built around individuals. A Diaspora Business Network develops this to the interactive Community stage.

Within an Organisation, there would be one overall Diaspora Business Network – consisting of inter-related and integrated Networks for People, Product and Profile.

  • People Talent Diaspora Network – Human Resourcing incl Internal Comms.

HR need to recruit people – either for their own Department or for other Departments.  Their need will be for filling vacancies – either replacements or new roles.  Identifying attractive hires ahead of the need can often deliver significant benefits. Increasing recognition of alternatives to full time permanent needs will become more frequent, more commercially appropriate and more widely acceptable – with the word “collaborative” being apt.

When you are running a business in a radically changed and changing business landscape, it has to be good practice to seek to use ALL the talents available – whoever they are; whatever they are; wherever they come from and when you want/need them – and, maybe, in much changed and different practical ways and within radically changed contractual arrangements than hitherto.

Organisational Design and Development professionals need to find balanced solutions involving these new options. Not far behind are Talent Management teams waiting to find out what their new remits are.

Employment will give some way to Engagement – it started some time ago – and “Feeling Good” means being valued, attractively rewarded in overall terms and not feeling insecure.

Collaboration with external Search & Selection/ Recruitment firms should be explored.  Terms of engagement should be carefully constructed.  The payback would be NOT paying 30% for individual hires – but paying a monthly retainer which would  be based on sharing database material from both parties and with joint ownership and suitable restrictions.

  • Product Customer Diaspora Network – Sales, Marketing and Product Creation (Manufacturing, Processing, Delivery incl Branding –   
  • Profile – Corporate Diaspora Network – Corporate includes Governance,  ESG,  Vision, Values, Reputation, external Comms, PR and Shareholder Relations. 

Examples:

  • Many large organisations have and develop customer lists beyond their own business use. Clearly GDPR rules need to be observed – but, once an organisation has effectively established these, creating communities is a natural progression.
  • Major businesses maintain Alumni lists and are active in leveraging these relationships. They are looking for market information, business referral opportunities and expect access to some inside tracks including those they are not supposed to be privy to.
  • Also in play in these and other types of organisations are other applications……..

………….fairly common in many service orientated business are systems that can allocate staff to client assignment teams and – conversely – use those systems to plan the technical and career development needs of individual employees.  Keeping in touch with good leavers – generally  as part of an Alumni function –  often pays good dividends to all parties.

It can be seen from the above limited number of examples that these applications are generated in and (probably) by different Departments in an organisation and should, ideally,  be integrated into a master application……………………

Diaspora Business Networking is mostly about going outside the organisation.

……………………….  It seems like a sensible and logical next step to use all this in creating an ESG Department! Done well, this process could yield many commercial benefits.

7 - Why start with HR? This may well be the new Resourcing Paradigm?

Diaspora Business Networks need to start within HR as current structures and practices are better developed here than in other areas of the business.  It exists there already – primarily through staff record keeping, efficient and up-to-date software and Talent Management activity.

The core aim of HR is accuracy and immediacy in getting the right people in the right roles at the right time and achieving the right outcomes and for as long as needed – with all parties feeling good about it. HR is also the repository of best practice in all HR matters –  sometimes acting as Principal and sometimes as Agent.

(“Feeling good” means being valued, attractively rewarded in overall terms and not feeling insecure.)

This new business climate will drive new thinking about people and approaches to changing employment and engagement models.  How to respond to these changes is the challenge :-

  • Creating differing engagement arrangements are becoming more viable and more frequent.
  • Businesses need to inter-relate with people for three primary reasons – to employ/engage them; to sell to them and to create outward-facing corporate support mechanisms.
  • It is a nonsense to suppose that those working in the company have no responsibility to sell – as it also is for sales, marketing and general management to have no interest in what makes the company tick. Everyone is an ambassador. Everyone is a guardian of its reputation

8 - Next Steps

  • IT Technology suitable as a base is likely to exist in the HR department and a CRM system in the Sales/ Marketing area. Additionally, Finance will have its own systems and various individuals will compile their own – some known about and some not.
  • Many organisations look at moving this silo arrangement s into a centralised set-up – and software does exist for this. This Paper sees this as important. Within an Organisation, there would be one overall Diaspora Business Network – consisting of three inter-related and integrated Networks. These may be developed in sequence – and as set out but not necessarily – and in this order –
  • Write an overall Development Plan and………
  • Human Resourcing incl Internal Comms – Diaspora Talent Network
  • Sales and Marketing incl Branding – Diaspora Customer Network
  • Corporate incl Reputation, external Comms, PR and Corporate –   Diaspora Corporate

Warning Note 1

Are we grown-up enough to be able to re-balance personal responsibility with the need for the state to look after its people? How incursive should Government be?

At the heart of this a question are the ONS Employment statistics from the early part of 2021.  Of the 33m working population only 21m are full -timers on the payroll – and about 5m of these are public sector workers and between 4m and 5m are currently on furlough – leaving about 11m as Private Sector full-time workers. If the balance is 14m – what are these people doing? The answer is that most all will be looking for work – not necessarily jobs. For a better understanding of what this means – and what all of the 33m are doing, please read here.

Yes – the stats referred to here are technically accurate – but not quite what they seem.

Warning Note 2

Care needs to be taken when establishing Networking contacts.

Mostly, these are person to person. This mostly relates to HR and talent management activity and also in sales.  The risk is that the business misses out when the named business contact leaves – and their contacts leave with them – and may finish up being used for the benefit of competitors.  One of the dangers in protecting against this eventuality is the irritation in finding that there is no way of responding to communications – no person to talk to…………………   in fact, all the deficits inherent in Call Centre methodologies.

Warning Note 3

Is this just another Management Fad?

The answer is no – as it will be driven by ESG – and no-one would dare describe ESG as a Management Fad.  But read on … if you wish …… as found on Wikipedia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Management_fad

This is not to say that management fads are grounds for dismissal of the thinking. They are grounds for taking the concept of Diaspora Business Networks seriously.

Warning Note 4

Watch out for the long and, probably, unexpected tentacles of the Bribery Act 2010!

No-one wants to fall foul of this legislation.  But no-one wants to fail to promote their business, their people and their products in the best possible ways.  And in ways that are about getting closer to external parties. Using the word “Corruption” alongside “Bribery” is very scary. However, downstream issues can take us all by surprise.  Discrimination, for example – flavoured increasingly with political correctness – and now  a problem.  Securing supplier agreements, contracts and deals are becoming person-free processes – and needing to be seen externally as such.

“Cronyism” – whatever that is – seems to be getting closer to illegality.  And Entertaining is not far behind.

Part of the answer is to understand the legislation and actively have responses ready. This should be achievable through the Profile part of Diaspora Business Networks

It is worth noting the six principles for bribery prevention:-

1 – Proportionate procedures

2 – Top level commitment

3 – Risk assessment.

4 – Due diligence

5 – Communication

6 – Monitoring and review

 

Charles M Russam

Managing Director, Devonshire House Network Ltd

2.5.21