Embracing the Workplace as a Platform (5 min read)

Embracing the Workplace as a Platform (5 min read)
Last Updated: June 30, 2022

On October 23, I crossed the first-year anniversary milestone of my radical mid-career pivot from strategy consulting to HR. The unconventionality of the chosen path was validated a few months back while speaking at an alumni panel for the new Executive MBA class at Wharton. I asked “how many of you have thought about using your MBA to disrupt HR” and not a single hand was raised. An amazing last year with LinkedIn’s People Analytics team involving impact on strategic people decisions validated my choice. My vision for taking this direction is to make the workplace a platform for enabling meaningful lives. Recent experiences inspired me to write this post on socializing this concept and why leveraging your own people to simultaneously deliver innovation, social and financial value is critical for organizations to thrive.   

The anniversary milestone was coincidentally spent at a three-day ERG (Employee Resource Group) leadership summit. There I strategized with other LinkedIn ERG leaders who, in addition to delivering innovation and financial value through their day jobs, are also delivering LinkedIn’s social value goal of diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DIBs) at the ground level. LinkedIn’s commitment was further crystallized when our CEO, Jeff Weiner, and Chief People Officer, Christina Hall, spoke separately in an intimate setting with the group on what DIBs means for the company. The summit was the tipping point that gave additional wings to my vision and encouraged me to take the plunge in sharing my concept. 


Vision: making the workplace a platform for enabling meaningful lives 

Creating value for all is no longer just the right thing to do but also a strategic business imperative. Business leaders, who are embracing the threat and opportunity of emerging technological and social trends, have realized the importance of adopting the business model of a platform. This means transforming from offering a product or a service to becoming a platform that connects customers to multiple suppliers of products and services. The rise of the socially conscious consumer has meant that successful platforms also need to serve a social purpose in the process of making money.  In the race to be a platform business, leaders are investing in building the technology infrastructure that enables connectivity amongst the multiple parties attracted to the platform. However, the talent strategy that enables this has been missing from the narrative. Is the organizational model also designed to enable the business to create value for all parties involved (employees, customers, society), not just the shareholders?  


Mission: enable innovation, social, and financial value for all sides of the platform 


Leading organizations riding the wave of “platforming” will be the ones moving from a focus on profit to purpose - from financial value for the business alone to innovation, social, and financial value for all stakeholders. In order to get there, the organization needs to be designed as a platform that enables mutually beneficial connectivity amongst all the employees, the external world, and the platform itself.  In this model, the talent organization (or however you choose to name your HR function) serves to coordinate individual talent, aka the suppliers, internally amongst themselves and externally with the different parties (consumers, customers, partners, society) in a way that creates value for all. The organizational structure shifts from hierarchical to a network of teams. Each team member is a business on their own, a freelancer of the sort– a consumer and a producer. If the organization decides to define value for itself only in financial terms, then it attracts financially driven mercenaries who will only be loyal so long as the organization pays the top price for their trade. However, in a world where talent and customers will be attracted to the platform by its purpose, then the organization defines value more than just financials, but also how it aims to get there, and what skill-building and social impact related opportunities does it offer to its talent to leverage it for their aspirations. As a result, the organization then attracts a variety of enterprising individuals who are in it to fulfill different interests: money, adventure, culture, cause.   


The platform’s strategy is focused on having the right individual in the right role as per the value potential, and accordingly customize talent management practices. The platform leverages its business and technology to offer individuals the chance to fulfill their life aspirations. If it’s skills they want to develop to stay relevant in the marketplace, then they have it via projects that keep the firm state-of-the-art. If its the social impact that they want, they can deliver that as much as permissible by the organization’s business context. Workplace as a platform enables meaningful widespread social impact by empowering employees to lead initiatives close to their hearts. They help align the firm’s role in society and role for society. The more diverse and inclusive the workforce, the more diverse initiatives come up and the more widespread the chance of real social impact. Each idea becomes an experiment to decide which social impact initiative it can scale with its business. All this goes to say, that perhaps we shift from pursuing work-life balance to pursuing work-life integration, catering to the material and spiritual needs of individuals (and their communities).  


Culture and Values: 

Just like a successful platform business, the key to the talent organization will also be transparency and trust. Instead of management calibrating an individual’s performance behind closed doors, the individual presents their own case for growth and reward. They will automatically learn to be owners in the success of the firm and themselves. Individuals can choose to enhance their value proposition or take their business elsewhere. At least, the individual agents will have full ownership of their fate and the market of agents will represent an efficient one. Talent will prefer to interact most with the platform that will feed their material and spiritual needs.  


The post \"Embracing the Workplace as a Platform (5 min read)\" was first published by Shujaat Ahmad here https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/embracing-workplace-platform-shujaat-ahmad/


About Shujaat Ahmad

Established trusted strategic advisor to global executive business and talent leadership, focused on myth-busting beliefs and influencing mindset change to align evidence-based talent strategy with business strategy and make people “the” enabler of competitive advantage.

Leading a movement towards a personal vision that organizations can unlock their innovation, financial, and social impact potential by making the workplace an inclusive platform to build purposeful lives, not just resumes (for all talent). This vision is fueled by a combination of 1) experiential training as a strategy, innovation, and operations consultant 2) being a people champion at heart with a passion for disrupting bias, status quo, and developing unconventional talent 3) and most importantly - having many proud failure moments that have shaped this unique journey and my perspective.

As a constant learning and unlearning animal, leverage strong business acumen, multi-dimensional insights, and passion for “people first” strategies to balance customer-centric growth with people-centric operating model optimization.

Areas of expertise include:
• People strategy and analytics, aligning with business strategy
• Organizational transformation, including post-merger integration
• Diversity, inclusion, and belonging strategy and analytics
• Coaching and Peer-to-Peer Learning and Development
• Eminence - Disruption and People Strategy
• Customer Experience Strategy & Implementation
• Strategic and Operational Planning
• Corporate Development M&A
• Cross-functional Team Leadership
• Stakeholder Management & Communication
• Enterprise Cost-to-Serve Optimization

Industries: Tech, Telecom, Retail and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), and Energy
Markets: US, Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East

Shujaat Ahmad

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