Media companies that prioritise talent need to forget these 10 things

By Michelle Palmer Jones

Nashville, Tennessee, United States


News media companies, like many other companies, rely heavily on antiquated practices that are based on old assumptions. 

“We’re having this conflict between the work we need to do and the assumptions we have about how we structure and run organisations,” Tammy Erickson, executive fellow/organisational behaviour at the London Business School, said at during the first module of the INMA World Congress of News Media

Erickson knows the most important work companies do today requires the ability to collaborate and innovate. She calls this “mobilising intelligence.”

If it’s so important for businesses to mobilise intelligence, Erickson said, many companies need to rethink some major assumptions. She presented her list of the top 10 things that are no longer true today. 

1. Ownership is the ideal

The first assumption that is no longer true is that it’s not crucial that businesses own their own assets and employ all people full time, Erickson said.

The old idea that it will lower costs and ensure quality does not apply today. Erickson sees flexibility and agility as more important than ownership since those ideas allow companies to adapt quickly to changes.

Tammy Erickson, executive fellow/organisational behaviour at the London Business School, says flexibility in staffing is key today.
Tammy Erickson, executive fellow/organisational behaviour at the London Business School, says flexibility in staffing is key today.

“To do that, you should own less — because owning less creates options and options are essential,” Erickson said.

Using a wide variety of work arrangements, like part-time workers who are full-time moms, allows companies to dig into different pockets for great ideas.

2. Work should be organised by specialised units

Gone are the days of needing different departments for everything, Erickson said. While it’s true that this model is meant to create efficiency and vertical career paths that build deep expertise,  a lot of work done today is better suited to project organisation.

“Multi-functional projects — where we pull from different parts of our organisation, where we increase the adaptability, the ability to do work in flexible ways, and where we increase exposure to new ideas because we’re bringing new people into the team on a regular basis,” Erickson said.

3. Fair pay is based on time worked

“We should be paying for task, not time,” Erickson said. “If you think about this woman who’s spinning silk, nobody is going to ask her how many hours she spends spinning that silk. They’re going to pay her for the quality of the silk she produces. And that’s how we should be paying people today.” 

Employees today should be paid by the task, not the time.
Employees today should be paid by the task, not the time.

Time spent is something she calls a “silly metric” by today’s standards.

4. Managers assign people work

Instead of thinking that people need to pay their dues, perform dull tasks, and then wait for a manager to decide when to promote, Erickson said she to see a system where people can choose work they find interesting.

“This one kills talent management today. In fact, I would say, if there’s one of these assumptions that is behind the mass exodus, it’s around these kinds of things,” she said. “People don’t want managers to assign work to them. The reality is, the most important work today is only going to happen if individuals care about the companies they’re working for and choose to invest their brain power.” 

5. Hiring processes should be designed to select and attract most talented candidate

Instead of trying to figure out if the worker will fit in the business, companies must arrange for the worker to choose them.

“Meaning is the new money,” Erickson said. “That’s what they care about. They want to know what kind of place are you in your heart.” 

It’s the organisation’s duty to scare away people who wouldn’t like it. Using media companies as an example, Erickson said if a business is 24/7, tell the candidate up front and get them to opt in or not. 

6. People will choose the highest compensation — pay as well as you can

The most value you can provide is long-term employability.

“I’m not talking about the promise of long-term employment ... but the idea that you’re going to give them skills to make them employable over the long term is something people crave,” Erickson said.

Long-term employability is more important to prospective employees than money.
Long-term employability is more important to prospective employees than money.

Job security today comes in the form of skills, she said. If companies promise to increase people’s commercial value and emphasise how they’re increasing future human assets, candidates buy in on employability. 

7. Identity of our best workers is a secret

Erickson said she companies do not want their competition to raid them of their best people, but keeping how good they are a secret goes against the interest of the worker. Instead, media companies should promote their track record of developing talent.

“People should feel that working in your organisation looks great on their resume, that you’re a company that’s known for being really good at developing talent,” Erickson said.

She said to promote learning as a key element of the company’s employee value proposition and organically develop a reputation for having the best talent. Erickson has seen companies even give people publicly recognised credentials or badges. This gives them something to put on their resume or post on LinkedIn. 

8. Rules are essential to get everyone to conform to the business approach

Instead of rules, Erickson likes to see companies treat people like intelligent adults and teach them simple criteria for decision-making. They can use the guidance to help make good choices. 

“The bottom line is you need to build your trust in your employees,” she said. 

9. Manager-to-employee is the most important communication pathway

Erickson said she wants to see ideas flow quickly and easily in all directions: “I found that the best leaders are highly attuned to their organisation’s informal social networks.”

These leaders know who is the influencer and the outcast, and can organise ways to get them communicating with each other.

10. Great leaders are heroic 

The age old tale of great leaders being bolder, smarter, and more strategic than their teams is an assumption Erickson wants to see killed off immediately. Today’s great leaders create a great environment, she said:

“The simplest step to leadership today is to create an environment that encourages people to choose to join and encourages them to choose to do great work while they’re there.”

Follow coverage of the World Congress here and via #INMA2022.

About Michelle Palmer Jones

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