Slash and the Quality of Life challenge

This week, Sodexo organised its Quality of Life conference. The conference addresses one of the key challenges for future HR functions. How do you address the new type of knowledge worker as to their Quality of Life needs.

Meeting a new slash

I had a wonderful conversation with a new slash this morning. A “slash”, or more appropriately a “/“ is a professional who has multiple income streams and is therefore not, no longer or has never been dependent on one employer. Quite often they are self-employed but are not just working on one project, but on multiple things that interest them, in several areas. This slash was a teacher/advisor/independent board member. And he is not the only one …

Everywhere a slash

I’m meeting more and more slashes every day. Even looking around our work floor, I see people with specific deep expertise which are not on our payroll, are not working exclusively for us, but provide us with key capabilities which we would not ever be able to hold on to if we were the sole employer of these people. And it is not that these people are just in and out, like consultants. No, they work for us for quite a long time … but not just for us, but for us and for a number of other companies at the same time. And they often have a project or two they are working on at the same time. Perhaps for profit, sometimes not.

A future full

And this is where I believe the future of employment in the knowledge worker era is headed for. Key capabilities being delivered not by own members of personnel, but by slashes. People with multiple hats whose knowledge and insights are essential to the companies, but who cannot be held onto by those companies, not because they don’t pay enough, but because they cannot work within the limited scope of development the company has to offer.

A slash working solely within one company would no longer be a slash, by definition, but also because of relevance considerations. After all, a slash has the value she or he has because of the experience she/he gathers in the multiple activities they are active in.

And it is not a question of payroll either: some slashes could actually earn considerably more if they would work exclusively for one company … but they would actually lose some of their relevance quite quickly.

The quality of life challenge

And this is where one of the key challenges for the future of work and the future of HR functions comes in … how to ensure a good quality of life for these profiles? The easy answer is: we should not because it is their responsibility. Yes, that is the easy answer, but also the wrong one.

It is wrong because a slash will base her or his decision on which company they will work most certainly not on the pay offered but for the most part on both the content of the project or challenge they will be working on as well as the total package including the less tangible aspects which contribute to quality of life, both in the office as well as outside of it.

Some ideas?

I believe there are many ideas in this space. Sodexo, my employer, this week organised its 2017 Quality of Life conference during which a number of interesting ideas on how to further the Quality of Life of employees, students, citizens … saw the light. With a speaker roster which frankly blew me away, there was some great ideation going on. I invite you to read some of these excellent interviews.

A confession

Oh, and by the way, for those of you who have not seen my LinkedIn profile … I’m a slash too. Kind of. As the director of Sodexo’s public benefits in Belgium, I am an employee of Sodexo, but I am also a teacher and the academic director responsible for a master class at the Antwerp Management School. And I am very, very aware of my needs and wants when it comes to Quality of Life.