When the universe speaks to me – I listen! This month as we have entered into a new year the messages I have been receiving have all been about the challenges that face Hummingbirds at work. Particularly in medium to large to corporate organisations. And this plays completely to my sweet spot. Because I have spent significant amounts of time throughout my own career working with organisations around their talent and workforce strategies. And I have been frustrated!

Which as I am a Hummingbird myself is hardly surprising. What did I find frustrating? The lack of flexibility, agility and variety of options for people to choose interesting diverse and ever-changing career pathways within organisations. The statistics that show how frequently talent leave an organisation and the small generic tweaks that many organisations make to try and change that. The fact that on one hand organisations state how much they value people with diverse broad experiences that they transfer between different roles and on the other hand the actions & processes that are in place ensuring that the more senior you become the more ‘specialist’ experience you are expected to have. Or alternatively the expectation that to become senior you must manage people regardless of whether that is a strength for you.

I understand that organisations have cultures. They have structures, processes and systems. They have defined roles and responsibilities. However, none of these need to be stagnant or rigid. Culture evolves daily. And often forcibly following a crucible activity. Structures, processes and systems are tweaked, upgraded, dropped, replaced or transformed regularly. Roles & responsibilities are fluid regardless of what is written on paper. And yet, organisations fail to recognise that those people who are best placed to lead, champion and energise the evolution, innovation and improvements of their organisation are their Hummingbirds!

Instead Hummingbirds are frequently placed in the ‘too hard’ box. Because as we progress along our professional journey we begin to fail in the ‘fitting in’ requirements. We have no desire to become a ‘deep specialist for the rest of our career’ in a particular field. We are unlikely to be ‘completer finishers’ to use Belbin’s vernacular. And where we have chosen to pursue the proscribed career ladder or pathway to seniority and associated reward we are likely to be increasingly stagnant and miserable as our innovate productivity wanes.

For Hummingbirds, our strength lies in our:

  • embracing change
  • fast learning
  • speed of processing
  • pattern recognition
  • innovative problem solving
  • ability to take complex ideas and distil them to be understood by others
  • broad connections across many different functions, industries, specialisms
  • energy & enthusiastic championing in the early stages of initiatives
  • desire to share knowledge and ideas with others

We are the natural cross-pollinators. However, for us to cross-pollinate we need to be within a rich diverse environment with the scope to move from activity to activity, from role to role, from project to project. That is how cross-pollination occurs. And within organisations cross-pollination leads to innovation, growth of competitive edge or profound collaboration.

I know that those organisations that are going to be truly successful in our rapidly evolving complex global economy will be those who embed, encourage and reward flexible agile talent processes and systems. Those who value the diversity of their specialists, their detail oriented, their people managers, their blue sky creators, their organisers AND their Hummingbirds for what each brings to the organisations we work with.

And I am curious … how is your organisation already doing this? Or what change do you think is required for your organisation to become one of these truly successful ones?