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Exactly What is The Human Era, Anyway? Part 1

Posted by Mathew French

5 June 2014

Just as Nietzsche’s exclamation that ‘God is dead,’ once heralded a significant shift in the Western cultural paradigm, a new report by Hill Holiday and Lippincott declares that the ‘Institutional Era’ is also dead and has paved the way for a new way of doing business, ‘The Human Era.’

This two-part blog series explores the fundamentals of The Human Era, and outlines the new model for building trusted connections in business. It includes an investigation of what brands need to do to embed these models within their values and processes, as well as exploring the role of Human Resources in The Human Era.

At the core of the ‘Human Era’ is the search for trust. That is, trustworthiness in others, in businesses and in brands.

The rise of HR software and cloud technology is facilitating the evolution of the Human Resources Department from Operational and Administrative tasks to a more Strategic focus. However, the next wave in this evolution revolves around the question, ‘What is the role of Human Resources in The Human Era?’

The rise of The Human Era has precipitated a fundamental shift in the value(s) equation. Value(s) creation has become not only more intimate and personal, but also more cooperative and inclusive. The rise of Social Media is testament to this increasingly important aspect of doing business.

It is imperative to know oneself deeply and authentically in order to be able to be real and therefore trustworthy with others in our interpersonal relationships. This now extends to businesses and brands as well as individuals, because after all, businesses and brands are built on, and by, individual people.

The institutional era modus operandi of command and control hierarchies with siloed, vertical bureaucracy is dead. The new model revolves around distributed rather than concentrated power structures, as well as personal, authentic and trusted connections. These connections give us meaningful experiences, at work, in relationships, in life.

The report indicates that successful Human Era companies listen to the world around them and are open to social influence. Their communication pathways are bi-directional and they are constantly evolving with both their environment and their customers. This evolution is not just based on technological progress, profit margins, shareholder returns and market demands, but also based on more authentic listening to customer and community feedback through sophisticated and democratic engagement models.

As human beings, we have a fundamental need for connection with others. According to the report, this need to connect is so deeply engrained in our psyche, that just seeing the presence and evidence of connections is enough for us to actually feel connected.

Meaningful connections are built on reciprocity - not in a give to get context, but in an open, flowing and balanced exchange based on the knowledge that what you give to another you give to yourself. Reciprocity is also grounded in the awareness that what goes around always comes around without the need to chase it, demand it, nor expect it.

Successful companies have begun to resemble the organic, holistic systems and networks of Permaculture Design, as opposed to the mechanistic structures of the Industrial Revolution.

Successful Human Era ‘stories’ are built to thrive in the modern, Social Media enabled communication ecosystem, where value is created and exchanged in a reciprocal, cooperative, inclusive manner, expressed through authentic demonstrations alongside traditional communications. That is, through acts as well as ads. The old adage ‘actions speak louder than words,’ becomes an imperative pathway to business success.

Consumers crave relationships where businesses view them as individuals - they seek transparent and personalised attention. To provide this, businesses require an authentic story that they can then deliver consistently through an inspiring experience.

Brands that are successful in The Human Era seek to build trustworthy relationships collaboratively, forging more authentic and valuable connections with consumers.

Below is an outline of the characteristics of Human Era Stories:


Today’s, (and increasingly, tomorrow’s), consumers are not seeking to just buy something (a product or service). They are instead seeking to buy into something. The onus subsequently falls on Organisations (and their employees) to build a brand that consumers actually want to ‘buy into.'

Individuals make decisions as both citizens and consumers, therefore companies need to combine user functional value with the personal human values that appeal to an increasingly powerful citizenry of consumers. Key points of emphasis for such values are mutuality, harmony, empathy, integrity and purpose.

Building a brand in The Human Era requires that both the story of a company and the customers' experience of it are seamlessly aligned.

Marshall McLuhan’s influential exclamation that ‘the medium is the message’ heralded the possibility of massive shifts in the way we communicate and interact with each other long before the Internet and Social Media crept into mainstream consciousness. Similarly, the ‘experience’ of The Human Era brand is the actual message of that brand itself. This experience may well trump the importance of actual products and services as the measure of a brand’s worth. Make no mistake about it, there is no longer any separation between these factors.

In The Human Era, brands must invite people to connect with them in open and authentic ways. However, authentic human communications aren't as neat and tidy as the corporate rhetoric most companies are accustomed to producing.

The new era of communication involves a willingness to talk about the hard stuff, the ugly stuff, to acknowledge mistakes and to be clear about what you're doing to solve problems and fix those mistakes.

In order to be able to do this externally; with clients, customers and the community, Human Era brands also need to be able to do this internally. Real connection needs to be fully anchored in the culture of the business. Such communication requires transparency and honesty, as well as acceptance and empathy.

People demand the same from brands and how they both tell their stories and create customer experiences. That means brands need to focus on transparency and exhibit a willingness to engage on the terms and timeline of their customers, not the other way around. Brands also need to learn to acknowledge flaws and put forth honest plans for resolution and next steps.

Part 2 of this Blog will explore the ways in which Human Resources can contribute to creating the baseline from which Organisations can transform themselves and their employees into Human Era individuals. Such individuals will then be empowered to form harmonious, aligned, Human Era relationships, both internally and externally.

Until then, if you’d like to learn more about how to harness the power of Social Media for Recruitment in The Human Era, then please read our FREE Whitepaper.


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Topics: HR in The Human Era, The Human Era, the future of hr

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