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Thought leaders on parade

Published on Friday, 13 Sep 2013
Jay Oatway
Photo: May Tse
Emma Reynolds
Photo: May Tse
Mike Walsh
Photo: May Tse

The intellectual wattage was definitely electrifying at the first Employer Branding Conference, co-organised by the South China Morning Post and Classified Post.

The parade of sterling speakers was led by Mike Walsh, best-selling author of Futuretainment and chief executive of innovation research lab Tomorrow. He talked about disruptive technologies - ranging from the smartphone to social media, from cloud technology to big data - that could actually help business.

Controversially, Walsh said he did not believe in generational categories, especially in the workplace. However, he said that many companies and organisations could gain by observing and learning from the technological trends that absorb the young.

"Tomorrow is here," Walsh said, as he offered a global tour of social and technological trends shaping the business world and the community at large. "In order for companies to thrive in this new world, they need to think big, think new and think quick."

Walsh cited the amusing case of a washing machine in a small Chinese village that ended up becoming a useful communal tool for washing potatoes.

Instead of discouraging this unconventional use of its product and worrying about potential legal liabilities, the manufacturer simply told its designers to come up with new washing machine models that can wash even more potatoes much more efficiently.

"It just shows how these companies thrive on change," Walsh said, adding that such propensity for adaptability was also reflected in the ability of nimble companies to attract, retain and engage top talent.

For her part, Emma Reynolds - co-founder and CEO of boutique consultancy firm e3 Reloaded and one of the '25 Women Under 35' list of outstanding female business and community leaders - urged companies to re-introduce the concept of "royalty" in the way they treat their job applicants and employees.

"Remember that your job applicant is your customer, your customer is your potential recruit," she said. "We should bring back 'royalty' and use the principles of marketing in talent acquisition," she added.

Reynolds said that companies which failed to bridge this gap between the way they treat their customers and their employees ran the risk of losing high-potential talent and eventually failing, given their inability to compete in a fast-changing business world.

The final batch of bright ideas was provided by Jay Oatway, a leading social media authority in Asia-Pacific who has been ranked among the Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers for 2012 and 2013.

"Your brand is what the market says it is," said Oatway, author of Mastering Story, Community and Influence: How to Use Social Media to Become a Socialeader.

He urged companies to use an "authentic cause as a primary story" when building a brand, and to "inspire people to join your cause".

Oatway said it was easier for the public to trust a person than a company. Hence, organisations should stop presenting themselves in social media as faceless corporates.

"Think about having a 'brandividual' - a brand ambassador in online relationships who can be an individual representing a brand or identity," he said.

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