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While on vacation last week, I picked up a copy of the May issue of Wired and read the section called Next List 2017: 20 People Who Are Creating the Future. Every story on the list was really pretty interesting, but the one on Gerd Manz particularly caught my interest. Manz is the VP of Future Team for shoemaker Adidas. His story is one of ultimate personalization and customization.
Whatever Shoe You Want
We all know how shows are made. They are mass produced, varying only in the size and width of the shoe. Some are produced in limited runs, thus making them more desirable and more expensive. What if you had the opportunity to have a pair of shoes made solely for you and have it cost no more than a mass produced pair of shoes? Manz and his team at Adidas are going to do just that. Within the year two “Speedfactories” will be opened up, one in Ansbach, Germany and the other in my home town of Atlanta, Georgia. The factories staffed by robots and not humans will be able to produce a half a million pairs of shoes per year. Through the use of robots, 3-D printing, automated cutting, and robotic stitching and knitting, a fully personalized and customized pair of shoes will be as easy to produce as a standard model. They will be produced in just a couple of hours. You will even get a video of your shoes being made.
New Generations Want Customization
The reason Adidas is going in this direction is that new generations don’t want standard, they want customization. Manz says these generations get annoyed with taking three seconds to download an app, implying they will not abide by taking months to get customized shoes.
As I was reading about this regarding shoes I was thinking about how this applies to HR. After all our new employees are the same people who are going to be ordering these new Adidas pair of shoes that they have designed for themselves. Why would we think they would want the same standard experience the all employees get? Would they not prefer a customized version of the job they are interested in rather than the same job you are giving everyone else?
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The Role of HR in Customization
The interested in a customization is the driving force behind the concept of the workplace experience. I wrote about this in Future Friday: The employee experience and the future of the workplace, where I talked about Jeanne C. Meister and Kevin Mulchay’s book. They tasked leadership, which in my book includes HR, with the responsibility of making every employee’s experience different from the next employee’s experience. There will be a need for designing individual learning, individual compensation, individual benefits, individual job responsibilities, and more. It will require greater levels so individualized data collection in order customize each employee’s experience.
Are we up to the task? Only time will tell.