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Reality Bites: Fragmentation, diversity and identity

Recruitment professionals today face a world where technology has shifted, allowing for the creation of

new identity-based virtual villages which make self-appointed knowledge bloggers, posters on LinkedIn or followers on Instagram the 21st Century’s town criers, parish newsletters and truth tellers.

What that means for the recruitment professional today is that the successful selection and placement of staff, particularly millennials, has to be more personalised and individual than ever before.

The reputations of consultants and employers can now be made, or broken, online with a rapidity never before possible. That said, all that’s changed is the reality of an organisation’s culture and behaviour is more visible and less easy to spin than before.

That means that more than ever before, to attract and retain quality staff, organisations need to ‘walk the walk’ before they try to ‘talk the talk’.


In terms of communication, the 21st century is shaping up to have more in common with the 19th than the 20th. The confluence of two fundamental cultural forces is creating a new paradigm in Australia and much of the rest of the western world. The decay of old tribes and allegiances and a loss of faith in ‘The Establishment’ is butting up against the instant, personal access to anybody and anything delivered by the internet and the smart phone.

The result of these changes is a more fragmented and volatile world where information is self-curated and shared with like-minded people at the swipe of a finger.

During the 1800s, people largely gathered their news from other people in their communities by word-of-mouth. Personal recommendations by trusted individuals were the gold standard of communications.

The major institutions of State and commerce barely impinged upon their daily lives and when they did, they were regarded with a healthy scepticism which required local validation before acceptance. Personalised, artisanal and craft products and services were the day-to-day realities of life.

The 1900s were characterised by the conversion of the personal to the mass: mass production, mass media, mass marketing and mass social movements. Governments, businesses and NGOs all exploited the tools of mass communication and brands became the global currency of reputation management.

This process of industrialised managerialism dehumanised the individual and people became homogenised into consumers, human resources or target audiences. Their lives were transmogrified into ‘lifestyles’ and their individuality supressed by force-fitting them into ‘Myers-Briggs type indicators’ or the 30 subcategories of the IPIP-NEO Personality Test.

Fast forward to the 2000s and we see this pattern reversing. The centralised institutions upon which the foundations of the 20th Century were laid have started to crumble. Politics, politicians, traditional parties and governments are on the nose.

An increasingly sensationalist media, fed by a growing legion of whistle-blowers, has exposed the hypocrisies and misfeasance of the political establishment.

Around the developed world, political outsiders and neophytes are upending the conventional wisdom on a wave of popular disaffection. Trump, Corbyn or Sanders are just different faces of the same generalised public disquiet with the ‘Old Order’.

The NGOs, including the religious-based ones, once beyond reproach for their apparent selfless dedication, are showing their flaws. From wasteful self-indulgence to the predatory abuse of the very people they claim to serve and protect, scandal after scandal has engulfed the sector all around the globe.

And the peak creations of the globalised capitalist model, multinational corporations and the financial institutions that supported them, have shown that they do not deserve the trust that they had asked the public to place in them.

Even the media that were once the ultimate arbiters of fact and were sufficiently powerful to be labelled ‘The Fourth Estate’ have lost credibility as the old adage “you can’t believe everything you read in the papers” seems to be increasingly true. ‘Fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ have always been with us, with the 20th century providing only very limited alternatives to the official or institutional sources of information.

This has all changed with the ubiquity of the internet and the smart phone.

Today, individuals are liberated by instant access to their own sources of news, information and opinion. They can, and do, choose who they rely on, who needs to be taken with a pinch of salt and who should be ignored completely.

However, this process of apparent self-selection is subverted by the algorithms behind the newsfeeds, which dish up items that are most likely to engage the individual based on their prior searches. Consequently, it has become all too easy to fall into a myriad of self-reinforcing, echo chambers populated with “people like me”. Have you embraced these changes and adopted appropriately or do you still have work to do?

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