Originally published on Association for Talent Development Insights blog: https://www.td.org/insights/understanding-whats-next-in-talent-links-in-the-people-cloud-future

In this installment of the People Cloud blog series, we continue to explore the emerging talent landscape in which individuals and organizations are connected and collaborating like never before.

With an estimated 2.4 billion individuals expected to be active on social media by 2016, more than 30 percent of the global population will have the unprecedented capability to connect with anyone, anywhere around the world.

This growing human capital network is bridging physical and digital worlds, reshaping workplace culture, and reframing economic systems. In addition, the emergence of the Internet of Things will enable us to expand our connections beyond individuals to include objects, systems, and devices, further intensifying the impact of the People CLOUD.

Blurred Lines: Physical and Digital Worlds Converge

Although individuals continue to join social networking sites in droves, adoption of social media tools among corporate organizations has been mixed as companies struggle to measure the ROIof these online networks.  Embedded in this resistance is the fallacy that our physical and digital environments are separate, as well as the notion that online worlds are less important than their offline counterparts.

According to Dr. Jim Blascovich, professor of psychology at Loyola University of Chicago, humans actually do not discern the difference between the physical and digital worlds, dispelling the myth of what he terms “digital dualism.”  In fact, Blascovich and others believe that viewing the physical as fully “real” and the online as merely “virtual” is equivalent to ancient philosophers who believed that the mind was separate from the body.

Our physical connection to the digital world is also demonstrated by the effects that one has upon the other. For example, cyberbulling is now considered a jailable offense, social media has become a tool for real-world innovation, and toys such as Legos are being used to seamlessly blend the digital and physical worlds to enhance creativity.

Passion-Based Networks: A Solution for Generational Warfare

As individuals seamlessly move between digital and physical environments, our work places will become increasingly meshed. New, hybrid organizational cultures will represent this reality.

For example, the creation of physical and virtual communities in order to tackle collective issues has garnered attention from journalists, agriculturers, Internet developers, and city planners. These hyperlocal networks, which have traditionally included a common geographic locale, are now enhanced by the Internet and are enabling people from all walks of life to form bonds around shared passions, both professional and personal.

Fueled by the transformational shift in society and business along with the convergence of emerging technology, social change, and entirely new landscapes of complexity, these networks are even causing the well-defined notion of the socio-historical generation to begin to fade. Instead of traditional generations (and the generational warfare often attributed to them in organizations), we are seeing the emergence of passion-oriented cohorts or the concept of GenCohort.

While there are still Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, GenX, and GenY, as well as new generations emerging, the lines are increasingly blurring in the face of what many are now recognizing as a new stage in human development.  Rather than a common birth year, GenCohorts share characteristics like resiliency, adaptability, collaboration, and the desire for passion-specific career paths.

The Reputation Economy

This reframed career ladder is also a product of our environment of accelerating change, where “who you know” is becoming increasingly more important than “what you know” because data and knowledge has a decreasing shelf-life.  Organizations have begun to recognize the benefit of social capital as they simultaneously discount the value of a formal education.

Evaluating an individual’s online influence via this “reputation currency” has become an important way to recruit and select candidates. And this new currency is fueling the open, sharing economy, but its impact is being felt in traditional markets as well with candidates creating personal brands.

Ultimately, our “linked” social networks place greater power in the hands of the individual. More than ever before applicants have the ability to test whether or not potential organizations are good matches for them. For example, the Pop Up Agency was created to offer an alternative internship, challenging traditional ways of work by spending short periods of time with companies to work on specific projects. Likewise, such programs as the Experience Institute are accepting students that want to learn through stints with various organizations and ultimately create and customize their education.

Linking People, Places, and Things: The Age of Networked Matter

Clearly, connective technologies are creating networks of empowered individuals that would never have existed in a previous era, but what happens when the People Cloud expands beyond people?

Many are familiar with the concept of the Internet of Things, but we are rapidly approaching the Internet of Everything—a world full of connected and intelligent devices that collect data, optimize usage, and allow for better outcomes.

In what some are calling the age of Networked Matter, all objects in both our natural and built environments will be able to communicate with one another, providing us with information to make smarter decisions. In this landscape, it’s not difficult to imagine work teams which include non carbon-based life forms alongside their human counterparts.  In fact, this interaction of inanimate and biological matter could completely reshape communities, workplaces, families, and ultimately our view of the world.

Questions for Reflection

  • How does the flawed belief of digital dualism impact your organization’s culture, policies and processes?
  • Will the emergence of GenCohort (and its impact on traditional career pathing) transform learning and development within organizations?
  • In what ways can your organization leverage the shift towards reputation currency?


Yvette Montero Salvatico

Yvette Montero Salvatico is a Principal and Managing Director of The Futures School. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance and an MBA from the University of Florida, Yvette has over 15 years of corporate experience with large, multi-national firms such as Kimberly-Clark and The Walt Disney Company. Read more.