Meta-trend: personal is the new professional

At Noggin we work with HR teams all the time. And for quite a while, we’ve noticed that the way people are valued by organisations, is shifting.

As it’s our mission at Noggin to ensure people feel A) valued, B) capable and C) liked (we call this our ABC model), this development has been of real interest to us.

Whereas people used to be valued on their productivity, the focus is now shifting to relational skills.

This time, it’s personal.


Some of the micro-trends behind this shift are obvious. The automation revolution is seeing machines replacing humans up and down the workforce spectrum, meaning productivity in those areas has been improved, and standardised.

Many millenials are servicing multiple contracts in the gig economy, dramatically increasing the number of relational dynamics they exist in – one job for life (with one line to manage, and one user base to service) is now increasingly rare, and within a generation could be a thing of the past.

And as the marketplace levels out into a more lateral field, in which niche players can take on global giants, customer service is seen as a prime differentiator in the user experience stakes – where being relationally great with people can help win customers for life, for new and emerging players.

Suddenly, relational skills – aka people skills, soft skills or life skills – carry a premium.

The big one

But in addition to the above drivers, we see one meta-trend driving the price of soft skills up.

What we notice across the board in our clients is the collapse of people’s personal and professional lives into one thing. And like all things that initially happen at the level of existential realisation, it’s everywhere all at once, with many people beginning to understand the same thing, in their own way, in various stages.

Typically, the first stage is resistance to change. People sensing, sub-consciously, that there is something they want that requires real change in order to attain. Self-preservation structures kick in – instinctual drivers that exist in our structure to preserve the status quo, and avoid the conflict that happens in change.

Secondly, people identify the change that is needed, and – gingerly – begin experimenting with the emergent space that exists when their personal and professional lives start to merge. Unsurprisingly, not many people experiment with being more ‘professional’ at home. Call it deeper intuition, but most people enjoy taking their real selves to work, and sharing more about who they really are with their colleagues.

The final stage in this journey is when people realise that not only does the organisational culture they exist in improve when more people start to experiment in this way, but their own performance at work goes through the roof (hence Noggin’s famous strapline: ‘people in good places do good things’).

In other words, everyone thrives

This is largely down to the instant relational bridges that appear when people focus on turning up the soft skills.

Previously, in the separate personal and professional worlds, it was always difficult to justify soft (personal) skills in a hard (professional) environment. Thankfully for all of us, this is changing, and in all kinds of ways.

One client asked us to spend time coaching his family.

Others report being more present while at home.

And we are helping countless individuals to overcome the resistance in stage one, the butterflies in stage two, and to make the most of stage three, once they get there.

This kind of change only happens once every few generations.

At Noggin we are passionate about putting people in good places – to do good stuff – and would love to talk to you if you feel the same way.

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