In a world where Specialists are found in each field, how does it feel to be a Generalist? I am among those Generalists and apart from this, I am a woman and can handle thousands of things! (..so I thought once, but this is something for a next posts :-))
I have general education in economics as well as further specification in HR and Finance. My professional life was mainly applied to Start-ups and small companies and this enabled me to play the game in each of the varied disciplines. So, I became great and efficient at it. A multitasking She-Generalist, with entrepreneurial thinking in a fast spinning and very specialized world. Therefore, currently, what does being a Generalist entail and what value can one add to a company?
I came to believe that the main value is explicitly being able to do everything simultaneously as a multitasker, or individually, in a neat manner. The value is in the small things in-between. The connections between one set of tasks and the other, then being able to recognize a benefit in one section, because the company optimizes another.
A Specialist is very much needed to explore and implement business and projects in his field. The other Specialist does the same in his. The value of Specialists and the work they do is out of the question! But just having Specialists in a company and not people who think connectedly out of knowledge and experience in between the specialized fields, would mean missing opportunities. And once again, I mean explicitly not the global connected thinker in the C or Management level; I refer to ‘simple‘ employees.
How many times have you started a conversation about a specific topic but the so much needed and mindblowing idea hit you, when you drifted to something absolutely irrelevant like talking about your last vacation, or the progress in your house-building-project?
This is, as I call it, the ‘Generalist-Effect’.
Is this valuable enough for a company?
If you look through job ads, it doesn’t seem so. When you attend job interviews it doesn’t seem so either. Everyone is looking for the ultimate Specialist with vast experience in his/her specialization.
What makes it difficult for companies to first see and then value a Generalist? First of all, a Generalist is difficult to place and handle in the HR systems. Then. a Generalist can be irritating or maybe even ‘dangerous.‘
-Should the company that is looking for a Marketing person now, put this Generalist that has skills in marketing and in business operations, really in Marketing or would he be better placed in a business operations role?
-If the company needs to think of fair compensation, now would this Generalist be found in compensation-data of Marketing (the job that the company ended up hiring her for) or rather of business operations, as this is also a field in which the person has knowledge? You get what I mean?
Dear companies and people working in them, mostly the HR departments:
Don’t underestimate the Generalist-Effect; the value of talents feeling at ease in more than one department. They are beneficial and resourceful if you see their value, despite dealing with the challenge to adequately put them into your data systems and maybe also manage them.
Try to localize them in your company, to find their strong background-fields. Also, from time to time ask for their input and expertise in one field such as business operations, to stick to the example, even though the person is working in another, for instance, Marketing.
Give it a try and see what happens.