Who are corporate anthropologists and how to get into this profession


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To operate effectively, a business needs to think about its employees. Experts in corporate anthropology study the behavior of employees in order to build competent interactions between them.

We tell you how they do it

What is a Corporate Anthropologist?

A corporate anthropologist is a professional who studies company culture, informal relationships, and team behavior to learn business lessons from them. His conclusions are based not on formal arguments in favor of efficiency or dry analytics, but on the everyday state of affairs.

For example, managers may invite workers to a plant who regularly exceed targets in the hope that others will follow a good example. But, as practice shows , productivity will not increase. Other employees will ask newcomers to work like everyone else, so that management does not raise the established bar for receiving a bonus. Such informal connections are monitored by corporate anthropologists.

What does a corporate anthropologist do?

These specialists use different methods from anthropology, ethnography and sociology. One of the key tools in their arsenal is participant observation. This is a qualitative study that involves varying degrees of involvement, from simple observation to direct participation.

Participant observation techniques are used when they want to learn more about the lives of different groups of people. For example, a scientist might infiltrate a closed religious community or establish contact with an isolated tribe of natives to understand how things work from the inside. Corporate anthropologists perceive a company as an equally isolated community with its own informal laws.

Corporate anthropologists also conduct in-depth interviews and informal conversations with employees and management, studying office environment, nonverbal behavior, schedules, processes and activities, and employee attitudes towards them. From the information received, insights are extracted that help improve internal communications and establish interaction between individuals or departments of the company.

Skills Required by a Corporate Anthropologist

The profession will require basic knowledge of anthropology, which includes the social and cultural sections of this science. They are the ones who focus on researching different communities. However, additional skills will be useful for successful career growth:

  • multilingual and multicultural to communicate and understand different people;
  • critical and analytical thinking to correctly collect, evaluate and interpret information;
  • knowledge of corporate law, which will help you navigate the restrictions and responsibilities of different parties in the company;
  • communication and presentation skills to convey your ideas and give thoughtful feedback.

Trends and directions of the profession

As corporate culture experts, corporate anthropologists can be useful contributors to the creation of EVPs—employer value propositions. This is a set of benefits specific to a particular organization. They can greatly influence the decisions of job seekers when choosing a job.

A well-designed EVP can increase overall job applications by 39%, reduce job fill time by 24%, and increase the number of resumes received from high-potential candidates by 18%. Research by a corporate anthropologist will help identify and correctly convey the values ​​that a company can offer to employees.

Developing employer branding—the company’s image in the eyes of job seekers—is another important area in which corporate anthropologists can come in handy. According to workplace assessment company Great Place To Work, organizations that focus on their brand experience higher productivity, profitability and resilience during crises than their competitors.

Where and when will the profession come from?

Corporate anthropology comes to us from the classical science of different human societies. The first experiments on monitoring employees of specific industries as separate groups began in the 20s of the last century.

With the development of managerial approaches and the emergence of new business structures, companies increasingly began to need specialists in corporate anthropology. In 1996, the term “employer brand” was first coined , which marked the beginning of numerous studies in this area.

Today, corporate anthropologists are hired by giants like Intel and Nokia. Experts in this area publish books for top managers, where they compare corporate teams with tribes that have their own customs, foundations and rituals.

How to become a corporate anthropologist

Cultural and social anthropology in universities is studied in anthropology and ethnology programs , but basic knowledge for starting a profession is also obtained in other educational areas. Education in the field of psychology and sociology provides the necessary skills .

After training, you can find a job in this field in a specialized organization that is specifically engaged in anthropological research of corporations. Among them, for example, is the “ Academy of Social Technologies ”.


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