It seems that the future working is occupying a lot of thinkers across the board (see some samples below) – and for good reason. What the labour force does, how it behaves and how it thinks is absolutely critical for the whole economic system.
The workforce is at the bottom and the top of the capitalist pyramid: at the bottom, it moves the cogs of the Great Machine that generates wealth. But in a consumer-driven world, the workforce – essentially – drives the great machine with its buying power.
In our times, we are seeing something as critical as the industrial revolution happening to the Great Machine: it stops being a pyramid. Not least because of how it interacts with its workforce.
Either have it or eat it.
The Great Machine’s relationship with the hands that build it (employees) and feed it (consumers) is are odds with each other, even though the hands that build and feed it are the same: it cannot guarantee longevity and security to the employees, yet it seeks to please its consumers and retain them for as long as possible.
In other words “we want you to keep buying from us, but we can’t guarantee we will pay you a salary”.
It isn’t by chance that the workforce, that is older than ever, more educated than ever, more experienced and most entrepreneurial is not letting the Great Machine pull wool over its eyes.
While you decide, I’ll bake my own cake
More and more experienced, successful and highly capable people leave organisations in favour of joining the new transient workforce: Talent On Demand, Humans As A Service (HuaaS – yes, it exists!). These people realise that they are not going to wait for the Great Machine to decide if it is going to have the cake or eat it. They’re baking their own cake, thank you very much.
So what happens to careers when so many people are no longer dependent on the traditional career ladders that organisations offer them? They are not going to work to get promoted. They are hired to get a job done. That job may involve working with other people.
All of a sudden, your career isn’t so much a path forward to progression, but rather the journey taken and reputation accrued.
How do we achieve this? The thinkers believe that the literal move (“climb up the ladder”) is about pushing up your collaborative and motivational abilities – work with more people, across more projects, across more silos, organisations and industries rather accruing subordinates.
The lateral move (“sideways move”, the one that utilises transferrable skills and networks) won’t have changed much, technically, because the transient talent does that all the time. The whole point of contracting is to leverages knowledge, experience and networks to make something happen elsewhere.
We do expect it, however, to increase its content. Where people tended to make lateral moves within organisations or industries, there is an expectation (or belief) that the new skills of the new talent are applicable across the board.
Your Career as Bakeoff
Careers for transient talent is essentially a never ending Bakeoff competition. Every contract is another week in the tent, where they will have a signature, technical and showstopper challenge.
The onus of learning from experiences is on the talent. The duty of keeping up with new thinking, trends and standards is on the talent. The charge of innovating and disrupting is theirs as well.
The new career is no longer about the linear progress, but about navigating the network of experiences each stage of the bakeoff has to offer.
Organisational sigh of relief?
So does this mean that organisations should stop developing their employees careers? Not necessarily. This is a prime opportunity to engage with the talent they are so desperately fighting for and help them build up their career, traditional or transient.
How do we do that? Another post, maybe…
About The New World of Work:
Workers on Tap (from The Economist)
Uber is Changing the World of Work (New York Times)
On-Demand Workers Speak Up (from Wall Street Journal)
Building a Meaningful Career (from HBR)
Crowdsourcing (a nicer name for HuaaS)
A blog about leadership in a HuaaS world
What do you think? Where is the new world of work taking careers? Or is it all a fad? Comment below!
If you would like to talk more about career management, we’d love to hear from you!
Photo and name credit: The Great British Bakeoff, its logos and images are property of the BBC.