Our liquid world of work
As the gig economy emerges more strongly we’re seeing low skilled work with startups like Uber, Airtasker, Deliveroo offer opportunities for the under employed, those seeking additional income and those who choose short term transactional income.
A recent article in the AFR warns of some of the social and financial down side of the gig economy and the likely impact on more traditional industries and long established work practices (read likely as eventual and inevitable on both counts).
Prof John Buchanan (in that same article) says that sometimes so called innovation is just about risk shifting. What does risk shifting look like? What specifically does that mean for employers and employees?
For the forseeable future, employers will want to create and maintain a strong competitive advantage – no news there. They’ll need high caliber people to achieve results – likewise, no surprises. But we do see change and disruption. There are new rules for how we work taking hold as organizations strive to improve their flexibility and financial performance (shedding fixed costs in property, labour and technology) in three key ways
1. Activity based work – hot desking saves money. Real estate is expensive for any business. ABW also encourages a new way for employees to engage, collaborate and work with agility (see my next blog for more on this topic)
2. Contractor and casual workers – shifting wages off the balance sheet helps organizations remain nimble
3. Cloud based technology – means organizations can shift away from cumbersome, expensive enterprise software to SaaS contemporary technology for far less financial investment than was historically possible
So that’s the enterprise side of the equation sorted (for now), what about the employee side of the fence?
How do individuals stay up the curve in a world that could be more transactional than we care to contemplate? If more and more of us move to contemporary modes of employment – portfolio work, contract, casual gigs over permanent, full time roles, how do we achieve more certainty, control and choice? Bear in mind that gig workers, like most of us, still look for pride, enjoyment and adventure in their work so that won’t change.
Here are 3 simple things to kick off the conversation.
1. Be prepared for your next gig – that doesn’t mean counting down minus days to a planned exit – it means right now. Ask yourself how you are increasingly creating value for your team, your leader, your organization and therefore yourself. The key to career progression is adding more and more value over time. Work out what that is and how you’ll do it.
2. Grow your skills and keep relevant– plan the skills you’ll need next and start working on them now. Bear in mind, we’re probably not talking technical skills here as much as those skills which will give you flexibility and dexterity – collaboration, communication, problem solving, creative thinking. Build you digital literacy. Are you a digital native, immigrant, voyeur, hold out or just plain disengaged? Where ever to sit on the digital generation spectrum, unless you’re a native, act to shift the needle ever so slightly towards tomorrow.
3. Keep listening and keep learning – share your successes, milestones and challenges with people you trust. They’ll be your cheer squad and support network as your working life morphs. Don’t under estimate how willing leaders are to support your enthusiasm and success, especially if you own the responsibility. Leaders just love people who want to be accountable and proactive about their own work and their future. After all, your success is theirs too. Make it a practice every day, reflect on what you did well, or would do differently next time.
What we’ve looked at here is really about the new frame for work and a new psychological contract of ownership. The tide is going out on our old ways of doing things. It’s a liquid world we’re moving towards. Both employers and employees carry the responsibility to create success. We mutually have so much to gain (or lose) together. While nothing is perfect, remember what we’re aiming for in this world of uncertainty is more of the good stuff – risk morphing if you like – to certainty, control and choice. Small steps matter.