Amazon Go just opened its first store in Seattle and the ‘future’ has yet again taken on a whole new meaning. Artificial intelligence has created a new age of disruption that has begun to change the future of work. The future of work is also marked by two interesting concepts shifting where and how work is happening- the Gig economy and Holacracy!
A new NPR/ Marist poll finds that 1 in 5 jobs in America is held by a worker under contract. Within a decade contractors and freelancers could make up half of the American workforce. Workers across all levels and geographies will be touched by the movement towards independent work. According to a recent study by the McKinsey Global institute, up to 162 million people in the United States and Europe are involved in some form of independent work. According to economists Alan Krueger and Lawrence Katz, the percentage of people engaged in “alternative work arrangements” (freelancers, contractors, on-call workers and temp agency workers) grew from 10.1 percent in 2005 to 15.8 percent in 2015.
Holacracy, on the other hand feels like the gig economy being played out internally, or at-least some parts of it. It is an organizational model breaking out from the shackles of bureaucracy and hierarchy into one where individuals take greater accountability for their own work with distributed leadership when it comes to teams, rather than having one boss and a reporting structure. Made popular by Zappos and Medium the concept was first introduced in 2007 by entrepreneur Brian Robertson, but given its challenges is taking more time to take a stronghold in the economy.
To me these represent the two extremes of a spectrum within which most organizations operate, with very few leaning fully towards one or the other. However, depending on the way they lean in the future, these three aspects are similar in the two models that convey some subliminal messages:
Flexibility over Fiefdoms
The modern economy is moving away from the constraints of traditional work models. People are reaching the limits of work overload, stress, time away from family and corporate politics and hence, not finding the returns of working the traditional way meaningful enough. Collectively they are smashing barriers and mind sets and walking away from steady paychecks in order to live their life on more flexible terms. They want greater control of what they do and when they do their work, rather than being told to do their work in the way someone else expects it done.
Purpose over Pay
Individuals today are much more interested in the meaning and purpose of their existence and what they do during the day when it comes to work. Therefore, the social or deeper purpose of what their work contributes to, matters a whole lot more, often at the cost of pay. There are many instances of people walking away from guaranteed and lucrative salaries to follow their passion. Even within corporations that do not have holacratic models there is a movement towards individuals wanting to work on projects of their choice and of increasing levels of difficulty compared to incremental salary increases.
Express over Extinguish
Individuals have opinions and circumstances often suppress them from saying what they want. Towing the line and staying within corporate etiquette and expectations might have taken silence a bit too far and by the time an eruption occurs it is loud. It can start a wave as the #metoo movement has shown us in recent times. But this is not just about women or the #metoo movement, this is about individuals feeling that they deserve better in certain circumstances and not being afraid to say it out loud or taking actions to convey what they want.
Both these models have pros and cons for the individual and the organization and are not necessarily easy to operate. There are trade-offs in both but the fact remains that these are gaining ground so what can organizations do to brace for these kinds of sentiments kindling within an employee before they become regrettable losses.
First and fore-most organizations need to ensure that they have agility built within their DNA. The HR structure and people processes have to be in a constant state of ‘smart’ evolution focusing on employee centricity, business savvy and technology readiness. People processes need to evolve to make them seamless and value added and for that, the right people need to be in place driving the right thinking.
People Strategy and Culture
HR needs to help the business craft and embrace a People Strategy that looks to the future in getting the right talent mix from the right talent pools and balance the ‘Build, buy or rent’ talent equation well. Culture is rightfully gaining pre-eminence in most places today as it is the glue that makes people come together whether they operate in traditional structures, holacratic models or the virtual gig economy. Therefore, getting culture right overshadows a lot of other aspects of the business.
The Right Talent Infrastructure
HR processes are not going away anytime soon. While some, like performance and reward practices may be under scrutiny, there is still the need to have some form of governance in the most flexible of models. Employees are interested in their careers and helping them grow and develop with the right career tools, exciting projects and mentorship will be key. Enabling HR experiences over mobile devices on a ‘just-in-time’ basis will continue to drive how the employee mind share is captured.
As the world braces for more disruptive innovation, the key focus for HR functions needs to be on building more agility. This will help them take on the people strategy and culture along with the building blocks of talent with vision and speed to continue to drive business value.