Today, the average person will spend approximately 90,000 hours of their life at work. Unofficially, due to the increasingly blurred lines between work and home, that number may be even higher.
In return for this time commitment, employers traditionally provided financial security. Employees have often traded the freedom and flexibility for the peace of mind that comes from a consistent paycheck. Concert workers, on the other hand, take much more risk in return for greater autonomy and independence.
But the definition of “work” is changing, and the expectations of a new generation, combined with the dismantling of traditional organizational hierarchies, point to a new direction for the future of work, one that puts an end to the long-standing battle. date between freedom and security.
Brief history of the trades
Albert Walker was a concert worker. He was primarily a farmer, but to supplement his income and fuel his interests he also took up some side activities. He made cutlery and watches, and he had a special affinity for inventing magic tricks. Magic was his passion, but he was looking for ways to monetize it by building props, stage decorations, and props.
His life was not that different from that of a developer working at Google who builds a website or an app on the side, or runs a YouTube channel, or sharpens knives in his spare time.
The only difference is he lived in the 1800s.
Our current idea of a job is a relatively new concept. In the 1800s, approximately 80% of Americans were independent, self-sufficient, and grew their own food without the support of an employer. Many might even be considered “stage workers,” like Albert, doing jobs for clients that match their skills and interests.
In the early 1920s, the nature of work began to change. Factories opened, drawing farmers to towns, and an influx of European immigrants created a market for workers. The working class enabled factories to increase production and growth and created a need for organizations and leadership that were not previously needed in small businesses and corporations.
A new social contract has been drawn up. Workers could trade their freedom for the security of 40 hours a week with a stable wage. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 established minimum wages, overtime pay, and record keeping. In the 1950s, the pendulum swung completely the other way around and 90% of Americans had “jobs”.
Today we are in the midst of another wave of change. According to Johnny C. taylor, President and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), there have been no significant changes to the FLSA for over 80 years, and the legislation has not kept up with societal and technological advances. Divisions between ridesharing services, their drivers and regulators are signs of growing pains. The boom in the odd-job economy, Gen Z behaviors and preferences, and the shift to an employee market are driving major changes in work as we know it.
Gen Z are the first truly digital natives, and they have very different expectations than previous generations. Their work demands are shaped by five distinct characteristics:
- They prioritize financial security: Taylor of SHRM explains that Gen Z saw parents and older siblings struggle through the 2008 financial crisis and the global pandemic. They prioritize money and value financial security. They are not afraid to leave the ship for a more profitable offer.
- They prefer short employment sprints: While previous generations have looked for a job for 20 years of life, Gen Z plans to stay for a maximum of three years. They are not discouraged from being viewed as job hoppers.
- They are digital natives: Millennials are straddling the tech divide, but Gen Z is the first generation to have spent their entire lives around digital technologies. They understand the power of artificial intelligence and robotics and their implications for the future.
- They value the leadership acquired: Growing up using technology and social media has taught them to respect deserved leadership – follower numbers mean more to them than job titles.
- They are lifelong learners: Familiar with disruption and rapid change, this generation knows that their future jobs may not even exist yet. They expect to change employers and career paths and are well equipped to learn new skills.
Changes to the offer
As Gen Z values spur a new way of working, a number of market shifts on the supply side are setting the stage for this shift to happen:
- Organizations are lagging behind the market: by Ronald Coase Business theory told us that interactions between businesses and workers come at a cost. If the company could coordinate the job exchange at a lower cost than the market, it made sense to hire and keep employees. When the efficiency of the external market is greater than that of the internal contract, the company loses this transaction. Now, with digital hiring and gig work platforms, external markets are becoming more efficient and transaction costs are falling.
- The rental cost is reduced: Today, it only takes a few clicks to hire someone on Taskrabbit, Upwork, or Uber. 60 million in the United States, people can be classified as gig workers, and 3 million should be added each year.
- Hierarchies collapse: Former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, tell us, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” Slow, change-resistant organizational hierarchies do not keep pace with change in society.
- New forms of organizations are emerging: Tom Malone, founder of MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence, explains that humans make decisions together in five different ways: democracies, communities, hierarchies, markets, and ecosystems. As hierarchical structures shrink, organizations that design for communities, market platforms, and ecosystems become much more important. For example, the Chinese home appliance company, Haier, has grown from $ 15 billion after the GE acquisition to $ 32 billion today. The company uses a separate organizational form with no central management structure. Its 4,000 microenterprises are self-managed and self-managed to serve end users as efficiently as possible.
As more and more employees leave secure jobs behind and opt for stage work, the world of outsourcing and self-employment is still leaving gaps. These workers often lack the security, benefits and sense of purpose that comes from belonging to a larger mission. Stage work is not yet protected by the FLSA and studies show that concert workers may experience a sense of loneliness and lack of fulfillment.
The most forward-looking and innovative organizations will be those that can give their employees a sense of freedom, flexibility and passion to work together with the purpose and support of serving a greater mission.