A reprise on the changing nature of employment

Posted in: Bloggery

In our October blog Matt Gaffney wrote about our approach in supporting self-employment, as one of several career directions someone might consider whilst working with us.  There are a range of reasons why this pathway deserves some consideration, in the context of a career transition – and Matt covers these and a great deal more.

However, there is a broader issue here – and this relates to the changing nature of employment itself.  Imagine a line, a continuum, with regular employment in a fairly secure environment, perhaps in a government department, at one end, and being a self-employed window washer, prowling the suburbs engaged on very much on a job by job basis at the other end of this continuum.

As we move along this line we move from a secure employment context, through jobs with varying degrees of security in corporate life, through life in more entrepreneurial enterprises, through commission based engagements, through the provision of interim services (perhaps as an interim CFO, or a project director), to joining a consultancy or establishing a solo consultancy, to services delivery (eg courier services), through to business formation (such as starting up a recruitment business, to franchising (working in a system built by others), to directorships and advisory work, and finally bumping up against that window washer perhaps!  This is quite a continuum.

The main point however, is that the distinction between positions on this continuum is getting more and more blurred.  The employer associated with long-term security is becoming a rare species, and institutions within them such as the 25 year (service) club are becoming even rarer.  In short, even regular employment is more an evolving series of “contracts” with external or internal changes making salaried employment far less secure than it used to be.  Survival, growth, fulfilment is now much more in the hands of the individual – and whichever “envelope” is your preferred destination on this continuum, the best operating mode to adopt is to consider yourself self-employed.

A self-employed perspective alerts you to the need to be continually appraising your market:  “Is there a need for what I am delivering?” and/or “What do I need to change so that I am really working to the real needs of those who are engaging me?”  “Am I making the best use of technology?”

A self-employed perspective also causes you to examine yourself and your practices and to build around you needed capabilities.  “Am I approaching this set of expectations as well as I might?” “Am I using my signature strengths, or burning myself out in activities which require huge effort for me?” “Am I successfully communicating with, building relationships with and engaging those around me?” “Am I listening – and picking up changes and shifts in priorities?”

Pure self-employment requires the deployment of a number of aptitudes – which we explore with those we work with.  However whatever form of employment is taken up, a self-employed perspective – seeing yourself as a business of one – and people in organisations as a bunch of customers, is a useful and pragmatic approach more likely to deliver employment security now than the uncritical, dependent loyalty given to the organisation in past decades.

Of course much of this is self-evident.  We see the evidence all around us.  This perspective helps us as well, as we work with senior people to unpack their experience and achievements and to articulate their capabilities.  A little time is given as well to widening the canvas, to considering new directions and new ways of working.  We work from there to helping individuals research markets – including within organisations – with specialists and data bases, and then guide what we see as the “marketing” and “sales” activities of their nascent new one-person “businesses”.  Marketing means understanding needs and opportunities, and selecting channels (ways to become visible to the right people)  and sales involves developing solutions (with a tailored resume a part of this), putting the case, exploring and widening the perspectives of others, and of course elements of negotiation.

Ironically, just as this approach is becoming a pragmatic response to employment realities, at the same time some organisations are beginning to realise that to attract highly talented people and to retain their engagement in an ongoing series of “contracts” – their employment and leadership practices and “brand” matters a great deal.  This particular reputation is now built in the social networks facilitated by LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and multiple websites providing commentary on just what life is like in our large organisations.

Just as we individuals can no longer count on enduring loyalty from an organisation, neither can they in turn count on our dependency on them.  We have written fairly extensively on this subject, and thus far the numbers of organisations focusing on building advocacy for themselves in current and past employees is fairly small.  When the fees accepted for career transition services are driven down to derisory levels and a superficial service is purchased, many organisations simply don’t see how their reputation is impacted, and how savings in this area of expense are simply driving upwards much more significant costs in talent attraction and retention.

Contact us if you would like to see a bit more material on this subject!