Opinion: Page (1) of 2 - 06/25/04 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at MyDmn.com).print page facebook

Independent Workers Changing Employer/Employee Relationship

Workplace being turned inside out By G.A. "Andy" Marken

The factory dominated the 19th Century.  Everything evolved around it.  People spent their lives working for the man.  Today less than 15% of the U.S. employees work in production or manufacturing. 

The 20th Century was dominated by the office.  According to the department of labor by the end of last year at least 44% of the employees were gathering, processing, retrieving and analyzing information...in the office.

Lou Gerstner, president of IBM, and many other business leaders have already dubbed the first half of 21st Century the Internet and knowledge era.  They explain that the Internet is about competition, growth and reaching out to customers and that real time access to information is the key business differentiator.

I am more inclined to agree with Will Hutton, chief executive of Britain's The Industrial Society.  Hutton states that while we don't yet fully understand the rules and dynamics of the new era we do know it is turning the workplace inside out.  He asserts we are entering a network economy that is driven by information and communications technologies and that the network will increasingly be made up of independent workers who will change the employer/employee relationship. 

The Empowered Worker
Already more than 30 million U.S. workers are free agent contract workers.  Over the next few years Charles Handy, author of The Age of Unreason, estimates that less than of the industrial world's workforce will hold conventional full-time jobs in companies.  Every year, more and more people will be self-employed and full-time insiders will be the minority.

In the 19th Century and first half of the 20th Century there was a real or implied promise that the corporation would provide employees with job security and career progression in return for loyalty and commitment.  But in today's competitive environment firms have to restructure, outsource, downsize, subcontract and form new alliances to survive.  To maintain their competitive edge companies are travelling lighter, covering ground more quickly.  Management has quickly found that the organization has to constantly accelerate or die.  The company that is lean, agile and quick to respond has the edge. 

Competition, technology, recession and increased shareholder value are constantly driving the firms to the point where no one believes the old corporate commitment and employee loyalty and commitment is rapidly disappearing.

Given this environment it is little wonder that the new free agent worker is becoming the mainstay of the workforce and is doing what is important for his or her career.  Far from being "me oriented", this rapidly growing workforce understands that the best way to enhance their intellectual, social and professional capital is to constantly network and constantly move forward. Just as the rapidly changing world deals ruthlessly with organizations that don't change, the new breed of contract employee is quickly learning that the blur of ambiguity is good for their career.

Dealing With the Legacy
They are exploiting the flexibility, capacity and capability of the Internet to allow them to work in totally different ways with the "legacy" parts of the economy.

Because of this firms are going to great lengths to recruit, pay and keep employees happy.  A new class of job brokers and talent scouts have emerged with employee search firms growing twice as fast as the U.S. economy.   Check any issue of the business or trade publications you receive.  There will always be two to three articles on recruiting and job enhancement.

Look at the on-line and print classifieds.  Listen to what companies and search firms are offering.  The attention is on a stimulating work environment, relaxed dress codes, attention to work/life issues and a fun place to work.  Firms that fall short in these areas know they will lose the best people?the people they need to survive and grow. 

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Related Keywords:Independent workers, U.S. employees, work, production, manufacturing, department of labor, workplace, turned inside out, Kaizen, free agent worker


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