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Emerging future of work

MUCH HAS been said and written about the Future of Work. There are dozens of books on this. In 1984, London Business School’s Charles Handy foretold the end of full-time employment. Twenty years later, Thomas Malone, backed by 20 years of research, foresaw a workplace revolution that could dramatically change how organizations would be designed and how employees’ roles would change.

The latest prolific thinker on the future of work is Jacob Morgan. His 2014 book is challenging the managers today. He wrote, “Throughout history, employees had to adapt to managers, and managers had to adapt to organizations. In the future, managers and organizations must adapt to employees.”

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On April 17, 2016, Morgan posted in the social networks, “The workplace of the past is gone… We are now talking about homing from work, not working from home.”

Old and new jobs

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Before February 4, 2004, there was no Facebook. In January 1993, there were only 50 Web servers around the world. By September 2015, there were more than 893 million servers. Twenty-five years ago, there were no jobs related to web programming, online marketing, and mobile technology. Today, roughly 25 percent of jobs in the world have got to do with these. The more popular regular jobs 25 years ago – telephone operator, postman, or messenger – hardly exist today. Because of technological advances, many have lost their jobs. They will likely find jobs again, but not the same jobs.

In the future, security of tenure consists in having the ability to perform a variety of work needed at any given time, as you move from one project,organization or country to another.In the past, a college diploma was a passport to a stable, regular job. Today, college is the new high school. Education today is more accessible, and there’s no longer an excuse for not knowing. But jobs have become more competitive. As there are more learned jobseekers, the complexity of job specifications and job functions has also increased.

Work is not a place

In the past, work used to be an office, farm or factory. Phones were attached to an address. Today, phones are attached to people. With smartphones, you can work anywhere, anytime. Christopher Columbus tried hard to prove that the world is round. Goodbye, Columbus – the world is now flat again, and so are the organizations. In 2004, Jetblue allowed 700 customer representatives to work at home, without a hierarchical central office. In the future, location will no longer matter.

In their latest debate, Presidential candidates promised to end the so-called “contractualization” of work. They made sweeping statements that belie intimate knowledge of business realities. If they mean job contracting, their promises are hollow and meant to please the labor vote, which does not exist.

The rest of the world is outsourcing and contracting out work. These modes of doing business are legal and legitimate, and will be here to stay if the Philippines must compete globally. The BPO industry is based on temporary contracts with big principals who prefer to focus on their core processes. Employment in this sector is as temporary as the contract with the principals. But the BPO industry provides jobs to 1.2 million Filipinos and brings in annual revenues of $25 billion, almost equaling the OFW remittances.

Crowdsourcing is an emerging work modality. Work is split into tiny parts and passed on to thousands of separate, independent workers. Wikipedia’s 13 million articles are made not by its employees but by independent writers. Regular employees don’t make the columns and articles that you read in local and foreign newspapers. Newspapers hire temporary and independent writers, columnists, and mercenaries towin the war for great content and ideas.

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Job competitiveness

To have a job – regular, temporary, or non-standard – you must excel and stand out. Work is now on demand. Organizations prefer contract relationships to regular employees. For many types of work, “career” is as obsolete as the “typewriter.” Work today and in the future is more transparent, flat, competitive and on demand.

The typical job is with project teams, whether in construction, merchandising, BPO, or Hollywood where different teams are formed for various project stages. In Hollywood, once the movie is cast in DVD, all the teams – casting, carpentry, transportation, commissary, editing, etc. — simply collapse. Team members go their separate ways. Will they work together again? Maybe. Or maybe not.

This arrangement puts the power to choose work in the hands of individuals who excel and qualify for several types of work. Organizations benefit from a job market filled with competent workforce. There are no free riders or fence sitters.

Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

To survive, ADOPT a flexible mindset. ADAPT to change. Be ADEPT at what you do.
(Ernie is the 2013 Executive Director and 1999 President of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP); Chair of the AMCHAM Human Capital Committee; and Co-Chair of ECOP’s TWG on Labor and Social Policy Issues. He also chairs the Accreditation Council for the PMAP Society of Fellows in People Management. He is President and CEO of EC Business Solutions and Career Center. Contact him at [email protected])

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