John Ruffolo, CEO of OMERS Ventures has said “In one generation, there will be no employees. Every-one is going be a subcontractor.” Can you imagine this world? No employees. No jobs. Just networks of skilled people being organized to work on tasks and projects as needed. You might consider this a fantasy or at least so far in the future that it doesn’t concern you. Yet a few years ago taxi drivers would have thought it a fantasy that an iPhone app could drive them out of busi-ness. And are truck drivers safe to think that driverless vehicles are so far in the future that it won’t affect them? Yes, it’s likely that not everyone will be forced into the subcontractor role, but let’s not make the mistake of thinking that his jobless future, in one guise or another, won’t have a significant impact on your career and your organization.
Yes, but what do I do?
Even if you buy into the idea that there will be a big shift away from employees in jobs and towards free agents doing projects it can be hard to imagine what that would really look like in your own organ-ization. You are not alone, I don’t think anyone quite knows how this shift will play out. A metaphor that I use is that of the medieval home builder for whom each stone and each piece of timber was unique and every unique part carefully fitted together. What would they make of the modern world where new houses are bolted together from standardized components? The medieval builder couldn’t imagine using a prefabricated window since every window they knew had a unique size and was never exactly square. But the world has evolved to modularized parts and we’ll see something like that happening to the world of work. There is no need to figure everything out in advance or even to have some kind of master vision. You just need a process that will move you in the right direction so that you make progress and learn as you go. So focus on the learning process not on figuring out the end result.
The first step is to have someone accountable for moving the organization in this direction; probably a VP of HR who can take responsibility for guiding the change. They’ll need a budget for this work, alt-hough it may not cost very much to start moving some work from employees to free agents. Next try using talent platforms at a small scale. Go to a freelance consultant site like MBA&Co to hire one consultant; go to a freelancer video sit like Tongal to make one marketing or HR video; go to a field agent sight like FieldNation to hire a handful of field agents to supplement your existing workforce. Once you are comfortable using these platforms look for an opportunity to have a bigger impact. If a department is always asking for more headcount step in and see if you can avoid that headcount by contracting out more work. If an area is going through a big reorganization see what work is best done by traditional employees and which is best done by free agents.Finally if a department has been cut back significantly, lighten their load by giving them a budget to use free agents. The world is changing, if you get involved in being part of that change, rather than sitting on the side-lines, you’ll do well.