As none other than Bill Gates has said on more than one occasion: traditional employment based on long-term contracts between a company and its employees will almost certainly become a rarity within the next two decades. The redistribution of value created in the form of a regular salary is also expected to become unusual. What will be the trends of the evolving relationship between companies and the people who work for them?
Whether it is digitalization, automation or “uberization”, the changes affecting the economy are rocking the foundations on which society is built. Although it is difficult to measure the impact of these global developments, many experts from MIT to Oxford are forecasting job losses in the region of 30 to 50% within ten to twenty years. The most optimistic analysts find solace in the fact that history has been punctuated by episodes of “creative destruction”, with job cuts in one industry creating new openings in another. It is a message they are keen to drive home, and it is an assessment shared by Denis Pennel, managing director of the International Confederation of Private Employ¬ment Services. Pennel predicts that we will see the emergence of a type of small series manufacturing that targets customized goods and services. This will be accompanied by a new class of workers / entrepreneurs. Other researchers, however, have a less positive outlook, including the philosopher Bernard Stiegler, who fears widespread proletarianization. Two different visions but one shared conviction: companies are going to have to adapt to new labor patterns.
Adapting to the new collective dynamics
When companies are under pressure from competition, they are sometimes driven to boost their agility by prioritizing small inde¬pendent teams, collaborating with customers (or even rivals) and entering into contractual arrangements that serve their immediate profitability. At the same time, the “collective” is becoming the new cardinal value for the way organizations work. How can you navigate your way between these different imperatives?
Promoting autonomy and accountability
Project mode is now commonplace along with a profound shift in management functions, with yesterday’s “bosses” taking on new tasks: support, feedback and perspectives for action. But companies are going to move even further away from this model of traditional management. Several firms, such as the software developer Sogilis, are already putting their faith in work cells with self-managing teams that define their own goals and recruit¬ment. Certain other companies are opting for flat hierarchies and management based on trust and accountability. This is the case for businesses that subscribe to the holacratic model and other “liberated” companies such as Zappos, Castorama, Auchan, and Poult (a French biscuit manufacturer).
Developing a culture of iterative learning
Whereas companies in the past held business assets (locking up physical and human capital), tomorrow they will need to have the ability to redeploy to new activities at great speed, which will require continuous learning. Read more
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Based on “The Dawning of the Age of Flex Labor” by Andrei Hagiu and Rob Biederman (Harvard Business Review, September 2015) ; L’emploi est mort, vive le travail, by Bernard Stiegler and Ariel Kyrou (Mille et une nuits, 2015) ; “There’s an App for That”, Coll. (The Economist, 2015), “Digiwork, repenser la place de l’individu au travail dans une société numérique” (FING 2014); “Your Company Needs Independent Workers” de Steve King and Gene Zaino (Harvard Business Review, novembre 2015).