A weekly post in which I share (some of) the most thought-provoking content I read this week(ish), which I am too lazy to write full blog posts about.
For all the talk about the “Future of Work”, it still seems a bit abstract, doesn’t it? It can feel like we have quite enough to deal with in the Present of Work, without thinking about what the future might hold. Automation, AI, “Precarious Employment”; the subject is awash in sometimes confusing jargon. Indeed, aside from taking the odd Uber, most HR professionals I know view the “Gig Economy” as a bit of a buzzword, not as an immediate reality requiring our attention.
I’ve come to believe that we’re wrong about that. In fact, I think that the haze of information about what is happening, and what is possible, have obscured a clear shift in the labour market that we need to be paying closer attention to.
Gig economy: “The use of online platforms to engage in project- or task-based freelance work delivered over the Internet.” (via iLabour)
At a recent author’s talk at the University of Toronto, Joshua Gans opened discussion about his latest book ‘Disruption Dilemma’ by observing:
“People now want to be called disruptive, even when what they are doing is not, and that is a problem.”
He’s right, of course. If I have to listen to one more person tell me that their business idea is ”like Uber, but for X” and then proceed to explain something that is completely and entirely un-Uberesque, I am going to start carrying an airhorn.
“It’s like Uber, but for pet foo-MEEEEEEHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!
An explicit focus in almost every area of HR is getting, developing, growing, and keeping top performers. The cream of the crop, the engaged, motivated and committed super star, showering discretionary effort wherever they go like flower petals.
And yet, we accept that performance distribution will look like this:
Or, if you agree with Josh Bersin, like this:
“An office is a place to live life to the fullest, to the max. An office is a place where dreams come true.” – Michael Scott, Dunder Mifflin
Have you noticed how organizations are no longer content with simply having engaged employees? Now they must also be happy. Why? In part because research claims to show that happy employees are more productive and create more value for their organizations.
Ah, say the social science majors, welcome to our world, where proving causation (rather than just correlation) is not such an easy thing to do. In fact, as reported in a recent article from Inc, competing research shows that happiness may in fact be a bi-product of focus and productivity, not the other way around. Read more
One of the very few downsides to becoming a homeowner is that people (ok, your parents), don’t want to store your things (ok, junk) anymore: “You have your own basement now.” Fair enough. That is how I found myself sorting through half a dozen boxes of books, notes and random items that I had not seen since 2002, when I packed them away after University.
I’ve always had pack-rat tendencies, which at least partially explains why my inventory of these boxes turned up one (practically fossilized) high-school geometry notebook (the only math I ever truly enjoyed), my Forensic Anthropology Training Manual (with margin annotations about the intertrochanteric crest), the outline for my 4th year Social Theory thesis paper on postmodernism, ethnography and Ludwig Wittengenstein’s ideas about language and meaning (duck rabbit), and a stack of other random university papers I authored.
Reading these papers was unpleasantly disorienting. It wasn’t just that I didn’t remember writing them; it was as though they were written by a completely different human being, someone who was not me. I have frequent occasion to think “I wish I knew then what I know now”, but never before “I wish I knew now what I knew then”. Read more
There’s been quite a lot of dialogue in recent years about the ‘Skills Gap’, and the ‘War for Talent’, most of which is a lamentation about the finite proportion of in-demand, skilled workers that our organizations are playing tug-of-war over. If and why this gap persists is a subject of some controversy, but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about a different, and undoubtedly real skills gap, one that HR and business leaders should be truly worried about. Rather than existing at the narrow pinnacle of the workforce ‘pyramid’, it’s found below, eroding its crumbling base. Read more