Is the death of jobs upon us?

Click to EnlargeWhen one is keeping a constant watchful eye on country comparative workplace statisticswhich is provided and updated by various organizations and institutions –  some interesting trends and intriguing questions bubble to the surface.

Despite plenty of efforts – locally, nationally and internationally – regarding various job creation programs and strategies, there isn’t any significant lowering of unemployment percentages.  The fact is that implemented job creation strategies merely succeed in preventing unemployment figures to spiral out of control. Unemployment stats may bob up and down, as a result of efforts made, but unemployment stats is steadily on the rise with an average of about 1.5% to 2.2% per year, across the board for most countries.

Another alarming unemployment statistic is that unemployment amongst youths (irrespective of the country) in most cases is normally double that of the official unemployment figure of that country.

The question is why?

It’s probably time to re-examine the whole idea of exactly what a job is and whether or not the current “finding-a-job-idea” is viable option for a future career path and place of work.

Based on recent technological advancements and workplace statistics, the short answer is a brief NO! There is more than enough evidence presently available (just Google it) that jobs aren’t a viable construct and idea moving forward.

The notion and belief that most of us will earn our living in the future through an employee/employer relationship is well on its way to the scrap heap of workplace history… mainly as a result of technological breakthroughs and developments in recent years. Places of work is changing rapidly and accompanying that, also the needs and requirements of a future job market place.

The transformation path of moving from the “job-centric” economic and social system – that we are all familiar with, are accustom too and which emerged during the Industrial Revolution – to an information-powered “individualized-emotional driven economy”  and society, currently is, and is going to be pretty painful and awfully disruptive for many people.

The majority of individuals is going to find it difficult – if not impossible – to find and secure a job. It’s inevitable and “job-centric-unemployment” is going to become the norm of a future place of work, especially for the youths of a country.

But – in the long run – this forced transition will ultimately benefit the country, providing that we don’t continue measuring our economic progress and status by the same criteria with which we did up to now.

The sooner policy-makers and capitalistic marketeers can wrap their heads around this rapidly morphing reality of workplace change, the quicker we can determine a solution and identify a strategy to – at least – limit the pains of change and speed-up the required transitions process. Especially the way in which we facilitate and guide individuals to prepare themselves for tomorrow’s places of work.

Unfortunately, this will not happen any time soon. Experiences and many observations since the early 80’s, indicate that there was – and still is – plenty of empty lip services paid to curb, or even to turn around, the steadily rising unemployment figures, but – sadly – all efforts essentially boils down to keep on doing more of the same thing… create as many jobs as possible, as soon as possible and establish plenty of job boards and agencies – from general to specialized job boards – in order to effectively facilitate employer/employee networking.

In essence… only unemployment symptoms are addressed, but the core of the unemployment problem – for most efforts, that is – is left untouched.

Unless you want to become part of the unemployment statistic and collateral damage of inevitable workplace transitions, you have to accept personal responsibilityNOW – to identify and plan your own individualized/customized future career path, conduct targeted job demarcations and develop subsequent job search strategies.

  • Just open your eyes,
  • have a good hard look around what is evolving in modern day places of work,
  • conduct a couple of targeted searches (e.g. will jobs survive future technology developments?),
  • explore and research answers to a few well structured critical questions (e.g. how will teaching, engineering, traits, …etc. evolve in future?),
  • take the time to think about it and
  • then judge for yourself!

With all the technology and powerful search engines – such as Google & DuckDuckGo –  to our disposal today, being uniformed and ignorantwhen dealing with a future career path – is nobody else’s fault but your own. Regardless whether you are an employer, employee, candidate, student, learner or parent, teacher, lecturer, psychologist, coach who assist, guide and facilitate individuals with preparing themselves for a future place of work.

Before the question can be answered. We first need to define what a job really is.

A job isn’t the person doing it and it’s not the company offering the position. It’s also not the desk that the job holder sits at or the truck that the job holder drives.

A job is a container of information, some of which exists in the form of various agreements. A job is the information about the responsibilities and tasks of the job, the expectations, the interrelationships with other workers, other departments, functions and activities. There are explicit and implicit agreements about when to show up, how to dress, how to professionally conduct yourself, what will be paid and what will be grounds for terminating the job.

A job – as a matter of fact – is an intangible concept, an imaginary container of information and agreements determining what should be done when, where, how and for what purpose. Thus, the tasks needed and required as determined by the a problem and context in which it occurs.

One could argue that it’s simply the reverse of the thesis of the economist Ronald Coasepublished in a 1937 research article “The Nature of the Firm – in which he asked and attempted to answer why firms and companies existed at all… why didn’t all economic activity simply occurs as a series of transactions in a free-flowing open marketplace?

The gist of his conclusion was that firms or companies came into existence to minimize transaction costs between unrelated functions necessary for creating a product or establishing a service. It would cost too much for managers to pull together skilled workers each morning, or to find an appropriate factory floor, or to transact regularly with someone to answer calls at the switchboard.

A job – in essence – is an agreement by an employee to devote his or her valuable skills to a single customer, at agreed upon times and in agreed upon places, for a certain number of hours on a certain schedule and within agreed upon rules. The worker agrees to forgo the potential of finding higher bidders for his or her services each morning… in return for a promise of a regular income.

The employer – on the other hand – agrees to forgo his/her potential of locating better skilled and “cheaper” labor on a daily basis in return for a promise of contingency and the ability to meet deadlines on time.

High transaction costs and time constraints prevented a free-flowing market for labor and talent.
It was impossible, back in 1937, to imagine that almost all the world’s information would be immediately accessible in the palm of nearly every individual’s hand via a smart-phone and that forms of economic organization could be so fluid as to eliminate the need for organizations, companies, firms and jobs. But that’s not so difficult to imagine now. Need a factory floor? …you can arrange one in China or Vietnam or Mexico extraordinarily quickly. Need to contract with someone to answer phones? ...slam dunk, because the process is almost automated entirely. Need certain tasks done? …Mechanical Turk, Odesk, Freelancer, LinkedIn, FaceBook, Job Boards, …easy. And if you’re a worker, it is equally as easy to turn yourself into a “one-man-company or firm”. You no longer need a firm that can pay for expensive capital equipment to allow you to do something productive. You have easy visibility and access, with very-very little capital needed to access the most powerful technological platforms on the planet. Where you can assemble inexpensive, but very powerful information tools… to create, establish and sustain extraordinarily valuable and needed services. The powerful search algorithms that let you find the specific and focused thing that you want, need or desire as a consumer – which is evident from a steady 1.3% climb in the billions of Google-searches conducted each month – also allows you to find and aggregate all the specific and focused audiences that want, or need what you have to offer, as an individual economic contributor. Thus, your…
  • creativity,
  • troubleshooting capability,
  • unique ways to formulate and implement solutions for problems,
  • uncommon talent,
  • specialized knowledge,
  • efforts, performance and insights (i.e. both your experiences and wisdom).
The market for your economic value is literally in the palm of your hand at every moment of every day… locally, nationally and internationally. Therefore, the availability, sharing and easy accessibility of infinite information combinations, are gradually overwhelming the transaction costs and time/place constraints, which is at the very heart and reason for the existence of companies and available jobs and – should this present trend continue – it is generally estimated that transaction costs and time/place constraintsas the key justification for the existence of companies and jobs – would largely be eliminated by the year 2025. This estimation source from and is based on the gradual rising trend of unemployment figures and the steady expansion of the hidden job market that – as roughly estimated by means of yearly surveys – presently represents between about 60-70% of current available “job opportunities“. The two primary building blocks of the economy as we currently known it – companies and jobs – are both being washed away by the solvency, availability and free-flow sharing of information. Thus, managers and candidates alike, can no longer blame the government, laws, regulations, parents, schools, universities and/or the politics of the day when finding it either…
  • difficult to locate and appoint skilled employees (managerial issue) and/or
  • to find, locate and secure a job (candidate/job search issue).
The core of the “unemployment/finding competent manpower problem” is a failure to understand and play according to the new” rules of the workplace as a result of rapid technological changes and constant developments.

This is something that cannot be accurately predicted, because of continuous changes and context fluctuations, which often differs from one day to the next.

However, the following universal principles can be indicated with relative surety as modern day evolving workplace trends (i.e. basic needs & requirements)…

  • Determine and identify the purpose and reason for doing what and why you are doing what you are currently doing, and/or planning to do in the near future (sourcing from your personal LDP & vision statement)
  • A continuous self-growth and development strategy (sourcing from your personal CPD & mission statement)
  • Sound professional ethics and workplace principles (sourcing from your personal value statement, which isn’t described, but illustrated by actions taken and performances delivered)
  • Self-actualization, self-determination and specialized knowledge (sourcing from your personal professional legacy statement)
  • Technical knowledge and skills are generally treated as a given – as a result of standardizing education and courses across the board – and much more emphasis is being placed on the experiences you have using your skills for troubleshooting and competency to formulate contextual solutions to problems experienced.
  • A monkey-see-monkey-do-presence doesn’t cut it any longer, it is all about your ability to contribute and the competency to collaborate, cooperate and co-create.
  • Proactive preparation for a future place of work that implies preparing for doing tasks (jobs) that we presently don’t know about, using technologies and techniques not even invented yet and troubleshooting/solving problems that we – currently – don’t even know what they are going to be like.

Essentially there are only three basic questions asked by any person seeking to employ an individual to do specific tasks (i.e. a job)…

  • Can the person do the job? / What is needed and required to do the job?
  • Will the individual do the job? / Does the job accommodate my personal career path & strategy?
  • Will the individual harmoniously fit the context? / Does the job comply with my personality, temperament, ethics and working style?
Interested to know why jobs are rapidly dying as a viable form of economic activity and will continue to do so in future?

Imagine for a moment that you’re a manager of a company seeking someone to employ and you’re going to an imaginary labor store to obtain and buy labor solutions for the tasks (job) you need done….

  • If it’s 1980, there’s pretty much one item on the shelves of the labor store, available in two different sizes. The containers are labeled “employee”, and there’s a larger container (full-time) and a smaller container (part-time). You need something done that would require any amount of supervision and needed interactions… those options (full- & part time employment) are pretty much your available options to get things done.
  • Now stroll into the imaginary labor store of today. You’ll immediately notice an astonishing array of choices on the shelves. Yes, the full-time and part-time employee options are still available, but now they are joined by outsourcing, crowd-sourcing, freelancing, social media methodologies, software automation… and many more, and all in a million different permutations and varieties depending on contextual requirements and needs.

Collaboration (i.e. professional networking) has become increasingly frictionless, implying increasingly lower costs and free from time and place constraints. As a result, the one thing that is an absolute certainty, is that in the store’s inventory of labor solutions… the largest, most unwieldy, most expensive, most regulated, riskiest and least flexible container in the entire market place – without a doubt – is the full-time job container.

In an era of economic flux, uncertainty and rapid changing need and/or requirements, which container is going to be favored most?

Difficult to really predict accurately, but – without question – the bulky full-time job container might still sell, however, only under a set of very specific circumstances. Sane companies, employers or managers will buy every other labor container first… before considering the expensive and risky full-time job option. And they have been doing just that these past couple of years, and it’s reflecting in world wide employment statistics, month after month… year after year.

Given that our current unemployment problem solution philosophy is to make the full-time job container ever bigger, more expensive and less competitive with other labor container options, the forces against successful job creation are almost perfectly aligned. The information-driven movement away from a job-centric economy and toward collaborating independent economic contributors, is happening anyway and much faster than most people can either anticipate or imagine.

Governments, decision and policy makers is simply just fueling the transformation process artificially. By creating or enforcing solutions fundamentally driven by job creation strategies, mainly to address and alleviate a short term crisis experienced, but gradually, systematically and steadily set the scene for a communal disaster and economic melt-down in the long run.

We’re surely and steadily headed toward that individualized and emotional driven economy, whether we belief or want to be part of it or not.

The skills and competencies to thrive and prosper in a future place of work are going to be significantly different from the skills that the industrial driven economy required.

The regulatory frameworks and structures are quite different from what the industrial economy needed.

Scorekeeping mechanisms for economic data, growth and status are way different from that what the industrial economy required.

Taxation and revenue sources are going to be different, the mindsets are different and the winners and losers – in all likelihood – are going to be different as well.

Is this an extinction, or just an extremely difficult temporary transition stage? Most research conducted, available survey results and reports points toward the latter, rather than extinction.

The selling and buying of labor will continue to exists, as long as there are tasks to be done and people needed to do them.

However, the rules of the employment game is and will change considerably, and by not knowing the rules, you won’t be able to play the game successfully (i.e. it will simply result in rising unemployment).

Vastly smaller, more focused firms will connect with other smaller more focused firms in a Hollywood movie production kind of model, linking up, collaborating and cooperating to create something valuable… before atomizing and reconnecting with other firms as dictated and needed by the context of the situation.

Employment will remain an important means to obtain cheap services and competent labor, while experience is gained – in an almost guild-like legacy and reputation manner – will increase significantly in its importance.

The good news is that the same kind of economic self-determination that entrepreneurs find to be one of the most satisfying aspects of being a non-permanent-employee, is likely to be enjoyed by a much larger percentage of the population. Economic specialization and efficiency will increase. Nothing about changing the manner in which tasks are accomplished is inherently negative for the economy. It will become increasingly easier to establish and sustain a fulfilling career (i.e. following a dream career) and it will be becoming increasingly difficult and less viable to follow a fundamental job-centric career path.

Because we spend the majority of our lives being employed by others – in a workplace environment with consistent changing agreements, rules and regulation – we might want to seriously reconsider the way in which we are…

An example and indication of Modern Workplace Dynamics.

The following talk delivered by Dustin Schroeder at a TEDx conference,  highlights modern workplace dynamics regarding problems experienced, troubleshooting required, tools needed, various problem solving strategies and – most importantly – why you are doing what you are currently doing.