Tag Archives: joblessness

The Coming Wave of “Knowledge Worker Day-laborers” (“Where will the jobs be?”, continued)

One who works by the day…

Tomorrow morning at the First Friday Book Synopsis, I present my synopsis of Macrowikinomics:  Rebooting Business and the World by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams.  It is a terrific book.  But as I read about the “dark side” of the wikinomics economy, a phrase came to mind that I have not been able to escape.  So – here’s my prediction:

We are becoming a nation, and world, filled with “knowledge worker day-laborers.”

You know what a day-laborer is.  It is a person who shows up at a site where others gather, hoping to be hired for the day.  Traditionally, this is a phrase describing physical laborers, expecially farm laborers.  They show up, early in the morning, on the right street corner, hoping to be hired for the day.

Well, the book Macrowikinomics describes all sorts of ways that companies are using more than just “their employees,” and all sorts of ways that individuals are collaborating on short term projects.  This is all well and good.  But…where will the actual jobs be?  Or, to put it differently, how will people feel secure, confident that they will have work to do for the next day, week, month, decade…?

Conisder these thoughts, from the book:

(re. the “joblessness” of the younger adults, throughout the developed world) – This is a problem of epic proportions…  There is a real danger that the largest, most highly educated cohort of young people in history could become “the lost generation.”


The trend for many companies is clear:  if we can do more with fewer, we will…  talent can be inside and outside of firms… Aren’t wikinomics business models the death knell for jobs?

The Big Scares (my observations)
• are we becoming  a world of (internet connected and enabled, computer terminal) “day-laborers” – always looking for the next job/assignment/project… with little or no security and continuity?  (in other words – how will people make a living in this brave, new, scary world?)
• Think about this:  IBM – from 399,000 to 100,000 by 2017 (projected cuts in actual employees – their planned “HR transformation program”).

Think about that last item – IBM intends to cut nearly 75% of its jobs, and maybe “hire” many of the same people back on an “as needed basis” for specific tasks/jobs.  “The trend for many companies is clear:  if we can do more with fewer, we will….”

Yes, the wikinomics world is an exciting world of collaboration and multiple breakthroughs.  And the book tries to paint an optimistic picture.  The book says: “We think that there is a stronger case to be made that wikinomics principles help bolster fledgling enterprises by supercharging their innovative capabilities and that small enterprises in turn are the most reliable job creators.”

But I can’t help but think that what we really face is a not-so-brave, not-so-secure world of “Knowledge worker day-laborers,” hanging around their virtual street corners each morning looking for work for the day, facing a very uncertain future.

“This is a problem of epic proportions.”

Where Will The Jobs Be? – Maybe Not Available At All For The Over-55

I have posted a number of times about the series of articles written by Richard Florida for The Atlantic.  Go here for links to all of his articles – they provide a terrific overview seeking answers to this question:  “where will the jobs be?”  And his answer is two-fold:  where will they be geographically? and where will they be by “sector?” Florida is the author of The Rise of the Creative Class and The Great Reset, both worth your time.

But here’s another new question:  where will the jobs be — by “age?”  And, increasingly, they may be nowhere for the over 55 group (that’s me, by the way!).

The New York Times published this article by Motoko Rich:  For the Unemployed Over 50, Fears of Never Working Again.  Here are some excerpts:

Patricia Reid is not in her 70s, an age when many Americans continue to work. She is not even in her 60s. She is just 57.
But four years after losing her job she cannot, in her darkest moments, escape a nagging thought: she may never work again.
College educated, with a degree in business administration, she is experienced, having worked for two decades as an internal auditor and analyst at Boeing before losing that job.
But that does not seem to matter, not for her and not for a growing number of people in their 50s and 60s who desperately want or need to work to pay for retirement and who are starting to worry that they may be discarded from the work force — forever.

Of the 14.9 million unemployed, more than 2.2 million are 55 or older. Nearly half of them have been unemployed six months or longer, according to the Labor Department. The unemployment rate in the group — 7.3 percent — is at a record, more than double what it was at the beginning of the latest recession.
“Their skills have atrophied for one thing, and technology changes so rapidly that even if nothing happened to the skills that you have, they may become increasingly less relevant to the jobs that are becoming available.”

So, this job market is the toughest in my lifetime.  The unemployment rate is high, and may not come down any time soon.  Jobs are scarce.  People are needing to work later in life, postponing retirement.  And for the older group, even the well-educatied, jobs are more scarce than they were.

A challenging time, indeed!  Listen to the fear: “But four years after losing her job she cannot, in her darkest moments, escape a nagging thought: she may never work again.”

Richard Florida Keeps Thinking about, and Writing About, the Future of Jobs (this time, blue-collar jobs)

Richard Florida (his book, The Great Reset is my selection for the September First Friday Book Synopsis), keeps thinking and writing about the future of jobs.  Here are the last few sentences from his latest post, Where the Blue-Collar Jobs Will Be:

The good news is that the U.S. will continue to create relatively high-paying working class jobs. These jobs will continue to provide good livelihoods for the workers fortunate enough to have them. The bad news is that their rate of growth will be sluggish and not nearly enough to provide the amount of good, family-supporting jobs required to undergird a middle class of lower-skilled workers. The harsh reality is that blue-collar, working class jobs in the U.S. are increasing slowly, and they will grow the slowest in traditional manufacturing and industrial regions and communities whose economic and social life has revolved around these jobs. There is little policy-makers can do – aside from declaring a trade war – to bring back large numbers of these high-paying jobs. But they can develop strategies to improve not just the wages but the content of blue-collar work, by engaging workers more fully and seeing them as a source of innovation. And they can help to infuse more creativity and design into manufacturing products, helping to broaden their market and counteract the trend toward declining prices. And policy-makers will have to develop strategies for improving wages and the content of work in other faster-growing segments of the economy, a point I will get to in my next post, which will cover the projected growth of service jobs.

The threat to the middle class is real, deep, and severe.

(Click here for a list of the articles Florida has written for the Atlantic).

Just How Do You Make An Honest Living Online? Or anywhere else?

This is from a recent book review on Business Week.  The book, I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works:  Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted by Nick Bilton (Crown Business) got only two stars from the reviewer Paul Barrett.  Read the review here.

The reviewer basically thinks that the author doesn’t know how the future works.  The Business Week review page has this nifty little summary for each book:

The Good:
The Bad:
The Bottom Line:

In Barrett’s review, he wrote this:

The Bottom Line: It’s time for Internet cheerleaders to make more serious proposals about how to make an honest living online.

His review ends this way:

This seems, at best, naïve. Left alone with an Internet connection, most kids will waste time. (As will most adults.) Nothing wrong with having fun, but let’s not pretend they’re going to somehow absorb history, biology, current events, or any other subject that makes long-form content worthy of the time investment. I’d like to meet a set of parents who, as a matter of common sense, prefer their kid play video games rather than ride a bike, collect bugs in a jar, or read a good book.

As for the video game lessons to be learned by mainstream businesses, Bilton doesn’t offer any. “I don’t have any great answers or easy solutions to bringing in more revenue in a digital world,” he concedes—a major letdown. Given how much has been written about the Internet and the future of media, it’s time for the digital boosters to begin thinking more rigorously about—and offering solutions for—two pressing problems: the alluring but harmfully distracting underside of virtual entertainment and the desperate need for ideas about how to make an honest living in an online media world.

I think — that this is one of the great challenges in this era.  And though it is a challenge for the online world, it is also a bigger challenge.  How do you make money in this brave, new world? Companies are slashing jobs, partly because they can produce more with fewer people.  And the list of people who start these wonderful new small businesses (that we hear so much about) that don’t quite make it is amazingly long.

This is a challenging time!

Talent Management’s New Assignment – Building Confidence in Anxious and Uncertain Employees

Definition: Talent Management refers to the process of developing and integrating new workers, developing and retaining current workers, and attracting highly skilled workers to work for a company.


Talent…Management. The two words say so much.  One, that everyone who works with you/for you is “talent.”  Next, somehow, the talent has to be managed.

But, as we all know, there is no magic formula.  There are only guidelines – hints.  And many of these are quite good, like:

• only hire people who can to the job at hand very well
• only hire people who can get along well with others
• make sure that each person is doing what he/she is best at
• give people the training and support they need to get better at their job
• recognize and reward excellent work
• praise in public; criticize in private
• if you’ve got the wrong person in place, make a change in the next 3 seconds – every second, every day, you delay, you drag down the morale of everyone. (This is a remarkably consistent theme in many books we’ve presented over our 12+ years).

In other words:  hire well; train well; encourage well; recognize/reward well…  and keep in touch with the current thinking of your “talent.”  Know what their strengths are now, their weaknesses, and their concerns.

These are all wise suggestions/reminders, and we have presented a number of books at the First Friday Book Synopsis over the years to help you better “manage talent.”  My favorite is still the classic Encouraging the Heart: A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others by James Kouzes and Barry Posner, which I presented more than a decade ago (hard to believe!), and recently Karl presented his synopsis of Make Their Day!: Employee Recognition That Works by Cindy Ventrice – a very fine, practical book.

But here is my latest thinking about talent management.  We have to add an element right now that is crucial.  People who manage talent have to read the current state/mood/thinking of the talent they manage.

Here is why.  This is an era of great uncertainty and anxiety.  We all read the news.  Companies are reluctant to hire (even companies with plenty of cash available); and joblessness continues to be a pervasive problem.  And though the unemployment rate for college graduates is still low (4.5%, much lower than the overall unemployment rate), a growing number of college graduates are “settling” for jobs that are not what they had hoped for/signed up for with their college and/or graduate school education.  It really is an age of uncertainty and anxiety.

And an anxious employee is uncertain, tentative – not at his/her best.  Uncertainty breeds loss of confidence, thus loss of competence.

Successful Talent Management is going to increasingly require leaders — all those who supervise others — to help people survive and successfully navigate such uncertain waters.  People need to feel secure, and then confident in their abilites (and their company).

Talent Management, more than ever before, is going to have to add “confidence building” to its list of practices.

Universities Are Funding Jobs In New And Creative Ways…

The job market is so fragile. Here are two different approaches now being taken by universities to help out in this difficult era.

#1 – Law schools are literally, in some cases, paying law firms the salaries needed to hire their graduates. Here’s an excerpt from a New York Times article, In Law Schools, Grades Go Up, Just Like That:

Others, like Duke and the University of Texas at Austin, offer stipends for students to take unpaid public interest internships. Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law even recently began paying profit-making law firms to hire its students.

(Law Schools are also retroactively raising a graduate’s grade point average.  I won’t even comment on that practice!  Details in the New York Times article)

#2 – MIT is now, in essence, funding startups from within the university. Here’s an excerpt of another New York Times article, The Idea Incubator Goes to Campus:

By providing academics like Professor Hart a bridge to the business world, M.I.T. is in the vanguard of a movement involving a handful of universities nationwide that work closely with investors to ensure that promising ideas are nurtured and turned into successful start-ups.

At first glance, the centers look like academic versions of business incubators. But universities are getting involved now at a much earlier stage than incubators typically do. Rather than offering seed money to businesses that already have a product and a staff, as incubators usually do, the universities are harvesting great ideas and then trying to find investors and businesspeople interested in developing them further and exploring their commercial viability.

In the jargon of academia, the locations of such matchmaking are known as “proof-of-concept centers,” and they’re among a number of new approaches to commercializing university research in more efficient and purposeful ways — and to preventing good ideas from dying quietly.

The “lesson” – colleges and universities need to demonstrate that their graduates are able to enter the workforce.  Though there have long been “placement” offices, this is an era requiring far more inventive and aggressive approaches.  This jobless era requires, and is generating, lots of new approaches.