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October 30, 2014

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A New Age of Work

According to author Seth Godin in his book entitled, “Linchpin,” the ‘take-care-of-you bargain’ made to employees by most 20th century companies has fallen apart. The deal that our parents signed us up for was that if we paid attention in school, followed instructions, showed up on time, and worked hard, the system and its employers would take care of us. This system worked well for many years for many working people, but in today’s new age of work, the ‘take-care-of-you bargain’ Mr. Godin coined is not working anymore for employees. The system still works for many employers, at least from an economic standpoint, but for employees, the bargain offers a dismal state as wages are cut, 401K contributions eliminated, benefits scaled back, and layoffs are occurring in every sector — even those areas previously sacred (think government).

But in the midst of all of this economic turmoil, some companies are making a new bargain with their workers, a bargain that is not dependent upon the employee being a cog in a giant machine. The new age of work offers new and enhanced opportunities for those who have entrepreneurial skills, who take responsibility for their actions, and who contribute to the health and well-being of the company. These companies and their new workforce are poised for success in the new age of work. These new companies are not the companies in which our parents worked.

The new company has less rules. With less rules comes more freedom for those who work in the new company, but more freedom also comes with more responsibility. Employees within the new company work within a set of guidelines, defined by the company’s vision, purpose, and mission. Employees have autonomy as long as they are productive to the whole and are in alignment with the principles of the company. In this new company, employees help set the direction of the company and take ownership for their actions and those of their co-workers.

The new company relies on many entrepreneurs. Your father’s company was organized around the roles of finders, minders, and grinders. That is, those who brought the work to the company, those who managed the work, and those who performed the work. This model became unfulfilling for employees in all three roles, but especially for the cogs in the machine (the grinders). Those workers were paid the least and leveraged the most within the company to make the profit for the overseers. But even those within the ranks of finding and minding longed for more opportunity to engage the actual work and in turn also became dissatisfied with the status quo.

This dissatisfaction gave rise to the new company, an entrepreneurial company based on a seller-doer model. In this model, everyone is responsible in some way for finding the clients, managing the work, and producing the goods or delivering the services.

The new company has a strong vision of the future, but not a roadmap. The company’s vision provides the direction for its employees but does not prescribe the path. There are not step-by-step procedures or a defined route to achieve success. Instead, these companies rely on their employee to become leaders and to find the best opportunities for the company. They rely on all employees to sense trends within their marketplace and build individual relationships within that marketplace. By reducing rules and not prescribing a defined path, these companies can stay nimble and can adapt quickly to the ever-changing uncertainties in the new age of work.

Not all workers are ready to work in these new companies, but for those who are, they find a level of self-satisfaction not found within your father’s company. In my next blog, I will write about the individual characteristics and skills necessary to be successful in the new age of work.

Until next time…

Craig

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