Perfecting, Promoting the Company of One
“We work as hard in here every day as we did when we were trying to get a job, we’ll be alright. What’s the worst thing they can do…” – Bobby Walker, “The Company Man,” Weinstein Co., 2010
There has been a lot of discussion – pro and con – on whether employees are more productive, more creative based on whether they’re in the office or telecommuting. It should be less of a concern to you than your real job – you! It’s the only job you can really understand and have the power, ability to change as businesses and the economy go through their cycles and reinvent themselves. Change can happen, even if you’ve just accepted a new position. According to a recent Harris Interactive survey, most people have found that their position with their company is different from the one they interviewed for. The survey found that more men (65%) than women (56%) reported that aspects of the job were different from what they were led to believe. That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise because the Internet/web has changed every business.
Management’s focus has increasingly become focused on reading/anticipating competition, growth opportunities and connecting with customers as well as providing real time access to credible, usable information. Even if management has never heard of or read Will Hutton, chief executive of Britain’s The Industrial Society, most would agree with his observations. Hutton states that while we don’t yet fully understand the rules and dynamics of the new era, we do know it is turning the workplace inside out. He said that today, we are a network economy that is driven by information and communications technologies. One of his very telling statements was that the network is increasingly being made up of independent workers and that the employer/employee relationships have changed.
Today, more than 40 million U.S. workers are free agent contract workers. Over the next few years, Charles Handy, author of The Age of Unreason, estimates that less than half of the industrial world’s workforce will hold conventional full-time jobs in companies. Every year, more and more people will be self-employed and full-time insiders will be the minority. Management and corporate employment policy decisions are unwittingly accelerating that transition by shifting more of the load, more of the responsibility to you.
Company Shift – Over the past few years, companies not only added more business responsibilities for individuals but also the management of their personal development. With the openness of the Web and social media, people are taking control and beefing themselves up both personally and professionally.
What exactly do we mean?
Take a look at most company policies:
- On short business trips, you usually drive your car and are (hopefully) reimbursed.
- When you work at home, it is on your personal computer.
- When you go on extended business trips, you pay for the transportation, lodging, meals and submit expense reports.
- Increasingly, companies are adjusting their employee benefit programs, making you responsible for more and more of the rising health/dental care insurance expenses.
And then there’s the big shift that employees brought on all of us that thought it was really cool at the time – BYOD (bring your own device).
BYOD Change – Bring Your Own Device looked like a win-win for companies and individuals but it is becoming a pivotal move that is changing not only the employer/employee relationship but also how personal and company information is viewed and used. Management thought it was a good idea because that meant one less tool they had to buy for you; even though IT knew it was going to be difficult, if not impossible, to separate and protect business and personal data. It started innocently enough with smartphones (ok iPhones) then quickly spread to tablets (yes iPad); and for many, better, more powerful ultrabook portables. It was a great productivity/profit boost because most of us today take work home in the evening and on weekends to catch up and get ready for the next day or the week ahead.
Of course, since it’s your property, that also means that the company can’t dictate what personal apps and services you use on your device–even though you’re also carrying around company and business working files/information that you need to get your job done. As you comingle your business/personal activities, you also want to do it without a lot of hassle … like complex passwords and security protection that need to be constantly changed/updated. Increasingly, employees are also choosing their own cloud service because it is better, more convenient for working with customers and partners and it’s a fast, “good enough” solution for getting the job done.
Freedom of Choice/Responsibility
BYOD has taken ahold so quickly that Gartner projects by 2017, half of the companies will insist that employees use their personal smartphone for work. The other half of the firms will “allow” employees to use their own devices. The winds of employment change have been shifting since the 1990s and the last financial downturn only accelerated the new view of employees. To maintain their competitive edge, companies are traveling lighter, covering ground more quickly. Management has found that the organization has to constantly accelerate or die. Clearly, the company that is lean, agile and quick to respond has the edge. Competition, technology, recession and increased shareholder value have changed the way everyone thinks about his/her job and the future. The old company/employee loyalty and commitment is rapidly disappearing. Today, you’re using your own car for business trips, buying your own uniforms, using your own devices and paying for your own healthcare. Look on the bright side; they haven’t asked you to bring your own desk. Yet!
Working Tools – Key benefits of telecommuting include having your own professional tools and being able to work in an environment you’re comfortable with. There’s no need to haul anything wherever you go … right now. The financial uncertainty of recent years has only accelerated companies treating employees as temporary contractors, regardless of their employment status. In addition, the web and social media have torn down the corporate walls, changing relationships and empowering the individual. Free agent workers are becoming the mainstay of the workforce, but they’re also doing what is important for their careers. Managers who watch employees come and go seldom say the company has a problem since it is easier to say the turnover is because of the “me” generation. Today’s workforce understands that the best way to enhance their intellectual, social and professional capital is to network and improve themselves. They accept that the blur of ambiguity is good for their career.
Firms go to great lengths to recruit quality people and keep them happy with the focus on a stimulating work environment, relaxed dress codes, attention to work/life issues and making it a fun place to work. But today’s empowered independent worker knows the ground rules have changed and the growing number of portals make it easy for them to share job, company, work, relationship experiences and information they need to control their own growth and destiny.
Your Creation – The changing business environment lets you improve and advance yourself the way you want to. You can make/eat a sandwich and satisfy your hunger. Or you can create a gastronomic masterpiece and satisfy your body and senses … it’s your call.
The new free agent workers:
- Create/define role clarity for themselves
- Determines their own top priorities, point themselves in that direction
- Don’t pull back
- Don’t wait for someone to give them details or marching orders
- Give themselves permission to attach to the job
- Feel their way along to the future
- Ares willing to “wing it”
- Have reduced improvising to an art form
- Accept the fact that work life is fuzzy around the edges
- Know and are okay with the fact that organizations aren’t going to look out for their employees’ careers as they did in the past
As Lily Tomlin said, “we’re all in this alone.”
Given the employment shift, people have to continuously practice Kaizen – the relentless quest for a better way, higher-quality craftsmanship and the daily pursuit of perfection.Kaizen keeps you reaching, stretching to outdo yesterday. Often they are only incremental changes but they yield valuable competitive advantages for the company and the individual. People who want to stay in/stay ahead of the game assume personal responsibility for upgrading their performance. Personal productivity, response time, quality, cost control and customer service need to show steady gains-for themselves and management.
The era of entitlement is past. People aren’t automatically entitled to pay increases, promotions or their job–even if they perform well. The empowered free agent worker takes responsibility for his/her own career … and future. As Gene McClary said, “I guess I always assumed we were trying for a higher standard than that.” It will take time for business managers, lawyers or regulators to really understand how much consumerization and BYOD have changed business. But, it’s the environment organizations will work in tomorrow … and it’s here today.