The New Work Era
Updated: Jun 23, 2020
Changes in how we work challenging workers
APAC TEAM is a group of veteran sales guys based in Singapore with successful sales experience all over Asia. Let APAC TEAM (www.apac-team.com) be “Your A-TEAM in ASIA.”
We have entered the beginning of a new era of work that will transform how businesses operate and how workers work. Like any major shift, this shift is causing disruption and anxiety as people young and old come to grips with what it mean to “make a living” in the new era. This got us thinking about how work has evolved over time and the adjustments that workers have made in the past. Many of the past changes have been just as jarring as the era we are now entering.
APAC TEAM offer a sales service in line with this new era.
So what is this new era? We will call it the “gigging” era. It will be typified by each worker becoming their own individual business. We have seen this in other professions like law and medicine with individuals “hanging out a shingle” and taking on clients. As technology has made it possible for businesses to source almost any kind of service and for workers to cheaply and easily offer their service, gigging has found its way to the masses. Essentially, we are now all “hanging out our shingle” and looking for clients.
APAC TEAM is a collection of veteran sales professionals that have come together to offer this service as a collective.
The ramifications of the shift to this new era are vast. Employer offered benefits like health insurance, pension plans, administrative / payroll services, etc. are now all in doubt. Flexibility and mobile have become the new watch words and while this environment is exciting for some for others it is daunting and filled with anxiety and doubt.
How did we get here? Maybe it would be helpful to consider past employment (survival) models.
Hunting and Gathering Era
Mankind’s first attempt at organizing was around survival and that meant food and shelter. Division of labor was as simple as deciding who would hunt and who would gather. We can assume there was a bit of barter at the end of the day when the “fruits” of the labor could be exchanged. But this was in some ways a “survival of the fittest” environment.
The Artisan Era
Early barter of essentials gave way to the notion of bartering for essentials and non-essentials alike. As value can be derived from the quality of products produced, natural divisions of labor emerged. If you where good at producing animal pelts that could become a focus of your activity and the output could be bartered for other essentials and non-essentials.
As mankind began to gather in ever larger groups or tribes the artisan era emerged. This collection of individual or family based activities could be seen as a pre-curser to the modern company. The artisan era was typified by small specialists engaged in what they did best at small scale for “sale” in the form of barter.
The Company Era
It is not a huge leap from the artisan era to the company era. This expansion of the artisan approach was enabled by the advent of a common unit of exchange. With the arrival of coins (gold and silver) and later government backed currency as a medium of exchange the modern company was born. This structure allowed for the scaling of operations and extended beyond immediate families. Companies could employ anyone with the requisite skills who was willing to do the job for the offered money. Supply and demand of labor set wages and as new companies emerged there was competition for labor. To attract the best people, companies could pay more in wages or offer “benefits.”
The Corporate Era
The corporation is a modern extension of the company and greatly adds scale. Based on debt and equity financing corporations have access to the capital needed to scale beyond their home base. The modern corporation has become a global player that has employees in many countries and sells products all over the world.
Traditionally competition for labor has been via wages and benefits. But the corporate entity is constantly looking for greater efficiencies and has found “outsourcing” to be an effective way to procure a good or service without taking on employee overhead. On the modern corporate balance sheet, labor is a cost unit that has traditionally carried more than just a wage but is also loaded with short and long term benefit liabilities.
Employees in the corporate world find a steady and predictable financial situation. The main uncertainty is around continued, long term employment. Layoffs and large corporate bankruptcies are not uncommon and what once looked like a great job for many have turned out to be an empty promise. The downside of the corporate life is lack of job variety and flexibility as corporations typically maximized labor experience in the deployment of labor.
The Globalization + Technology Era
Globalization of the corporate world + transportation and communications technology introduced labor to global competition for work. Given wide disparities in labor rates around the world gave way to dislocations in some parts of the world and growth in others. Restrictions on labor mobility both due to geography as well as political barriers made some of the dislocations intractable. Labor found itself being outsourced, shifted around the world and in many cases under negative stress. So while corporations greatly benefited from globalization, those benefits flowed very unevenly to labor.
The Gigging Era
The corporate drive for efficiency also led to the era we are entering now – gigging. The corporate ideal of shifting “fixed” costs to “variable” costs was always hard with labor. You paid for that wage no matter how busy you were making products and while expanding adding labor is easy, contracting not so much. Technology platforms matching employers to available labor with certain skills offered the new possibility of LABOR ON DEMAND. This is very appealing to the employer from a financial standpoint.
APAC TEAM offers this option for companies looking to establish a sales presence in Asia.
For the workers of today and tomorrow this will be a significant shift, one filled with possibilities and uncertainty. Gigging offers workers the flexibility to work for who they want, when they want and how much they want. Depending on the type of industry this can be very liberating and lucrative for the worker. Those able and willing to manage the full range of needs (i.e. health insurance, retirement savings, etc.), this new era offers great possibilities.
For those not able to manage, life will become more difficult and filled with uncertainty. Constant up skilling and planning will be needed to successfully navigate the gigging era. As fewer traditional, permanent jobs are available there will be greater pressure on workers.
So while there are positives and negatives to the gigging era it is a bit too early to say how this shakes out. Some workers will thrive and others will struggle in this new environment. Maybe the biggest question is how the balance of power between employer and employee settles out. Giggers will lack collective bargaining power but employers will lack any sense of medium to long term labor commitment, so investments in training might just walk out the door. Maybe we have come full circle as the workplace of the future looks like the “survival of the fittest.”