flowing motion

Posts Tagged ‘employment

That’s what I said.  Government’s cannot promote innovation

Yesterday, I was playing with John Hagel’s list of three features that distinguish fringe/flaky activities from edge, innovative activities and I suddenly realized: governnments cannot promote innovation.

This is why.

3 differences between fringe/flakey and edge/innovative enterprises

John Hagel, famed for his work on the motor cycle industry in China, points out:

#1 Edge activities are scalable

There is a way to bring the critical stakeholders and a  critical mass of people together to make a difference.

#2  Edge activities are ‘life works’

The change brought by edge activities are so compelling that we are willing to back them with everything we have.

#3  Edge activities change the status quo

Edge activities don’t exist as a complement, extension or protest to mainstream activities.  They intend to take over the mainstream.

When we develop a new industry, we curtail, or even displace, other industries.  People are put out of work.  How can a government sponsor that?

QED.  Governments cannot sponsor innovation.

How can governments support innovation?

It seems to me that govenments’ job is to promote social conditions that promote innovation.

#1  Look at employee rights in failing or contracting industries.  I don’t mean employee privileges, I mean rights.  How do their rights stack up with the rights of other stakeholders (who are also losing out).  Bring those into balance in a fair, transparent, agree and comprehensible matrix.

#2  Make it easier for employees to move from one industry to another.  How easy is it to retrain mid-career?  How often does this happen?  How do individuals go about it?  With what success?  What structural changes would make it easier?

#3  What other structural issues make it hard on employees exiting collapsing industries?  How do we treat people who are not in employment?  How does the tax law and the banking law make life difficulty for people who are reinvesting in new industries?

What I learned from Hagel’s points on edge industries

That’s what I learned from thinking through Hagel’s three points about edge industries.  Government has got to make it easier for more edge industries to  succeed.

And that means Governments must make it less painful for old industries to shrink and eventually fade away.

It also follows that a good governments, in this day and age, should be boasting that this is an economy, and society, in which old industries are given and neat, tidy, respectful burial.  And that we are proud of our ability to move on.  Because moving on just got profitable .  .  . for everyone.

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Employers for life

Today, CIPD published a story that we want an employer for life.

Insecurity distracting us from growth

Some people don’t understand the economic numbers and if they don’t, then the responses reported by CIPD spell out for them the meaning of a severe recession.

Employees are grubbing at the bottom of Maslow’s Need Hierarchy.

It’s not much of a life, and we won’t be going any where fast as a country until we reduce the fear and worry about basics.

Employment relations and psychology

We need to get the politics right.  We need to get every one to sit down and see what we can keep stable, and keep it stable.  Give people as much security as they can so they can plan.

But we also have to learn to function in the “whip and crack of the whirlwind.”  Other communities do.  We need to as well.

Careers have changed

CIPD was knocking the ‘free agent’ route.  Well, UK has not had much of tradition of self-employment or entrepreneurship.   We will get panic simply because we don’t have many role models around us.

Let’s take the intrapreneurship route with which we are more familiar.

Before social media

Our CV showed an obedient relationship with authority.

In a social media world

Our CV is our portfolio of original work and our evolving purpose.

What is our evolving purpose?

When we aren’t used to telling our story, explaining our purpose can be the hardest thing in the world.

So often our purpose has been no more than “hitch a ride on a gravy train.”

For too long, we’ve pretended

  • we can drive the train
  • make gravy
  • and that we are welcome on the train.

That is the crisis that we are facing.

But hey, if catching gravy trains is our skill and purpose in life, then at least we can become knowledgeable about gravy trains. When do they come and how do we hop on and hide?

We can write about it.  We might have to be like Banksy and keep our identify quiet. But we can write about it.  And show he evidence.

To carry on the train metaphor, we can show a picture of  us in Edinburgh in the morning and in London in the evening.  Of course, “they” will be looking out for us now.  No problem.  We are the experts.  Another route!

Psychologists reading this know where I am headed .  .  .

Build that portfolio!

You can call your life by any name you choose but there is only one life you can call your own.  Start you blog today!

Don’t do anything indiscrete.  Begin with the small things.  Take a picture of a train.

And then another.  Then another.

It’s a cheap hobby at least.

Bet it becomes lucrative though!

Acknowledgements:

“conduct your blooming in the whip & crack of the whirlwind” : Gwendolyn Brooks

“there is only one life you can call your own” : David Whyte

Some time back,  Scott MacArthur asked what are the absolute basics of employing someone?  Here is my basic list of 8 points.

1.  That the employer pays wages to the agreed schedule (but not necessarily in 12 or 52 equal parts).

2.  That the employer deducts tax and pays the exchequer with the total annual wages of the employee in mind.

3.  That the employer pays other employment taxes which vary from time to time (training levies, insurance, AIDS . . .).

4.  That the employer insures the employee while s/he is at work (wise).

5.  That the employer ensures the employee is safe while work is being done and trains the employee correspondingly.

6.  In many jurisdictions, that the employment agreement is in writing and signed by both parties.

7.  That minimum employment conditions of wages, hours, shift times, holiday times and age of employee are met  (these vary enormously from jurisdiction to jurisdiction).

8.  That the employer does not make decisions on the basis of race, gender  . . (vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.)

What are the other absolutes of HR?
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The day I crossed the Rubicon to adulthood

It was a hot, in October. The rainy season was approaching but had not yet arrived. A fan was going full tilt in my office. Behind me, my windows were shut. Below my window, our lorries belched diesel fumes as they queued to exit the factory gate and take flour and maize meal for hundreds of miles around.

My phone rang and in the brisk and formal business culture of Zimbabwe, I answered it promptly: “Jo Jordan. Good afternoon.”

My caller came from outside the company. We had been at university together. And she had a lot to say about the local psychological association. I agreed. And said so.

Then I drew myself to a halt. I was the Secretary of the Association and had been for 3 months. If there was anything that needed to be done, it was my job to get it done.

And hence, I crossed an important Rubicon. I was no longer teenager/student/young adult . I was a citizen fully responsible for the way we ran our affairs.

When did you make the transition from adolescent to adulthood?

Some people never make that transition. Forever, everything is someone else’s responsibility.

Today, something in my feed caught my eye and jolted my memory of when I grew up on a stifling hot and dusty day when we were waiting for the rain and for the new agricultural season to begin.   The story was about the general loss of respect for employers in the wake of the banking crisis.

Employment is not a private activity

A feature of employment law is that the manager, representing the owner, knows best. It is an absurd assumption but some people insist upon it. When we do, we take on a mantle of responsibility, not just to the owners, but to people on whom we imposed our judgement. And to deliver, we have to manage events not just inside the company but outside too.

We cannot manage the rains, perhaps. But we are responsible for responding adequately to the weather, whatever it brings.

Our outrage at the bank failures and MP expenses

The reason why the bank failures and the MP scandals have shocked us so is not the professional errors themselves. Few people understand exactly what happened in the banks or the mysterious absence of accountants and auditors in the Houses of Parliament.

But we do understand that both groups claimed status that put their judgement above ours. And they weren’t able to deliver on their promises they made when they arrogated status about ours.

We are hearing arguments from bankers and MPs that the privileges of office must be sufficiently high to warrant the responsibility they carry.  So they do understand what they promised!  But their arguments are back to front, of course. First, they need to show they can carry out even the basic responsibilities of public office before we worry about awarding privileges!

All public office, being a prefect at school, being secretary of the sport club, and for that matter, being a director of a private company carries the same basic responsibilities.

Implicitly, we promise to

  • Speak up when something is blatantly wrong
  • Live up to the procedures of contract and documentation that our culture has worked out over the centuries
  • Understand where the world is going and make adequate provision for the range of events that might occur
  • Show uncompromising loyalty to the people we represent and presume to order about
  • Represent the whole team without whining and making excuses

There is a big difference between nitpicking and exercising our office responsibly

You may feel my argument is completely wrong

It may be that you see no connection between the behaviours I listed and things going right or wrong. If you don’t, I’d be happy to see a rebuttal but experience tells me that you will not advance a logical argument. You may argue that no one will notice any way. You will probably just dismiss me with contempt.

You may dislike nitpicking implied by rules

You may also have an inherent distrust of nitpicking. Exercising judgement and compassion, I would argue, is different. People who exercise judgement and compassion don’t hide behind rules. They judge the situation and manage it so that we achieve the outcome we want and help the person we assisted grow into a leader themselves – responsible, thoughtful, effective, loyal and with good moral & practical judgment.

You may feel you have no responsibility to anyone but yourself

It is also possible you see your job about looking after you and your own rather than every one around you and beyond. You are likely to have made up your mind on this point quite early in roles that you held at school, college and university. Early on, you will have decided how you would execute collective responsibilities.  Is the group there for you, or you for it? Did you speak up when things were plain wrong.  Or did you allow rubbish to accumulate thinking you would be out of the picture before the results became evident.

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing

You will know your own opinion, of that I am sure, and you might tell me here.

But it is likely that I have divided opinion. One group will dismiss me with contempt and pity.

They other would like to know more about acting responsibly and would like to work in environments where responsibility is more highly valued.

Is it too much to agree with Edmund Burke that we all allowed the system to drift into such disarray?

Where are doing exactly the same thing – keeping our heads-down because we believe so little in the people around us that we don’t believe they will listen or care?  Where are we speaking up contentiously and carping and whining rather than engaging on matters that we are responsible for?

Should we begin by ticking off parts of the system that work well and doing more of them?

Are our markets efficient?

Gee, I have been so buried in writing proposals, I no longer have any idea of which day or week it is.  Rather literally.  But it is in writing proposals that we realize just how inefficient the market economy is.  All these people marketing, selling, bidding, cajoling.  Do we really increase the value of the economy this way?  Isn’t this time wasting much like the perennial security guard at every doorway in a third world country.  Doing nothing, going nowhere?  Don’t you get incensed at the waste of your time?  Let me explain further why it affects everyone.  You, me.  Our sons. Our daughters.

Flexible labor markets

You all know the concept of a “flexible labor market“, don’t you?  If not follow the link to a clearly written A level crib sheet.

Good markets

Flexible labor markets are based on the idea that a good market  “clears”.  A market is good if I can bring my tomatoes and customers come and buy them.

The price is not determined in advance. The price is allowed to change with supply (number of people selling) and demand (number of people buying).  And as we all know, at the end of the day, the price can drop significantly as sellers contemplate no sale.  Equally, the best stuff will sell at a higher price early in the morning.

Good labor markets

When we come to labor markets, the idea is that you and I, sellers of labor can go to the market and sell our goods, that is, our time and expertise.  If there is a good market, we will be bought, when we want to be bought; and buyers will find someone to buy, when they want someone to buy.

Labor markets that you and I know

Of course, labor markets are not 100% flexible.  We are blocked in by contracts.  The employer guarantees to give you work and to pay you on time.  You guarantee to do work and have to give notice if you want to change employers.

Rigid labor markets

Some labor markets are very inflexible.  I believe in the UK, 30 years ago, if we wanted to move a telephone in a student dormitory, it would be a nightmare.  Why? A telephone technician wasn’t be allowed to screw the device onto the wall.  That was the carpenter’s job.  If this story is not 100% accurate, then it was similar.

Not everything has changed

The “defined benefit” pension scheme also adds rigidity to the markets.

A defined benefit (DB) scheme means we pay in a fixed % of a our salary today for the right to draw a pension at a given age (usually 65) at 66% of our average of last three year’s salary (or similar calculation).

The importance to this calculation to what I am saying today is not the pension, much as it is on everyone’s minds, but that the 66% was based on an assumption of working for 40 years out of 60 for one employer (starting in your early twenties).

Here you can see the legacy of rigid labor markets that we haven’t sorted out, even in theory.

Why do systems like defined benefit pensions distort the labor market?

Implicit in your monthly donation of a fixed %, is that you will stay for 40 years.  If you leave before then, you will pay a heavy financial penalty.

So most people stay.  Every year, some people retire and we can replace those with 20 year olds while everyone moves up a notch.  Neat?

Yes it is, BUT

.  .  . this model doesn’t allow for radical changes in skill.  And it only works when people do retire – which they haven’t been the case with the bulge of the baby boomers.  Of course now the boomers are approaching retirement, organizations running this model will suddenly need to take on a lot of young people, some of whom will not be able to get the experience they need quickly enough to replace people who are leaving.

Equally, if you have to take people on for 40 years, as an employer you may think twice.   It is much more convenient to be able to ask someone to leave when you have no work for them or cannot afford to may them.

Why employers like a flexible labor market?

So employers like a “flexible” labor market.  They want it to be easy to ask people to leave.

What is the payoff for us?

And the payoff for us is that

  • young people are more likely to get “starter” jobs
  • we should be able to move employers more easily
  • the economy should be more vibrant with a better match of skills to changing conditions.

But what a muddle

The downside is that we haven’t thought this through.

Pensions and in the States, health insurance, are tied to employment.  So employees are unable to move.

If employers don’t provide these benefits, an underclass of employees develops.  In the trade this is aptly called the secondary labor market – cheap and disposable.

And where does this leave employees – people of working age

My biggest concern is that when a labor market is massively flexible, how do employees – that is you and me – the sellers of labour, see far enough ahead to know what to invest in?

Of course this is an issue in all business.  How do farmers know how many tomatoes to plant?  How does Warren Buffet know what stocks & shares to buy on the stock market?

They do it in three ways:

  • They form institutions – trade associations or their own firms – to do research on markets and to influence markets through lobbying and marketing.
  • They make long term contracts – e.g., agree to sell to TESCO’s at a pre-determined price
  • They get better real time information on markets.

Think of third world farmers contracting with FairTrade to sell you coffee.  They are doing it less for the price and more the stability of the contract.

Think of third world farmers who adopt mobile phones at the speed of light because they can find out prices readily in local and international markets.

What the theorists haven’t delivered

So why then do we assume

  • Employees (you and me) don’t need information on future prices to decide how much to invest in skills today?
  • Employees don’t need sane coherent contracts that allow us to complete a season.  A season may be 6 months to a year for a farmer.  Our investment in a 3 year degree is repayable over what period with what certainty?
  • Employees (you and me) shouldn’t band together to form trade associations to research and influence markets.  I know that is what unions do, sort of. I know that is what good professional associations do.

My question to you

My question today, and I hope some people can answer it, as I am a noobe in this part of the world, is

which political parties have an explicit agenda to make sure each and every person has sufficient information to make informed decisions about the investment in skill.

I don’t think governement has to make decisions about our investments for us.  But it does need to make sure there is an environment in which institutions who repesent us emerge (and do their job well).

Where does a young person in the UK and the USA find out this information?

My grand-mother had a clear ‘rule’ – none of us should work for a family-business. We should all go out and work in another business or organization.  My grandmother was obviously fed up with family businesses. She had been burned by them a few times. And I think she made the right call.

I think we should go further though. We should all aim to have our own business.

Is it the Talmud where we are advised to join an established business? That is good advice. We should acknowledge what works in the world and work with it.

But I think we should also aspire to autonomy. Many organizations work on a tournament system. You have to start in round one and work your way up. Should you want to move to another organization, you cannot carry credits from the previous rounds with you!

We need a way to aggregate our experience into a stronger and stronger portfolio.

Online portfolios are a good start. Planning our careers as if they are a business is another.

But as employment law is very clumsy and big organizations are more interested in subordination than developing your ongoing value, isn’t it a good idea to register yourself as a company, employ yourself, and develop alliances with others from day one?

Who is doing this? Who is making sure their youngsters go on to independent careers after an apprenticeship with some one else?

Unusual ways to find a job

We have to take our hats off to the History Graduate who pounded Fleet Street with a sandwich-board offering himself on a free trial period of one month.

Employers with a sense of humor

We can also hat-tip the guy who hired him.

  • But wouldn’t it have been better if he had a portfolio of his work online before he graduated?
  • Wouldn’t if have been cool if he knew what he wanted to do?
  • Wouldn’t it have been cool if he had had targeted 10 specific people and gone to them with the same offer?

Ways for students to get good jobs after graduation

I suppose telling students to start early and to work on their career path little and often is about as silly as telling them to work consistently throughout the year.
Some do though.  @casperodj, @trudyYS, @dolphonia are well known in the community and they haven’t graduated yet.
None of the three has done anything eye-catching in a celebrity-way.  They’ve just showed up and joined.
I’ll put my money where my mouth is too.  If the History Graduate stumbles over this post, and wants a quick guide of online resources, the trick will be to comment below.  The comment will reach me same day and I will reply.
And for people already doing everything they can, some stunning creative resumes.
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