The Future of Work — Part 2
Collaboration is the human employee’s secret weapon
This is the second of a two-part series on the future of work. You can read part one here.
Truly competent employees need to be rewarded. Bonuses and raises are fine, but they’re not the sign of a culture where competence is valued above all else. No. Instead of extrinsic rewards like money, workers in a culture of competence value autonomy. They want to make it to the innermost circle in the company’s mandala-like org chart — the skunkworks or innovation lab where employees are entrusted to develop new ideas.
“Compensation” is for people who don’t like the work they’re doing.
If employees are appreciated for the value they create instead of the hours they’ve clocked, compensation structures change anyway. Already, in the spirit of open source development, cooperative economics, and even the blockchain, workers are becoming financial stakeholders of their companies. Many business owners, on retirement, are selling their firms to their employees — either as ESOPS (employee stock ownership plans) or as “platform cooperatives.” While such structures may not be practical for the Fortune 500, they do suggest a new level of participation, accountability, and risk employees are willing to take if they feel fully invested in the mission of their organization.
Embracing the digital sensibility
For most companies, digital technology is still a way of extending the values of the now-obsolete industrial age. They surveil their consumers, extract data, and use algorithms to make decisions about the future based on what they’ve managed to infer from the past. Worse, they surveil their employees, and use that data to train automated replacements.
Just as early factories “outsourced” skilled craftsmanship to low-cost labor, and American companies outsourced domestic competency to foreign manufacturing, companies are now outsourcing human labor and innovation to robots and big data algorithms. The problem is, once you surrender your innovation to the machines, you’ve commodified your business; everyone in your industry is using basically the same machine learning algorithms, often supplied by the very same technology companies. You…