Should you only work once?

How many jobs should one person have? I don’t mean in the entirety of their life, but at any one time. My default belief, probably like many of you, is one. I mean if you can’t get paid enough from one job, then there’s probably something wrong with it. Isn’t there?

As contracts change and employment practices vary to meet with the needs of consumer demands, as different expectations become the norm I wonder whether we are placing a value judgment on the singularity of employment that needs not be the case. Of course, where there is a requirement to work two or more long, unpleasant jobs to make ends meet, then this is never going to be ideal. Where contracts are exploitative or overly balanced in favour of the employer, we should seek to question and challenge.

But could good work be possible across multiple employers? It feels ironic in some ways that at the upper end of the employment hierarchy we see people aim for a “portfolio career”, where they can engage and work for a range of different employers. Yet when we see this occur in more manual roles we assume the arrangement to be exploitative. And maybe that’s because it has been, but does it need to be?

I wonder whether the debate that we need to have is not about the quantum of hours per se, not about the structure of contracts but instead about the working relationship. About the balance of power and the clarity and equity of requirements from both parties on one another. You don’t have to look far back into the history of the world to see a time where people would have one or more occupations or means of putting bread on the table. The idea of a single employer is relatively recent.

And of course, if we do see ourselves (as I believe is inevitable) go down this route, the challenges to employers, to HR functions and leaders will become increasingly complex. Where a relationship exists with more than one company, the relationship does becomes entirely different – but not necessarily bad.

What will the election mean for HR?

As we move towards the General Election, The main parties are making their manifestos available and so far the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats have published theirs. There is surprising consensus about the main themes to be tackled, but of course difference in approach and tone. So what are they saying about the world of work?

Executive Pay

There’s been a lot of reference to executive pay ratios and both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats commit to pay ratios across the board. The Conservatives state that listed companies will be required to publish pay ratios between executives and broader UK workforce pay, the Liberal Democrats point to “larger” companies having to publish the ratios between “top” and median pay.

In addition, they both also refer to binding shareholder votes on remuneration policies and executive pay.

Labour also mention pay ratios, specifically a limit of 20:1 in the public sector and for those companies bidding for public sector contracts, but perhaps surprisingly don’t reference the broader business community. There is no mention of any constraints on executive pay but instead to their “excessive pay levy” which would be paid by companies for employees earning over £330,000.

Minimum Pay

At the other end of the remuneration spectrum, all three main parties make reference to minimum wage rates – however, the content is particularly confused by the loose use of language, exceptions and omissions.

Labour commitment to increasing the “Minimum Wage” to the level of the “Living Wage” for all employees aged 18 or over.

The Conservatives plan to increase the “National Living Wage” to 60% of median earnings by 2020.

And then the Liberal Democrats commit to an independent review to set a “genuine Living Wage”.

No much clarity there then!

Employee participation

This is perhaps the most interesting area of discussion, with more inches dedicated to this than I can remember in any previous election. 

Labour approaches this through involvement of the trade unions, with a promise to repeal the Trade Union Act, a commitment to sectoral collective bargaining and guaranteeing Trade Union rights to access all workplaces.

The Liberal Democrats refer to employee representation on remuneration committees, the “right for employees of a listed company to be represented on the board” and to “permit a German-style two-tier board structure to include employees” but they’re not quite clear on whether this is an obligation, or an encouragement.

Finally, the Conservatives will make companies either nominate a board director from the workplace, create an employee advisory council or assign specific employee responsibilities to a designated non-executive director.

Employment rights

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats commit to the abolishment of tribunal fees, the Liberal Democrats also committing to merge those “enforcement agencies” that oversee employment rights.

Zero hours contracts come in for a lot of attention. Labour promise an outright “ban” whereas the Lib Dems refer to preventing the abuse and a formal right to request a fixed contract. The Conservatives make broader reference to protecting the interests of those in the “gig economy”. The Lib Dems and Conservatives also point to the forthcoming Taylor Report as a means of change.

Labour make a high profile commitment to an additional four statutory bank holidays (picked up by a lot of the national press) and a less high profile, but no less interesting pledge to ban unpaid internships.

The Conservatives make reference to a new right for employees to request information on the future direction of their company albeit, “subject to sensible safeguards”.

The Liberal Democrats present a right for employees in listed companies with over 250 employees to “request” shares in the business. They also float the idea of a kite mark for “good employers” that  covers areas such as paying a living wage, using name blind recruitment and removing unpaid internships.

Summary

Overall, my sense is that we can expect to see pay ratios being widely implemented in reporting in the same way that we are seeing with the gender pay gap and increasing focus on excessive executive pay.

The output from the Taylor Report looks more and more likely to be a turning point in terms of formal consideration of changes to working practices as a result of the “gig economy”. From recent press coverage, we can hope that the recommendations will be thoughtful and considered.

And finally, the debate about employee participation and voice is going to be fascinating. How do employees get a voice at the top tables of organisations, how do we formally enshrine employees as a meaningful stakeholder and how do we ensure more transparency?

Disclaimer

I’ve tried to remain as neutral and factual as possible, you’ll have your views as I will have mine. If inadvertently I’ve mis-portrayed a perspective, then it is entirely unintended.

I appreciate that there are other parties that will play a role in the election that aren’t included. I’ve used the information available at the point of publication.

If there are inaccuracies or omissions, please let me know and I will edit and amend as appropriate.

The most entitled generation

They don’t care about the impression they make on other people.
They think everything evolves around them.
They don’t care about their reputation.
Yet they want constant acclaim.

Are they the most entitled generation that has ever existed?

The baby boomers.

Yes. The generation that has single handily robbed future generations of financial prosperity, of social equity, of political stability. I’m talking about my parents, their friends and the people they never will have met but they let commit these crimes against future generations.

I’m talking about the people that ripped the wealth out of businesses, that increased inequality. That were responsible for the financial crisis, the political and social unrest. The people that sold off our state treasures and bought reduced price shares for personal profit. That robbed us of our natural resources for financial gain.

I’m talking about the generation that has single handedly made sure that it benefitted from the best health service, but then made it unaffordable. That benefitted from a buoyant housing market, but then made it unaffordable. They benefited from free and subsidised higher education, but then made it unaffordable.

And I’m talking about the generation that has led the charge to isolation and exile. That wiped millions, if not billions off the pension funds of the next generation so they could live in a whimsical bubble of post war tea and spam sandwiches. That will remove the opportunity for the next generation and the one after that to enjoy the privileges that they have had, because of the fabricated fear of different faces – and the notional concept of “gaining control”.

The generation that doesn’t see the irony in the fact that most of them will be dead before the real ramifications of the decision are ever felt. Which in all this sorry mess, is the only upside.

You should all be ashamed. You did not do enough.

But then I say this. This is not your country, this is ours. This is not your future, this is ours. This will not be your vision, it will be ours. I tell you this,

We will make this right.

As your hips start to go and the catheters slip in. As the memory fades and the eyesight dims. As we push you quietly in to the corner to await your final moments.

We will sort this out. We will make this better. We will build a world and a society that will put you to shame. We will confine you to the history books as the most selfish, most entitled and most negligent generation ever. We will remember what you’ve done and always strive to be better than you.

We will undo what you’ve done and we will build anew.

And we will never, ever let this happen again.

 

NOTE: This was written on Friday, when emotion was high. But I’ve decided to post in full – realising that in places it may stray into vitriol. It was also before I saw this earlier post from my friend at Flipchart Fairytales. Which deals with issue much more sensibly.

The future of work is…

A recent fad appears to be making predictions about the future of work. Made by the same demographic that watched Tomorrow’s World in the 70s and proclaimed that by the year 2000 we’d all be going around in flying cars and eating meals in the form of pills.

The excitement is real and genuine, every time a high-profile organisation does anything goofy, we hear “that’s the future of work”. Which totally misses the point. This isn’t about,

  • Social connection
  • Collaboration
  • Mobile technology
  • Holacracy (I can’t even bring myself to say it)

At the end of the day, the basis of work is an exchange of labour for reward. Not much changing there any time soon.

Too much of the debate is led by the middle-income, middle class, semi professional demographic. Who, it seems to me, are forecasting what they would like to see happen rather than basing it on anything solid.

So what are the trends that we are definitely seeing?

But none of these things are new. We’ve seen them all before. In fact, they represent the trend for significant parts of the history of work and employment.*

  • A gap between rich and poor
  • The skilled and the unskilled
  • Regional wealth
  • Longer working life and the dependence of the infirm*

In some ways, you could argue that the last fifty years have been the blip. When we look at the future of work, we need to look a little bit further afield…..

But it isn’t forward, it’s back.

And there’s not a single, shiny new management trend in sight. Just a significant challenge for all of us involved in the world of work to face up to.

*UPDATE: Thanks to @FlipChartRick for seeking clarification on this point. The use of the word “trend” is perhaps a little loose and reality might have been a better choice of words.