Business Week recently presented a somewhat gloomy outlook for the US worker entitled “The Disposable Worker”. Citing numerous statistics, the article lays out in excruciating detail the challenges facing the “permanent temporary workforce”.
From my perspective, there is no question the US worker faces unique challenges in the face of these driving corporate changes, and I think the attention brought to the issue by Business Week is critical. However, it seems hard to fathom that the changes afoot are being driven exclusively by corporate America. Job satisfaction has seen a steady decline since 1987, dropping steadily from 61.1% to the 2009 response of 45.3%. Playing into these job satisfaction numbers is the impact corporate America is having on the quality of life of its employees. Looking at the same time period, from 1987 to 2009, non-farm workers have been squeezed for a combined 57.2% increase in output/hour, with a 26.6% rise in total hours worked. That makes a huge difference in the amount of time spent working for your employer and the stress levels during those working hours. It’s no wonder you hear people talking about the “rat race”, working around the clock, and never being able to leave the job behind even on vacation. In this environment, the US worker is understandably going to be considering all alternatives exclusive of corporate initiatives.
While I hesitate to say record unemployment is a positive thing for a workforce, I do think Business Week and many other recent publications are under estimating the potential opportunity this economic shift presents to the US workforce, and the resiliency and ingenuity that workforce will show in its response to the opportunity. As long as businesses of every size and shape continue to believe that they are only as good as their people, the individual will have a hand to play. The key is to learn to play that hand from outside the four walls of the business.
A key next step is to build technologies, services and resources that will help smooth the transition for this workforce:
The US worker isn’t going anywhere without a fight and there will be plenty of companies and organizations like Mavenlink (Mavenlink, Freelancer’s Union) that will rise up and stand squarely in their corner.