Change is inevitable, and when a strained job market has to flex with the increasing pressure of a sluggish economy, something has got to give. Not necessarily to the betterment of organizations. Not necessarily to the advantage of employees. What occurs is simply Darwinian theory applied to work. Jobs evolve – and mutate.
The structure of work and its evolutionary past
Often the impetus for the change comes from the external environment, and over the course of time jobs have changed to meet the state of the world. From the inception of the role of apprentice to effectively transfer needed skills through the generations – to the needed presence of women in the workforce during World War II – the world of work has changed to adapt to the state of the world.
In our current economy, organizations can be fragile and funds are often tight – limiting the number of full-time employees that can be supported. In response, changes have occurred to the structure of work to deal with these imposed constraints. Whether these changes are transitory in nature, or here to stay remains unclear.
Trends to note & observe:
- Permalancing – The notion of permalancers, those freelancers who spend long periods of time at an organization without actually being considered a full-time employee, raises all sorts of legal and ethical questions. Of particular concern is the obvious lack of job security and its eventual impact upon job satisfaction and performance. In a nutshell, these employees do not enjoy the same benefits or security as other employees within the organization. Some have viewed the positives of the arrangement, as flexible and realistic. However, are these employees able to fully commit to organizational goals? Are freelancers distracted by their search for a permanent home?
- Slashing – When full-time jobs are few in number, employees might have to take on more than one role to meet their financial obligations and fill a 40+ hour work week. Slashing, a type of career “multi-tasking”, has provided some workers the opportunity to pay the bills and stay afloat. Many may actually enjoy the variety of their roles – others may prefer a less dissociative career path. Sometimes, slashing can allow an individual to pursue an entrepreneurial dream, while still working at another role. But, how many of these individuals will choose to stick with this option when the economy stabilizes? What are the long-term ramifications for careers and pay?
- Career Pivoting – Pivoting often entails a change in work setting or industry, where components of the current skill set are applied to a new role. These more “controlled” career path revisions seem to be occurring more and more often. Often the pivot emerges out of the need to follow the work, in other cases to pursue an improved career fit. How pivoting is actually accomplished will be a research focus, as vehicles such as mid-career internships become more popular. How many career changers are choosing a pivot instead of a more drastic career change? Are there opportunities for career pivoting within organizations? Will internships be available for those who require a mid-career revision?
The evolution of our world of work will continue in the coming years. Learning how these changes impact employees and organizations is certainly the next step.
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. You can find her on Twitter and Linkedin.
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