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Book Excerpt | The New World of Work: From the Cube to the Cloud
Part 1: Cloud technology allows companies to leverage intellectual property
Feb. 23, 2013 03:00 PM
Thereʼs a popular childrenʼs book called Whereʼs Waldo, in which the lead character - with his signature red-and-white striped shirt and somewhat goofy expression - is obscured by various collections of people and things. Heʼs hidden, but in plain sight (if youʼll excuse the oxymoron) and itʼs the young readerʼs task to locate him in every illustration. By the end of the book, children become adept at locating the enigmatic Waldo in a glance.
We can only hope that this instructional parable reminds us of how sometimes the simplest truth can be obstructed by our need to make things complex. And so it is with the new world of work. If you want to know where the jobs are, hereʼs a hint: Theyʼre in plain sight.
You might call this new, adult game Whereʼs the Work. And the stakes couldnʼt be higher.
The Case of the Disappearing Jobs - Or Not
For example, letʼs say a big company like IBM sets up operations in a new locale. In the past, the company would have staffed the new facility with a thousand new workers. That meant spending hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of corporate dollars on office space, equipment and infrastructure, and parking lots. No more. Today the company builds a small facility, staffs it with 100 or so managers while the remaining positions are sent to the cloud to be filled by talent around the globe. Not because the labor is cheaper...but because the labor is more talented, and more eager to compete for this work. Thatʼs right; compete for the work.
Why would a company such as IBM consider the cloud for its talent needs? Because technology and next generation work now make it possible for companies to work effectively with skeleton crews onsite and large, competent resources spread across the globe.
That brings us to an important point. Youʼre right if you think much of the "new" work has gone overseas. Work has spread across the globe because companies can now source talent easily, and the talent will compete for the work... not based on price, but on the quality of their work.
Ironically, this doesn't mean those same jobs aren't also available in the United States because they are. Itʼs just that most Americans don't realize that this work is available, and we are not prepared to compete for work in this way. Furthermore, most US companies haven't grasped how to capitalize on this new talent war, and only a handful of companies are winning the new game. You see, just as workers are competing for work in the cloud, companies now have to compete for the best talent by providing interesting projects at competitive pay.
Which is why we wrote this book. The New World of Work is both a roadmap for professionals seeking a career in this new world, as well as a compass for those responsible for developing new talent strategies for your company.
The New Revolution
There have been several mini-revolutions since, but nothing to match the scale of the Industrial Revolution. That is, until now.
No Boundaries: Work Has Moved, Not Disappeared
Mooreʼs Law continues to be undeniably accurate. As described in his 1965 paper on computer components, Gordon Moore predicted that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles every two years. Therefore, the speed and performance of computer chips would double every two years. The faster the processing power, the more applications you can run with greater capabilities, the ultimate combination for a virtual world.
Over the last two decades the world experienced several well-publicized workforce developments. First, it was outsourcing, which led to offshoring. Today there is a ubiquitous transformation of work platforms and talent-sourcing that is revolutionizing not just how and where work is performed, but the way business is being done. The New World of Work is leveraging the Information Revolution and in the process, transforming how and where we work. Today work is certainly moving from the cube to the cloud, but in the process itʼs creating an entirely new breed of worker.
Three New-World Workforce Trends
Work has been fractionalized - Routine work has been broken down into small tasks, and as a result, most companies will be hiring fewer full-time workers as they outsource those routine tasks as contract projects.
Careers have been virtualized - With cloud technology and its capacity to allow companies to leverage intellectual property, work (both contract and role-based) is moving from the cube to the cloud. Professionals can work from anywhere, and at any time.
Talent has been globalized - As noted earlier, the fractionalization of work, and virtualization of careers has made talent truly exportable. Forget offshoring; Crowdsourcing means that smart businesses can get talent anywhere, anytime.
In the New World of Work, there are literally no limits to what, how, and where work can be performed. While this is clearly an advantage for those businesses that can adapt, it is an even bigger opportunity for professionals who learn how to compete effectively for this work. And, in a world with no boundaries, learning to compete for this work is paramount. Throughout the book, weʼll show you how to use these trends to position your business or career to compete effectively in a boundary-less world of work.
Work, Work Everywhere...
According to the International Labor Organization, as of this printing in late 2012, two hundred million people are out of work globally, with an estimated forty million of those unemployed workers residing in advanced societies such as those in the United States, Japan and Europe. Yet at the same time, businesses in those nations lament that they are unable to find qualified workers.
A small percentage of this now-persistent unemployment can be explained by weak demand, but clearly there are bigger problems underpinning the stagnant labor market. Despite elevated unemployment levels, many jobs go unfilled in mature economies because employers canʼt find the right talent.
In 2011, when US unemployment was at 9%, an MGI survey of two thousand U.S. companies found that 30% of the available positions remained open for six months or more. The reason? Companies couldnʼt find the required talent. During the same period, 36% of European employers claimed to have difficulty filling roles, and as many as 8% of Japanese companies reported the same challenge.
While technology has enabled a New World of Work, the speed of business and technological change has outpaced the ability of many workers to adapt, resulting in a mismatch between work and the skill required to fulfill demand. So the jobs are there - in fact businesses are crying out to fill them - workers just need to gain the necessary skills - and attitude - to make those jobs their own.
Weʼll Be Your Guides
We know that such dramatic change can feel disconcerting. Once we realized that next generation work was bigger than the cloud technology that enabled it, even we were caught off guard. You see, technology certainly has changed work. But it is a new breed of worker that is changing the way business is done. This new breed of worker competes for work anywhere in the world. They are what we call a "VirtualpreneurTM" - combining an entrepreneurial spirit with virtual work platforms that match talent to the companies who want to hire them, on a contract basis.
Thatʼs why we had to write this book. We felt compelled to explain this new world to the millions of professionals in search of work, all the while missing that the work is right in front of their very eyes. We also know that this new talent marketplace is changing the way businesses must compete for work, and in so doing, most companies are left without talent to fill open positions because the majority of qualified workers arenʼt within a 50 mile radius of their headquarters.
To grasp next generation work, it is imperative to understand what - not who - moved the cube into the cloud. Weʼll show you why itʼs inaccurate (and unproductive) to blame corporations for outsourcing jobs and ripping success from our hands. In the New World of Work, boundaries have vanished and work now moves fluidly around the globe, based on available and passionate talent. This is the effect of a new and ubiquitous trend - not the result of corporations simply trying to increase profit margins.
To truly understand the New World of Work, we must let go of the need to blame and instead grasp that something much bigger is going on. We can no longer blame corporations or the government for not protecting our jobs. Itʼs time to take advantage of the resources surrounding us, set our fears and angst aside, and prepare for the future.
The fact that youʼve chosen to read this book is a very good indication that you are ready to get started. Companies who capitalize on these trends will have increased leverage through human capital. And professionals who create new career strategies geared to the new world will find their skills to be in high demand.
In the coming chapters, we will explore new business, career, and talent models driven by a cloud-based world and a workforce motivated by its passion for the work, rather than the location of the job. The real benefit of removing the boundaries to work is that it enables oneʼs passion for work to take precedence. And companies that can capitalize on passion will take a lead role in the coming Talent Revolution created by the New World of Work.
If youʼre ready to exploit next generation work, and plot a new career strategy for yourself or a talent strategy for your business, then this movement is for you. Welcome to the new world of work.
This is an excerpt from The New World of Work: From the Cube to the Cloud by Tim Houlne and Terri Maxwell. Republished with permission. Copyright © 2013 by Tim Houlne and Terri Maxwell
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