2017 Workplace Trends: Security is Out, Hustle is In

gig economy

Fundamental changes to the way we work. Here are the two biggest trends:

  1. Companies can’t find enough qualified workers
  2. Jobs aren’t what they used to be as companies increasingly disaggregate work from a job.

Read on below for more specifics on the biggest workplace challenges companies are facing as well as what Harvard MBA students are being taught about getting great work assignments vs. looking for increasingly scare full time jobs.

Biggest Workplace Challenge For Companies: Finding Qualified Employees

  • Many industries, including real estate and the construction sector, are facing serious labor shortages that are only expected to get worse. Young people, unfortunately, no longer aspire to join the ranks of skilled workers. The situation is so dire that the Urban Land Institute (ULI) is planning a major rebranding of the industry to reshape the way college graduates view the construction industry – not as a “dead-end job,” but rather, a “step on a career path.” We’ll see how that goes.
  • Companies have to move where the talent is: Detroit (and Pittsburgh) Automotive startups have been beefing up their presence in Detroit to attract engineering talent away from traditional automakers, because those engineers don’t want to move out West (housing costs).
  • Other tech companies are doing the same. Google is opening an office in Novi, Michigan for their self-driving car project. Uber is also opening a facility in the Detroit area to focus on self-driving technologies (they also have a campus in Pittsburgh).


Jobs aren’t what they used to be (Source: Diane Mulcahy for Harvard Business Review)

The advice I give my students is to look for plentiful work, not increasingly scarce jobs. (Diane Mulcahy)

Harvard MBAs are now being taught how to cultivate the mindset, skills, and toolkit to succeed in this new world of independent work. They stand a better chance of creating an engaging and satisfying work life if they focus on getting great work instead of a good job.

Here’s why:

  • Full time jobs are disappearing. All of the net employment growth in the U.S. over the past decade came from alternative work arrangements, not full-time jobs.
  • Young businesses, not small businesses, create the most new jobs. Startup businesses used to create about 3 million jobs a year in the U.S. but that has declined to 2 million per year.
  • Work is being disaggregated from jobs. Instead of full time jobs, there are more alternative arrangements, such as consulting projects, freelance assignments, and contract opportunities. For example, there are fewer full-time journalist jobs available, but there is plenty of freelance reporting work.
  • Full-time employees are becoming the worker of last resort.  Instead of preferring full-time employees, many firms now actively avoid them, and look for ways to build their business models and run their firms with as few full-time employees as possible.
  • Traditional work isn’t working for most Americans. Job security no longer exists, and the good wages, generous benefits and secure retirement that used to be guaranteed with full-time employment are in decline or have disappeared.
  • The gig economy rewards hustle. Workers entrenched in a passive, complacent employee mindset that relies on their employer to provide a sense of stability, career progression, and financial security will struggle.
  • Skilled and entrepreneurial workers who are comfortable with – and excited about – developing their own income streams, marketing themselves, and connecting with others are best positioned to take advantage of the gig economy and will move from good jobs to great work.
  • Corporate workers whose skills are common, commoditized, or less in demand struggle the most in the gig economy. Their jobs, including midlevel and low-level managers, executive assistants, or bookkeepers, are most likely to be automated, eliminated, contracted out, or outsourced. Their incomes are stagnating, their benefits are shrinking, and they are too slow in recognizing that there is no longer any job security.

Links to both of Diane Mulcahy’s excellent articles in HBR here and here.  Definitely worth reading.

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