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Driven by Uber: The New Workforce in the Future of Work

Ken Chen

Ken Chen

July 9, 2015

The recent California Labor Commissioner ruling that found that an Uber driver to be an employee has been sparking a lively and important debate. What should a worker, who controls who he works for, when, and how, be? An employee or a contractor? It’s always seemed straightforward to me. But what if that worker works primarily for one company, like Uber or Lyft or a platform like eLance?

Techcrunch recently wrote about how this ruling is a harbinger for change. I couldn’t agree more. I believe that a new classification will be created for workers like Uber and Lyft drivers, for the shared-work economy. And it will eventually come to law because it’s better for people (and ultimately for corporations).

Being a Contractor Is the New Employee

The employment landscape has changed dramatically. Workers want to be in charge of when, for whom, how much and how they work. In the Bay Area, where people no longer view a career as working at one or two companies throughout their life, and realize employment security is a thing of the past, workers want to be in control of their work life.

However, being a traditional employee may work well for two types of people: 1) those who have limited skills that won’t be valued in the open marketplace, and 2) upper management types who call the shots and make a disproportionate salary compared to their lower-level peers.

What about the majority of folks stuck in the middle? They are the heart and soul of companies, the middle managers and experienced workers that manage and execute the work every day. For them, it means days are getting longer, are filled with more stress, and their salaries have stagnated.

The New Workforce in the Future of Work

There’s a reason why every year, I meet with over 100 disgruntled, burnt-out or bored, “hanging-on” employees or new ex-employees who find their way to my door because we provide a different path for them. They are the fuel for our company. Smart, experienced, under-appreciated, but talented marketers, designers and specialists looking for a way to re-enter the work force on their terms. This is the new workforce for the Future of Work:

  • This new workforce will be filling the void that seems to exist when companies lay off the middle layer, as a way to chase short-term profit and satisfy their share holders.
  • This new workforce is more efficient, because they are paid by the project and have to maximize their time. They can avoid much of the “time-suckage” of endless email, meetings and PowerPoint.
  • This new workforce brings their experience, wisdom and fresh thinking to each project, and the good ones don’t worry about internal politics when making recommendations.
  • This new workforce is supported by other team members who are experts in other areas and can tap into their knowledge base virtually and almost immediately.
  • This new workforce can take one project and turn it into a team project which allocates more cost-efficient resources for tasks that don’t require more expensive ones.
  • This new workforce can scale up and down to meet aggressive deadlines without the risk of burning out employees.
  • This new workforce can take risks, fail fast and learn rapidly because their career is not on the line.
  • This new workforce is happy to step aside and train permanent employees to fill their roles because in their book that’s a success.
  • This new workforce will be classified under a new category of worker, one that can receive partial benefits from progressive client companies that will use them as a perk, but operate very independently.

What do you think? Are you ready for the Future of Work?

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7 thoughts on “Driven by Uber: The New Workforce in the Future of Work”

  1. This is right on so many levels. Over the past decade the employment structure has failed to meet the needs of many highly skilled, experienced middle managers – the ones who GSD! They’ve learned that there is another way to get the compensation that they value for their efforts, rather than the cookie-cutter compensation (plus lack of job security) offered by many employers. That compensation includes control of ones time, projects, colleagues as well as income and benefits.

  2. I’m excited everyday by this Future of Work – it just makes so much sense. By nature, I’m pragmatic. I want the best and for the best deal. I bring that to my work by helping companies make the wisest investment of their marketing budgets. This Future of Work allows me to bring the most talented team to deliver the most effective approaches, and to do it all efficiently. This Future is bright for employees and businesses alike.

  3. Agreed, the ‘new workforce’ is upon us and new contractor classifications will come soon. While great for individuals, I wonder how successful businesses will adapt to perpetual contractor churn, inefficient knowledge transfer, maintaining a sense of team/shared purpose, and management training/succession planning.

  4. Yes, the future of work is here, or atleast the next iteration…a work model that revolves around life rather than the other way around. I compare that to our parents’ generation where they worked 40+ hours for the same company for most of their adult life and think how much has changed in a couple of decades. While not everyone will choose to go the IC route, I think it’s wonderful that many more of us are putting value on each working moment and making it count. It’s also inspiring to see companies like Treehouse cutting the workweek while preserving pay and benefits. We need many, many experiments to innovate our way into a more sustainable work model.

  5. Yes, the future of work is here, or atleast the next iteration…a work model that revolves around life rather than the other way around. I compare that to our parents’ generation where they worked 40+ hours for the same company for most of their adult life and think how much has changed in a couple of decades. While not everyone will choose to go the IC route, I think it’s wonderful that many more of us are putting value on each working moment and making it count. It’s also inspiring to see companies like Treehouse cutting the workweek while preserving pay and benefits. We need many, many experiments to innovate our way into a more sustainable work model.

  6. I agree that the future of work will mean more efficiency for companies and greater flexibility for the workforce. The issue of benefits will either help or hinder the growth of this new workforce. The Affordable Care Act is one step in the right direction, but it still feels like this “new workforce” isn’t as covered as traditional employees. If the question of benefits can be resolved in a way that is cost-effective and reliable, that might help more people make this leap.

  7. I love the changes happening in the way people work! Thank you for this article. I’ve been an independent consultant for 14 years now and have found that alliances and partnerships are more valuable and enjoyable long-term work relationships that I had when I was employed full-time at HP for a decade. I especially appreciate the opportunity to make recommendations free of the fear of politics, and take necessary risks that only risk one client, not my entire career. When my integrity demands that I speak the truth to powerful people who hire me, I do it! Most clients appreciate the value of my outside perspective, without the sugar coating. At HP I was . . . irritating?! And my career suffered. I guess I’m just too direct to be a good employee, but I make a great consultant for companies that are truly committed to positive change! Thanks for this reminder!

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