Let me point out - again - that the answer to the question is useless - because the question is badly framed. I have written about this before here, here and here and a whole host of other places aswell.
Fast forward to a LinkedIn graphic that was presented to me last week.
It appeared in Brett King's LinkedIn stream. Brett and I are connected on LinkedIn, and have a couple of very good mutual friends in common. Brett, like another 'futurist' Gerd Leonhard is doing a great job in 'getting the word out', but I worry that the word being got out is not just oversimplified but actually harmful because people are being lulled into a false sense of security.
This Is One Such Example
First, I assume that 'Aritificial' is a typo and not some new technological development ...
... but the lack of proofreading of a single sentence might be a clue to how substantial the thinking is that underpins the idea.
Important: Please do not take this post as my taking an anti position on Brett. I don’t know him, but do follow and pay attention. He is not wrong on a number of issues. Like these two ..
The Original Post on LinkedIn (sorry - I wanted to embed it here - but LinkedIn is the only site that seems to fail with a WordPress embeds) ... go figure.
The crux of my issue is the flip approach to what is happening in the world of business today.
I limited my response to a few lines ... hoping that a reader would be able to 'read between them', Brett read the lines, but not between them.
Brett duly responded ...
Readers of this blog will know that this is something I understand.
The point I was trying to make is not about the future of work - we know is being redefined through outsourcing, offshoring, automation, AI, the gig economy, zero hour contracts ... and it is clear those jobs aren't going to come back.
My point is (and always has been) more 'People Firsty' ... that is as all of this comes to be - how will people make income to live their lives in the future?
In the comments in Brett's thread people referenced the four day week - and everyone is talking about how it is already happening. The assumption seems to be that a staff member will no longer work 5 days and instead work 4 days.
This is quite brilliant and lovely and utopian and - all those things we want to have in and around our lives and existence. Who doesn’t want to work less ...
If their salary is not affected.
But let's just take a couple of seconds to do a pretty shallow dive ... if people are working 4 days, not 5, then they are working 20% less. To let them work less and not pay them less is the equivalent of companies giving each of those people a 20% salary increase.
Are companies going to do that?
The answer is in plain sight because we have a stalking horse in the race. Thanks to COVID we have proof points all over the world that people don’t want to 'go back to the office' and in turn, some companies have responded with
That's ok - work wherever you want!
Spectacular - until you read the small print ...
This isn't the only article out there, do a search and you will find hundreds, if not thousands of articles debating the merits of paying your staff based on what locals earn.
Case in point - move 200 miles up the I80 from San Francisco to Reno, salaries are nothing like that of the Bay Area. On top of that since Reno is in Nevada - there is no state tax. In California - well like most places, it varies, but here is one slice ...
|$115,648 – $590,746||9.30%|
- so moving your life 200 miles reduces your cost of living substantially just based on tax savings. But there's more ...
So if you can do your job remotely, why wouldn’t you want to move to a cheaper place - and collect the same income. (Putting the comparison of living in Reno versus San Francisco aside.)
It does seem to be a perfect idea - except your employer is not generally going to allow that - because they do - and will - pay you based on where you live - not where you work!
I get the argument, I really do - but that's my point. If companies aren't going to pay people for value delivered, but based on where they live, then why are they suddenly going to pay you a higher daily rate because you want to work less?
To me, the 4 day week is an experiment to cut salaries - legally. It won't happen suddenly - just over time. They might well leave your salary in place, but everyone's? ... and when you leave will they continue to pay your premium rate to the next person?
As more and more people leave their cubes to follow their dreams and passions - which is what everyone is telling you to do - right? Follow your dreams - it will all work out.
What dream and passion are you going to follow?
Look around today and you will find little societal support for artists, musicians, writers, poets et al. Imagine if the number of such people suddenly doubled, grew fivefold or even tenfold as we all follow our dreams ... are all those people suddenly going to be earning a lot more? (it's a rhetorical question.)
We are also told that there is so much opportunity in the professions of care-giving, social services, teachers, hospital workers, elderly care. They are right. Lots of opportunities. They are all on the ‘hot professions’ list, but before you get too excited, go talk to the people who work in those areas now. Ask them why Teachers are resigning en masse? Why do nurses get trained and don’t go into health services?
There are countless examples of how society (that's you and me), value these professions. We don't.
Back to musicians - we pay Spotify 10 bucks a month to stream an 'all you can eat' flow of music to your ears. The artists are generally not well rewarded. But it's not as if Spotify aren't making good money. How else do they afford to $100 million to sign up a single podcast - or buy company after company as they seek to lock up the world of podcasting. (BTW - they are doing it because the more you listen to that - the less they have to pay out.)
To conclude, as wonderful as it is for all of us to follow our dreams and passions - so we can all live fulfilled lives - we also need to earn an income. And we are barely doing that today, so how is that going to get better?
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Or maybe we will all move into social services, hospitals, caring for the elderly - since they are all on the ‘hot professions’ list. That said, the last two years have clearly demonstrated that while ‘society’ might value the people in those roles, it is clear that the paymasters do not.
In short, as we replace jobs with automation - and people don’t have a way to replace that income, something is not adding up.
Bottom line - as organizations remove people from their vendor supply chain and automate sales to improve business efficiency, more and more people will be left out of the workforce - and no matter how many Norman Tebbits (Sorry old English reference), how about Kim Kardashian's words of 'motivation'.
I have a way of looking at the issue. I call it ...
The Business Equation
At the simplest level, the business equation recognizes that every commercial entity has an input - where it creates something using people, money and/or assets to create a product or service that is sold - the output. The 'black box' in the middle is the business. Your business. Any business.
To maximize shareholder value, the business seeks to reduce the cost of what it produces or increase the price of what it sells. Yes there all kinds of techniques that are used - but reduce it all down and you are left with
It is a simplification, but the logic holds.
It is also true that on the left-hand side of the equation the fixed costs of 'people' is really high - which is why over the years, companies have sought to cut those costs by 'getting people off the books'. That's where outsourcing and offshoring got their start. Automation through Robotics is now turning into AI and then at contractual levels, the gig economy / zero-hour contracts all play into the needs of corporations who keep on pushing the boundaries of 'just in time' 'people'.
And you thought the days of people being cogs in the corporate engine was a thing of the past!
Now imagine every company big and small working to remove people from the equation in this way. Where does it leave people? Every mini Business Equation on the left of that diagram is doing its bit to outsource, offshore, automate .... and where do people fit in that equation?
To quote my friend Geoffrey Moore ...
That's What I Think - What Do You Think?