Breaking Free from Lifetime Employment

employees and employers should agree upon short increments of work to accomplish together much like a military tour of duty. Once the work is complete, they should meet to reevaluate what happens next.

Source: Reid Hoffman takes on management in The Alliance – Fortune

Keeping with our theme of independence for the week, this is a good interview with Reid Hoffman on the subject of employee’s independence from the old school “lifetime employment” model.

Reid describes a very interesting model of employment.  It seems to fit really well with agile values, it’s definitely a highly transparent model that would require trust.  In it managers work with employees to better define how they will work together to meet the needs of the company, while at the same time advancing the employee and meeting her needs towards her career goals.  One of my first managers described how he saw the world of employment unfolding which was in line with this as well.  In his opinion pretty much everyone (all knowledge workers at least) would become contractors.  You may only work for one company, you may work for more than one.  You would generally be responsible for your own equipment and work location, but employers may offer some options there as well (equipment to buy/lease and work space to lease).  As an entrepreneurial person who has always desired independence…this sounds great to me!  You could potentially work as little or as much as you wanted/needed and even fluctuate that during the year.  The drawback of consulting generally is the possibility of less stability, always having to find the next engagement.  Though if more employment moved to this model it would increase the available jobs out there for that model which would help with that problem.  Definitely interesting to consider.

I’ve also heard some interesting takes recently on the Planet Money Podcast about how they envision the job market changing.  In episode #626: This is the End they talk about the possibility of automation taking over jobs and there being far fewer jobs in the future.  This would of course then mean there would be more unemployment and a higher dependency ratio.  The smaller number of available jobs would also support the consultant employment model better as you may not need people to work 40 hours a week or you could possibly then employ more people for less hours each week.

Alright, so not sure how “agile” related this ended up being, but definitely some interesting things to think about.  How do you see the job market evolving and how do you see impacting current agile practices?


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  • I grew up at the tail end of the permanent employment era. I watched my dad put in 18 years at the factory when in an early leveraged buyout the company was closed and Dad’s pension was drained. I decided then and there I would not rely on any company for stability and a future. I’ve changed jobs every 2-5 years throughout my career, usually when a better opportunity came along.

    That said, the steady paycheck and health insurance benefits of working for a company has been very welcome while I have been raising a family. I have another six years before my kids are grown and college is paid for, and after that I can live with some income instability should I choose to consult. Additionally, thanks to Obamacare, at least it is now possible to get health insurance as an individual at rates that are somewhat less usurious than before.

    • Thanks for the comment Jim! Access to affordable benefits and maybe some better programs/help to deal with fluctuating income would be required in this model. Programs for retirement savings exist, though usage would hopefully increase. If the future described in the Planet Money podcast comes about there would likely need to be some more drastic changes as well as far as how we get paid and how we support those who don’t have jobs as that would drastically increase. It will definitely be interesting to watch.

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