Friday, April 2, 2010

The new 'Age of 3S' can double employment and rebuild Community for no cost.

Sharing, Shaping, Success. a new approach to employment for the Internet Age.

Given the major changes we have seen in the world over the last two years, I have been thinking hard about how the community can get the best benefits from all the sacrifices that have been made over this time.

Although many have gained from what has happened, I believe the majority have lost a lot. Of course many of those that have lost, did start off from a very comfortable position and so, have not been visibly impacted. Much of this comfort came from the effort of our mothers and grandmothers and was invested in the bank of mum and dad. The times that they did this will not be seen again, just as the Victorian age will never return.

These losses are most likely to be seen in a long period of lower consumer activity in all markets. The result will be a lower number of employee roles, each of which has increasingly, and will continue to, become more demanding.

When I started work most individual roles were more specialist, but the number of workers performing each role was greater, and each role was covered by more than one person. This allowed for sick days, holidays and a tea break. Over the years, and with the introduction of automation, this 'slack' has been removed, and has brought the workers more stress, reduced efficiency, more sickness, early retirement and work just 'not being done'.

The irony is that those very workers are now expecting to have to work more years than ever, the retirement age has been reduced over the years, but is now increasing. This means a further reduction in the number of working roles and has resulted in the blocking of these roles by those already in employment.

Although the Country has done pretty well on the surface, it has been like shiny oil on water hiding the sludge building up beneath. As the oil breaks up we see more of the sludge.

Many commentators are likening this time to points in the past, such as when people’s roles moved from being travelling hunters to settled farmers, and from farmers to factory workers. For years there has been talk about us moving into the “Internet Age” but it never seemed to arrive. I think it *was* actually arriving, just with a whimper rather than a bang. The creation of the 'Global' in market and communication terms is a one way change, we will not go back.

At present all the moves of Governments are to 'repair, return, regress' to try and return to the hey days of the last 30 years, but if this *really* is a "revolution for the working population", this won't happen, and it is exactly the time for a 'New Approach to Work', as any attempts to 'go back' are at best mis-guided.

Since I first drafted this post in the New Year, I have spoken to many others about how the ideas may work in practice, and have received a unanimously positive response. What has surprised me the most is that no-one has said "it's been tried before and didn't work because...." or “that won’t work because….”, or even “this is happening already”

My suggestion is that communities create a work-pair of an older and younger member to fill the roles available in all paid employment. This will rapidly double the number of people employed. It will put a framework around uncertain retirement plans for those approaching their 3rd Age, retain the experience of those who have worked so hard over 30 plus years and ease the move of those leaving education, with freshly honed skills, into their 2nd Age. This will produce a Win, Win, Win for the Elder, the Younger and the Employer. And the people of this Country, even, hopefully the World will gain (you’ll notice I’m not one for small ambitions :)

The basis of the plan is job sharing, and of course this is not new, it may not be uncommon, but it is certainly not routine or normal in any sense.

So how is this idea different from existing job share schemes?

This scheme would create an older and younger pair who would form one worker unit. I refer to that unit as a work-pair, but having discussed this with a women’s group I feel that a team of 3 might be better when younger women are making up a work-pair (There is a need to create a vocabulary to describe the scheme components).

Why now?

We have a need to reform work in a way that has not been seen in 80 years. We have tools that we have *never* had before, distributed computers, distributed communications, distributed community. We have used these tools to create a global community of social networks. I believe that the social network is the key to the success of this scheme, and why it’s time has come.

The work-pair would be formed by taking advantage of all we have learnt from the use of social networking over recent years. For example: the use of on-line, virtual and real world get-togethers, co-operation on projects and community activism. For those that are not on-line the Community would extend the social network into the off-line world, being brought to the off-line by those who have the on-line tools.

A key factor in the success of the scheme would be the building of a trust relationship between the partners. Few people agree on everything, and indeed the creation of a work-pair would benefit from the complementary differences within the work-pair. The key element of trust is that the work-pair must resolve any issues that arise within the pairing in a way transparent to the employer.

The work-pair would apply for jobs as one, not two, people. Their application should be assessed and an interview conducted as usual for a singleton. The employers focus should be on the work to be carried out, the measures and results expected, not on managing the presence of each of the work-pair.

Example 1: an older experienced flat roof felter is paired with a younger novice who has the strength and stamina the older man once had. The older man has seen many simple mistakes lead to fires and accidents that gives flat roofing a bad record. These two, by forming a work-pair, do a roof in less than half the time of one man, with higher quality and speeding the build process, bringing a better experience to those that commissioned the job, who will be prepared to use this contractor again and hopefully in preference to those with lower quotes.

Example 2: an older office administrator is paired with two younger women who recently left college. The younger pair are comfortable with the latest computer software, whereas the older knows all the un-written processes of the office. They are all happy to work on the keyboard, but each is concerned over RSI and would prefer to take a break from that work during the day. One younger is a mum and needs to collect and deliver children, the older has family in France and would love to visit them more regularly. I don't need to spell out the benefits of this scenario, particularly at a time when 'maternity leave' is back on the working agenda.

Some work types can be carried out remotely and this gives the opportunity of parallel working, potentially doubling the productivity of the work-pair over a singleton. Where the role requires worker presence, this would be arranged by the work-pair to ensure the times are covered, 24x7x365 as required. The employer should not be concerned with this scheduling. This would particularly suit an older/younger pairing as holiday arrangements, weekend commitments, etc. are likely to intersect rather than collide.

Such a work-pair would be more productive than one individual and the work-role could be expanded to take advantage of this. I would estimate that (1+1)/2=1.25 as a minimum. This greater productivity is needed to cover some of the extra costs of a work-pair, but there should be sufficient extra for each of the work-pair to be remunerated at a higher level than a singleton. As a minimum I would expect that each of the work-pair should earn ¾ of the singleton wage. Remuneration covers more than wages and in other areas the work-pair will gain in ways a singleton could never.

A community push will be needed to improve the legislative regime for the scheme.

National Insurance is levied on the worker and not the role, this needs re-thinking. Employers are as much behind this change as anyone, so we are pushing at an open door there.

The reduction in ‘un-productive people’ will be welcomed by any sensible government, so we are pushing at another open door there.

How about the other challenges?

What are the interests vested in the status-quo?

What do the others impacted think?

What are the other problems?

Now is your chance to join the conversation!

I want to hear your ideas, I need you to spread the word, to discuss the hurdles, to help find the solutions.

Let's show the world that Social Community Networks, work!

v2: typo corrections only.

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