In the future, work won’t be constrained by boundaries. That’s going to mean fewer full-time jobs, but there will be much more contract work that anyone or any company with the right expertise can take on anywhere in the world with the click of a mouse or a finger tap on a mobile device, say Tim Houlne and Terri Maxwell, authors of The New World of Work: From the Cube to the Cloud.
Ms. Maxwell, a mentor and founder of business incubator Succeed on Purpose Inc. in Irving, Tex., discusses how you can be ready to grab opportunities:
What does the new world of work look like to you?
Work will be fractionalized, with projects broken down into smaller tasks. As a result, most companies will be hiring fewer full-time employees because they can assign routine tasks such as contract projects to people with the specific skills needed for that part of the work.
Careers will be virtualized thanks to cloud technology. Both contract and permanent role-based work is already moving from offices to the cloud and professionals can work from anywhere and at any time.
Talent will be globalized as crowdsourcing and virtualization mean that smart businesses can get the skilled people they need no matter where they may be.
How is fractionalization different from outsourcing?
Outsourcing was about sending jobs to lower wage countries to save money. Fractionalizing work is about breaking roles into smaller pieces and having each done by the highest quality worker. In the new world of work, specialization will be a competitive advantage because the world is changing so quickly that it will be too hard to find workers who have a broad enough range of skills to be able to do everything. As work is fractionalized into smaller pieces, employers will look for someone with the exact skill needed for each part of the project.
You project that professional temp work will be on the upswing through at least 2017. What specialties will be affected the most?
We are finding that more than 70 per cent of all jobs today can move into the cloud in the next one to three years.
The list is growing but some of the hottest areas are branded customer experience representatives, marketers, programmers, developers and software engineers, virtual administrators, writers and editors and designers – both for print and the Web.
What makes being a “virtualpreneur” a viable career in the future?
Being a virtualpreneur is the best option for the future, because it takes the best of being an entrepreneur and combines it with the benefits of virtual work. Virtualpreneurs will use “virtual work platforms” to find work online. They’re like matchmaking sites that match what you’re looking to do with the companies looking to hire you.
Most professionals and business leaders haven’t even heard of oDesk. That’s unfortunate, because oDesk built one of the fastest growing talent marketplaces linking corporations with virtual talent to fill work gaps on a contract basis. oDesk, which is a shortened version of the words “online desk,” allows companies to post freelance projects on its platform at no cost. Freelance contractors are allowed to post profiles and bid on projects also for no charge. And, oDesk isn’t the only virtual work platform experiencing record growth. There are many more, including Elance.com and Freelancer.com. Most of these virtual work platforms retain 10 per cent of the fees generated by matchmaking projects.
If workers can think less about “work” and more about what they enjoy doing, they will find that work is readily available. Also, it’s imperative to know that you are competing for work, and you will get a “score” on these platforms so the better you perform, the more money you will make and the higher your chances of making more matches in the future.
Won’t people have to put in longer hours in cloud-based work to make what they’d make in the cube?
At first, yes. You have to be entrepreneurial in this new world. You’ll have to work hard for less money, and get those “scores” online. As you get a few clients and score highly, you get more work, at better pay. Think of it like online review sites for restaurants or retailers. The cool part is that the better you are, the more money you make. That’s because work is now a marketplace rather than a workplace and the highest pay goes to the best workers.
What do the trends in customer service say about providing services people will come back for?
Today, as never before, the customer has a new set of tools to communicate. With social media, customers can provide instant feedback on likes and dislikes, and do it in full, open view of the entire marketplace, rather than behind a smoked glass window with researchers analyzing feedback. Customer research is now as simple as reading the Facebook, Twitter, Yelp or Pinterest post of any company brave enough to put a page into cyberspace. Whether making a Facebook post or setting up a boycott of a specific company’s website, customers know they have the power to force companies to respond. The tables have turned in this new world, and the customer clearly has control.
So, the employee better be empowered, too. The customer will demand instant service, from any channel. And, the customer still wants to be able to talk to a real person.
The companies that capitalize on these new trends will gain huge strategic talent advantages, lower costs and improved expertise. And the professionals and employees of these companies will make themselves even more valuable and create totally new career models that we haven’t even thought of yet.
What’s your advice for finding the jobs of tomorrow?
For the corporation, the entrepreneur, the “solopreneur” and the professional, there is one fundamental truth: Today’s job will not exist in five years, and tomorrow’s job hasn’t been created yet. The only thing we have is the opportunity to capitalize on this dynamic.
This interview has been edited and condensed.