Hiring Wisdom: Do You Believe These Lies About the “New” World of Work?

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Jul 13, 2015

Except for the recent brouhaha about raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, the business press routinely ignores the more than 60 percent of American workers who are hourly employees.

A recent article in Fast Company (titled, These Are The New Rules of Work) is, by far, more typical. The article’s subhead reads: Forget everything you’ve always known about work. The rules have changed.

Well, maybe they’ve changed for a small percentage of the white collar workforce, but most of us, exempt and non-exempt alike, are stuck with the “old rules” or with a new rule that is even worse than the old one.

Here are the article’s main points as well as my real world take on what the work world is truly like for the backbone of our workforce and economy ─ our frontline, hourly employees.

Do new rules really trump old rules?

Old Rule: You commute to work every day.
New Rule: Work can happen wherever you are, anywhere in the world.

My take: Not if you work in any one of the 10 industrial groupings that make up the Standard Industrial Classification system (Agriculture/Forestry/Fishing, Mining, Construction, Manufacturing, Transportation/Communications/Utilities, Wholesale, Retail, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Services, and Government).

Yes, technology has moved some activities from in person, face-to-face transactions to the virtual, online world, and telecommuters do account for about 2.6 percent of workers, but, to catch fish, fell trees, build something, drive the bus, sell your wares, help someone buy or sell property, cut anyone’s hair, wait tables, make a movie, or call the court to order, you can’t go gallivanting off somewhere else in the world and still get your job done.

Old Rule: Work is “9 to 5.”
New Rule: You’re on call 24/7.

Both of these rules are just plain wrong. Did you ever know anyone whose hours were 9-to-5? Were they paid for their lunch break or did they just work those eight (8) hours straight and skip lunch all together?

And hardly anyone, with the exception of emergency workers, is really “on call 24/7” — certainly not most hourlies because the employers willing to pay any overtime at all are few and far between. (Most frontline staffers consider themselves lucky if they can get even 36 hours a week.)

Fewer full-time jobs, fewer benefits

Old Rule: You have a full-time job with benefits.
New Rule: You go from gig to gig, project to project.

While contingent/freelance workers now comprise about 20 percent of the workforce, this, by no means, makes this work style “the new rule.” As for the old rule here, employer-provided medical care was available to 86 percent of full-time private industry workers in the United States in March 2014. By contrast, only 23 percent of part-time workers had medical care benefits available.

Since 1968, a time when only 13.5 percent of U.S. employees were part-timers, that number peaked at 20.1 percent in January 2010. The latest data point, over five years later, is only modestly lower at 18.5 percent last month. So, since the peak in 2007, the “rule” is that fewer people have full-time jobs and fewer people have benefits.

Old Rule: You work for money to support yourself and your family.
New Rule: You work because you’re “passionate” about a movement or a cause — you “love what you do.”

Once again, I must disagree. The old rule still rules. I do dream of a better world though, where everyone from the janitor to the CEO knows their job is crucial to the success of the organization and all bring their passionate enthusiasm to the tasks at hand.

This was originally published on Mel Kleiman’s Humetrics blog.

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