In a Robotizing World a Worker Becomes an Investor
A lot of talk about the future of work is going on around the world. Almost everybody seems to be worried about what will happen when robotization and digitalization take over more and more of jobs that used to belong to us humans.
Indeed there is a great need for new solutions because there are jobs that will never require a pair of human hands and the development does not show signs of getting slower. Just the opposite is happening, as robots get cleverer and handier they keep on moving to new areas of business, not avoiding even the work of the scientists, nerds or customer servants.
Following the discussion of the future of work in Finland, it seems that a lot of effort is put into making old models solve the new challenges. That will not happen, we think, and therefore we suggest a new design for thriving in the working life where in addition to humans there are several different artificial agents keeping the wheels of economic life and societies rolling.
Work Is Dying – Long Live Work!
Professor Richard Florida has shown in his study ”Occupational and Industrial Distribution in Peterborough” that the number of jobs that include service and creativity will increase whereas jobs in the farming and manufacturing sectors will decrease to an extent that it is not reasonable to compile statistics in those fields anymore – even though growth is strong in those sectors. Somebody or something is working hard in farms and factories!
The former CEO of the International Federation of Robotics Dr. Shinsuke Sakakibara foresaw in 2013 that in the coming five years robots will create millions of high quality jobs – there where robots are used, we would like to add. The benefits of the development are seen for example in the US where Paul Krugman thanked robots for reshoring jobs to America (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/08/rise-of-the-robots/) . Reshoring seem to be trending in other countries too, thanks to robots and automation.
The window of opportunity is open. Robots and automation create new jobs, innovations, new companies and most important: new possibilities to solve the enormous global challenges we face in our times. However, the window might be closing. What happens when robots storm into service sector, offices and hospitals – places where we are used to see many post-industrial workers? The closing time for the window can be closer than we think – or want to believe. We need to get prepared.
Some politicians still hold on to a dream of a factory to where people swarm to work in five continuous shifts. We have bad news for those politicians: your dream will not come true. The first fully automated factories are running as well as fully robotized hotels. We can see the signs of the new world, now we need to act.
The Future of Work: From Worker to Investor
So, what is the future of work? Micro jobs, part-time jobs, entrepreneurship, these are some of the solutions presented, many of them are seen a part of sharing economy. However, will sharing economy be a sustainable solution? Even Uber that is often portrayed as a leading example of sharing economy have started to put a plan to use robots instead of people in action http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/may/22/uber-self-driving-car-pittsburgh
Will entrepreneurship be a solution to guarantee jobs for all? Perhaps not. Not all want to become entrepreneurs and probably there will be companies that need human workers also in the future.
What about basic income? A guaranteed minimum income could be a part of the solution but it does not solve the challenges of globalizing, complex and fragmented job markets. We need new solutions to offer people possibility/possibilities to create a concept for work, a way to combine several jobs in a portfolio that provides economical means for living and wealth creation, inspiration and incentive to use their own capacities optimally and enough safety to enable freedom from fear of survival.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Please allow us to present Work as an Investment!
Work as an Investment means that a person offers her/his work to a company or organization in a same way as an investor invests in shares. During the investment, a dividend is payed, and if the investment is profitable, it can continue. If the investment does not create sufficient value it can be denounced and the company pays the ”price of the day” for the investor. WaaI includes incentives for both the ”employee” investor and the ”employer” or the organization where the investment is placed.
WaaI is a way of doing business with one’s competencies and capabilities. It is not a time-bank where people exchange tasks. It is not a way of crowdsourcing either, even though there are some similarities.
Work as an Investment is a new way of thinking work and job markets, it is based on business- and investment concepts. Elina Lepomäki, a Member of the Finnish Parliament, writes: ” … a direct or indirect border-crossing trade of anybody’s competence is going on. There will be work only for those who have something to give in their domain and can provide it with a market price.”
WaaI is a tool for human beings to deal with their work input like an investor. The work input can be invested in several organizations and by so means build an investment portfolio where the capital produces best interest and grows optimally.
From CV to the competence portfolio
For workers it should be useful to assess their own skills and capabilities in relation to their factual (1) core work knowledge, (2) customer-specific knowledge and (3) strategic competence and knowledge. Each individual has his or her own competence portfolio. They negotiate and make work contracts in the labor market based on their own personal competence portfolio.
On the other hand, each has its own employee talent portfolio, which they can develop through training, education and self-improvement. When an employee goes to work for any organization, new work represents an opportunity to develop his/her competence portfolio more versatile and add something valuable to their own competence portfolio. Also, the employer has the chance to develop the whole company’s total human/intelligence capital portfolio. In the best case both parties will benefit based on Win-Win principle, i.e. the employee can increase the value of his/her competence portfolio and the employer receives an additional contribution to the knowledge-based capital portfolio. In addition, this kind of competence portfolio may be the great possibility for a wide range of investment opportunities and business agreements.
Like in the business world, start-ups and companies develop new business models, workers should also develop new kind of competence portfolio models, which help them to diversify risks and work investments in their personal life. Modern portfolio theory (MPT) is a theory on how risk-averse investors can construct portfolios to optimize or maximize expected return based on a given level of market risk, emphasizing that risk is an inherent part of higher reward. This kind of MPT thinking can be applied also to work markets, where workers invest in their competence portfolios. Why we allow risk management based concept/model? On the MPT for companies, but we do not allow the MPT for workers? Indeed, the WaaI model allows portfolio thinking for all workers.
Like in stock markets investors invest in many companies, WaaI suggest that workers could invest their work input in several companies. A WaaI -investor can have a number of human capital portfolio contracts. This requires, of course, that the investors’s and the company’s roles are very clear, which is not always true in the conventional labor market.
There are also many trainers and educational organizations, that can be involved in the contract and competence portfolio model. For example, today through crowdsourcing business models citizens will reach very “divergent model” agreements in the labor market. Actually, some of these new contract models are not particularly fair. If you want to see work as an investment, it requires a kind of an investment agreement with an investment commitment to a genuine on both sides of portfolio contractors. Admittedly, new research is needed to clarify the operating work contract models in which both workers and employers are free to agree on the terms of the work carried out. In the very traditional model of “paid work”, involved parties do not have a clear idea of the portfolio investment model, which makes it a high-risk contract model in the rapidly changing labor markets. The traditional model of “paid work” or employment also displaces many people from the labor market, if they are not ready to set up their own companies. This is a real problem in the freelancer work market.
A useful model to understand the key components of competence portfolio was developed by Professor John Holland when the RIASEC personality model was formulated. According to this model, people´s orientation can be classified as Realistic (Realistic), Investigating (Investigative), Artistic (Artistic), Social (Social), Enterprising (Enterprising) and Conventional (Conventional). This model has proven to be useful and reliable scientific basis as a model example of competence portfolio with strong career planning point of view. When the work is seen as an investment, the WaaI model can help people in their career planning and support people’s inherent personality traits and talents.
Figure 1 shows an integrated WaaI model with key elements: (1) Human capital classification of core work knowledge customer knowledge and strategic skills knowledge, (2) human personality and competence model based on Holland’s RIASEC model, and (3) competence & qualifications needs analysis of organizations and companies, which should have a very clear connection with companies needing core work knowledge, customer knowledge and strategic skill knowledge.
This kind of integrated WaaI model could be useful, for example, when labor unions, public agencies and private agencies want to develop effective local bargaining system (in Finland?). This conceptual model would also help to orient training and educational organizations providing the right kind of core work knowledge, customer knowledge and strategic knowledge. In Finland, the key challenge is to form a correct big picture of the knowledge capital of future(s?) of labor markets. In addition, correct precision training of national talent pool is by no means an easy thing to accomplish. Integrated WaaI model and the associated WaaI -portfolio competence model could be an effective and realistic approach to these future challenges.
Digital applications WaaI’s tools
In Finland, which is modern knowledge and innovation society, we can easily develop new intelligent digital applications, that would help to improve matching of firms and employees to the knowledge capital in a rapidly changing global labor market. Work as an Investment model could be a more realistic way of working in the changed social circumstances. The local intelligent bargaining model of labor markets, which functions digitally, could be sufficiently ambitious and bright model for the future developments of the labor market.
WaaI is a new social innovation. All sides of labor market stakeholders can benefit from WaaI in a big way. Like all inventions, the WaaI model also calls people for the further developments and piloting. After WaaI 1.0 comes WaaI 2.0. Nowadays, when more labor market flexibility is much desired, we need more dynamic experiment cultures and courage to make a new WaaI idea function in changing realities of work markets.
Cristina Andersson and Jari Kaivo-oja
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