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Is Uber’s View of Workers Old-fashioned?

uber logoThe following guest post is courtesy of our board member, David Creelman.

Lately, Uber is getting beaten up in the courts, as judges rule that Uber drivers are more like employees than independent contractors (see example of recent UK ruling here).

For those who don’t like Uber’s management strategy, this is a good thing. For those who love Uber’s service, rulings that hurt the company are a bad thing. What I wonder about is whether the source of the problem is that Uber is just too old-fashioned. Maybe Uber is locked in an out-of-date view of the workforce.

The pure free agent model that Uber claims to embrace is that truly independent “people with cars” drive around “people without cars”, with the matching made possible by an app. However, in practice, Uber drivers are far from independent. Uber, in fact, tries to control them in a variety of ways—that’s why it’s in trouble with the law.

The question is: does Uber really need to control drivers this much? Or is this attempt to control just the knee-jerk impulse of managers, who for all their tech savvy, still have a view of workers rooted in the industrial age. Managers feel they should be controlling workers; they feel they have the right to control workers; they feel uncomfortable if workers are not controlled.

The lesson for organizations in general, is that perhaps we need to embrace the idea of free agent workers as truly free. Why not lean towards giving workers as much freedom as possible in how they work with us, only imposing limits where it is absolutely necessary? A good real world example of this is Semco Partners, a Brazilian company best known for its radical form of industrial democracy and corporate re-engineering (see “The Seven-Day Weekend” by CEO of Semco, Ricardo Semler for an in-depth look at this unique company). In Semco’s case the workers are employees, but I bet they feel a lot less controlled than Uber’s “free agents”.

Companies that free themselves of the need for control and learn how to give workers as much freedom as possible without hurting productivity or quality, may be the best prepared for a future where the workforce will be a mix of employees and free agents.

What do you think?  Do you agree that less control of workers is better?





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Celebrating the Workforce – Cymbal Maker #1in100MM

In the finale episode of “1 in One Hundred Million,” see how Paul found his rhythm as a cymbal maker to the stars:

Like many musicians, Paul was waiting for his big break. When it didn’t come quick enough, his parents urged him to get a day job – so he headed to Zildjian Cymbals to put his passion to work. His first day on the job wasn’t exactly a dream come true, though – “the first day,” he recalls, “I literally swept the factory floor.”

Fast forward 28 years to today, and Paul knows cymbal-making inside out. He creates cymbals that bring the world’s top drummers’ distinctive sounds to life – in fact, he’s something of a cymbal-maker to the stars: Journey’s Steve Smith, Aerosmith’s Joey Kramer, Santana’s Dennis Chambers, and hundreds more top artists swear by his cymbals.

Click here to view the entire award-winning series of “1 in One Hundred Million.” 

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Employee Engagement: The $687 Billion Question

couldnt do it without employeesEarlier this year, we conducted a global research project with Coleman Parkes Research to dig into the drivers behind employee engagement – and what a lack of engagement may be costing organizations.

One of the key findings from this research is that in the US, the average worker spends 3.4 hours per week on tasks that are not core to his or her core job role.  These are tasks that are generally low value and administrative in nature.  The opportunity cost of this no-value work adds up to $1,518 per employee per year in the US – for a total of $687 billion across the American workforce.

Other world regions are similarly impacted:

  • China: $522 billion;
  • Germany: $144.6 billion;
  • France: $79 billion;
  • United Kingdom: $78 billion;
  • Canada: $66 billion;
  • Australia and New Zealand: $35 billion;
  • Netherlands: $34 billion;
  • Belgium: $16.5 billion; and
  • Mexico: $2.2 billion.

For more details about what the study revealed, you can access the full US report here.

To learn more about the study and the insights it reveals about drivers of employee engagement, you can view a replay of a webinar of my conversation with Research Director Ian Parkes  here.

In this webinar, co-sponsored by HR Executive, we discuss the following topics:

  • The increasing complexity of working life and the impact on employee engagement
  • The high opportunity cost of time wasted on non-job-related administrative tasks
  • How outdated technology is hindering employee productivity and engagement
  • Why executives and HR need to focus on building a culture of engagement

Please tune in, then share your ideas about how to improve employee engagement by commenting here.

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