Me Inc.

The way we work is changing in all sorts of ways, so much so that there is no longer a typical employee or a typical job. The white, male full-time employee is no longer the norm and only 7% of employees still work the traditional ‘9 to 5’. We have people working full time, people working part time; we have casual workers, contractors and temporary employees. We have people working from home, from vehicles, from an employer’s premises and from a customer’s premises; and we have people working in various combinations of all of those. We also have people who work for several employers, people who work for one employer, and people who work for themselves.

Phil Ruthven, a really smart man who owns a market research company called IBISWorld, actually predicts that the term ‘employee’ will go out of use in the second half of this century. Certainly, a large proportion of the workforce is already ‘Me Incorporated’ and work for themselves, contracting out their brains, their brawn, or both. (See his article ‘The productivity challenge’ in Company Director, the magazine of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, March 2012.)

Me Inc can bring quite a good lifestyle. You choose the hours you work and when you work, you decorate your workspace the way you want, and you get to wear whatever you want. You choose what work you take on and what work you say ‘No thanks’ to. And you can earn pretty good money, too, because of the labour shortage and because our economy is changing to a knowledge economy.

Of course, with all that independence and choice comes responsibility and decisions. You do your own bookkeeping and pay your own superannuation; you insure yourself and train yourself; you find and pay for your own workspace; and you purchase your ‘tools of the trade’ whatever they may be, anything from carpet-laying equipment to a fancy computer and a smart phone.

And you need to be good at what you do, because you get paid for results, whether it takes you five minutes of five weeks to produce them.

Questions for discussion

Do you know any Me Inc employees?

What special challenges do you think supervising Me Inc employees presents?

How can you gain their cooperation and engagement, and encourage Me Inc employees to adopt your organisation’s vision and values when essentially, they work for themselves? And what are the penalties should you fail in this regard?