Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Reconsidering how work is structured 1 – going beyond the standard in-house employee and consultant model

Posted in HR and personnel, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on December 31, 2011

I have written a number of times about jobs and careers in this blog, with a specific focus on how the workplace and the employment environment are changing. (See my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development series Bringing the Job Market and Marketplace into Focus, postings 89-102 and my supplemental postings on that directory page and its Part 2 continuation.) I want to continue that here by looking at employment and careers from a very specific perspective – how you would chunk the work required and done, dividing it up into performance blocks and from both employee and employer perspective.

• A regular full time job divides up the workload for individual employees into chunks that match the expected accomplishments to be completed in a standard work week, where for standardization purposes employees are working up to but not beyond expectations. Basically this is a matter of filling up a duration-measured box and optimally with the highest priority tasks and goals going in first, followed by the next most pressing and so on – until the work days and work week are over. Day and week timelines may be arbitrary in this and some jobs may make more sense when defined in terms of a different timeline sized box but the basic principle holds independently of that.
• A standard consultant often starts with a timeline oriented box they are to work within and accomplish within too. Priority tasks and goals essentially always, and by definition, include timelines and completion date requirements in their specifications and for a reason. That is a big part of why they have to be considered priorities, that they have to be completed successfully by a certain date in time. And consultant hiring budgets generally mean assignment duration time-limits too. But at the same time, consultants are primarily brought in to solve specific problems, and to use an expression I have found valid to apply specific Band-Aids. So their being brought in involves their being a good fit for meeting the needs of a functionality measured work defining box too as well as a more strictly temporally measured one.

This posting is about those boxes, and about how work and work requirements are chunked. In practice, no full time employee position is entirely contained in a time and duration measured box just as no consultant work can be contained entirely in a function and project completion box – though I have worked with individual consultants who seem to come close to that extreme and certainly for long term consulting assignments. Think of these boxes as end points on a continuum, with a timing-only prioritization or a functionality and results oriented prioritization as endpoints and with most positions somewhere in the range found in-between.

Job sharing solutions, where two or in some cases more people in effect share ownership of a single job and work on more flexible if coordinated schedules to complete it, would fit somewhere in the middle of this axis.

When the job market is down, there is pressure against hiring into positions that fall too far towards just fitting into the timeline and duration box, and hiring such as it is, is more skewed towards the functionality and specific tasks completed box. That is why approaches such as job sharing become more positively considered, and why a larger percentage of hiring is task-specific consulting oriented.

The usual way to view this is strictly in terms of whether a hire – employee or consultant, full time or part time would receive benefits as well as salary and if so, what. And the fact that consultants tend to be paid as much per hour or more so than in-house employees to make up for their not receiving in-house benefits, is generally explained by noting that their compensation comes out of different lines in the business budget. That approach can in fact be valid and even when in fact the business has one overall budget and one fiscal basis and foundation, and the money all eventually comes from the same places and for all lines in that budget. But salary and benefits differences are not the only way to look at this and they may not be the best way. I offer this as an alternative, and as a way to at least seek to provoke some thought on an important topic. Both individual workers and employers need to think in terms of what they do and what is required done – in terms of how this work is chunked and organized too.

You can find this posting at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development -2 (and also see the first directory page for this) I also include this posting in HR and Personnel.

I am going to follow-up on this posting with one on working in-house and working off-site in its various and evolving forms.

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