Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

On the importance of disintermediating real, 2-way communications in business organizations 7

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on January 23, 2018

This is my 7th installment to a brief series on coordinating information sharing and communications needs, and information access filtering and gate keeping requirements (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 275 and loosely following for Parts 1-6.)

I focused in Part 6 of this, on the issues of temporary workers and outside consultants, some of whom in fact work for a same employer long-term and even for many years, but who remain outsiders and only “transiently” there. And I raised the troubling specter of how unions can and at times do in effect throw away entire categories of their dues paying and loyal memberships as bargaining chips in their labor negotiations. One of the defining points of similarity that I focused on for these seemingly very different contexts and stakeholder groups, with both creating divisions between outsiders and insiders, is in how seemingly similar people, at least by cursory examination of what they do at a business and how long they perform that work there, can be treated very differently and systematically so.

And I of course, couched this in terms of communications and in terms of inclusion in, or exclusion from crucial conversations that would have even profoundly significant impact on individual stakeholders involved, or even on entire categories of them. Then at the end of Part 6 I stated that I would continue that narrative here, where I will at least begin to more fully tie it and its set of issues to the questions and issues of information access and communications and their challenges. My goal there is to focus on emerging patterns of employment and employability as are becoming more and more the norm, and for more and more workers in this still actively emerging 21st century. And as called for in the title to this series, I will also discuss all of that in terms of communications organization and layers of accessibility, and communications disintermediation as it can simplify them.

I begin all of this by addressing the issue of how traditional in-house employment with full time employee benefits such as health insurance coverage and accruable pension benefits, is giving way to new and less employee-supportive alternatives. The basic playing field is changing there and as a general phenomenon that reaches across multiple industries and business types. And any discussion of the issues implied in the title to this series, has to account for that fundamental shift and its consequences.

I have written about the emerging gig economy for a number of years now, and cite in that context and as a source of background information on this topic, my series: Developing a Career Out of Gigs and Short-Term Work (as can be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 as postings 368-375.) When I wrote in Part 6 of a company such as Fed-Ex bringing in large numbers of temporary help during their peak delivery seasons, and particularly around the yearend holidays, I did so in a context of their having and retaining a large in-house full time employee workforce that they just seasonally expand to meet greater, though time-limited labor demands. When I wrote in Part 6 of Microsoft’s orange and blue name tagged staffs, with those wearing orange always seen as and treated as outsiders and temporary help and no matter how long they worked there at the same job, I was writing of an early iteration of the phenomenon that I write of here, where a business can as a matter of policy keep even most all of their entire workforce and all of their non-managerial staff as outsiders with little if any job security there and with no employee benefits offered beyond what might be minimally required by law.

Let’s consider the implications of that approach if it is taken to the extreme and as the general pattern of employment and employability,

• With in-house and benefits-receiving status reserved for more senior and executive management and for special case exceptions lower down on the table of organization,
• And not the other way around as has been the more common pattern historically, where the majority of all employees would work in-house and with a smaller minority working part time or as temps or consultants for most businesses.

And this brings me directly to the core issues of this series as a whole, that I am assembling it to address. I am writing here of people who would work within businesses and even long-term with single employers. And I ended Part 6 of this series with that in mind and both as a matter of addressing already current hiring and employment practices and what is all too likely to come for that. And I did so by posing a question that I will at least begin to address here:

• How can you systematically give these employees and members of your actual working team, more of a direct voice there as individuals and as a group, and how can you better manage the communications flows in place so as to include them?

I initially offered a somewhat simplified version of this question in this series and its narrative, as a thought piece and with a goal of provoking further reflection on the issues and challenges that I raise here. Now my goal is to use it as a piece to a larger framework for discussing how those issues and challenges might be better addressed. And in this, I offer with essentially absolute conviction that simply drifting into an overall workplace context where gig work becomes the new norm, absent any real organized effort to address the anomie and the sense of disconnection from workplaces as social systems that that would bring, will only lead to societal problems and for all – all businesses caught up in this and all employees there too: those few who are in-house employees included and at whatever levels in their business organizations that they work at too.

• When a perhaps large contingent of a business’ workforce sees itself, and legitimately so as outsiders who are not valued and who cannot ever achieve the in-house benefits that a “regular” employee would receive and by default, they are not going to think of themselves as having a stake in the business, and they will be less inclined to enter into meaningful conversations on how to make that enterprise run more smoothly from not having a stake in that.
• They are not likely even going to face real opportunity to enter into those conversations in the first place; current temporary workers rarely are even considered there and that is not likely to change with this type of workplace shift.
• This type of fundamental workplace disconnect can only be expected to maximize the business systems friction that everyone there will face and in both directions: from these “gig employees” and toward them. Remember, when people are spoken to but not listened too, this effectively degrades any capability to communicate effectively to them too, just as it does for any effort to listen to and even learn from them.

So I am writing here about more than just simplifying and disintermediating communications to be more inclusive. In a fundamental sense I am writing here about enabling those communications to meaningfully take place at all and even with statically limited friction-challenged information and insight sharing.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will consider the issues raised here from a more game theory perspective. And after that I will offer at least preliminary possible approaches, or rather a rationale for developing them for better dealing with the challenges touched upon here. And I end this installment by offering a brief anticipatory note regarding some of the issues that I will raise there.

One of the recurring themes of this blog as a whole has been, and will remain the role and impact that social media and the interactive online experience can bring to a business and workplace context. I will also discuss that set of issues in this series’ context, simply noting here that just tossing these resources into this mix would not necessarily change or accomplish anything and certainly in any directed way; how these communications and information sharing capabilities are brought into this will mean everything here. And I will also raise the issues of power imbalances and of collective bargaining, and a reconsideration of unions and what they are and what they can become in this new type of context.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. And also see Social Networking and Business 2 and that directory’s Page 1 for related material.

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