Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

On the importance of disintermediating real, 2-way communications in business organizations 8

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on March 6, 2018

This is my 8th 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 1-7.)

I have been discussing workforces and some fundamental shifts in how they are shaped and managed in an increasingly wide range of businesses and industries, in this series since its Part 5. And I have very explicitly focused in upon this topic area since Part 6 where I delved into issues of terms of employment and how they are changing for their basic norms. I then brought that line of discussion into a very explicit focus in Part 7, where I began writing here of the emerging gig economy, in which an increasing percentage of the overall workforce is increasingly limited in how they would be hired: limited to taking temporary and other “outsider” work positions, rather than more traditional full time in-house positions, and even when they would perform types of work traditionally carried out in-house and by full time employees there.

This represents an emerging trend away from offering in-house employee status to new employees, and even to ones who would be expected to work for a same employing business in a same work position long term. And the primary source of impetus behind this emerging trend is an intended cost savings on the part of those hiring businesses, where their personnel costs have traditionally been among their single largest overall expenses faced. But this shift, of course, simply means those employers shifting these expenses or at least responsibility for assuming them to others: to their individual employees and staff members themselves.

More specifically, I am writing here of businesses no longer offering even large percentages of their actual hands-on employees, in-house employee benefits such as healthcare coverage that would be at least partly paid for by an employer, sick days and vacation days, and retirement-facing investment options (of types that employers have traditionally paid some form of matching funds into) and more. Temporary hires and other gig employees have to fund these types of expenses on their own, to the extent that they do so at all.

This is a series about communications in businesses, and both up and down the table of organization and across it as that proves necessary too. And this is a series about simplifying and enabling those communications and information sharing flows, and specifically by disintermediating them: removing unnecessary gatekeepers and intermediaries from them so people who have to connect and communicate can do so more easily and effectively.

This might not be a significant source of concern for small businesses with correspondingly small headcounts and where everyone there can and does see essentially everyone else at work and on a regular basis. But this can and does become important in a more widely spread out, larger headcount setting as would be found in a large business or corporation. The types of communications challenges that I write of here can become endemic to such settings unless explicitly addressed. The types of employment and employability changes that I write of here are certain to complicate that, and for many in unexpected ways.

I begin discussing that point of observation here by noting the obvious. When you work with a same, relatively stable set of colleagues who have been working there long enough to have learned their way around the business, and who have in turn become known there for what they do and for how well they do it, it becomes easier to find the right people to communicate with, gaining information from and sharing it with and carrying out tasks with. When, on the other hand, crucial (at least to you and your job) work positions that would be filled by such colleagues, are routinely held by perhaps just temporary hires and of whatever sort, even just finding the right people can mean searching out a moving target. And even if a gig or “temp” employee has been in the same place for a more extended period of time and has been reliable and reliably available up to now, the fact that they are outsider employees and not working in-house, can mean their suddenly not being there anymore and without warning to anyone they might work with.

With that point of replicably reliable observation noted, let’s consider its implications from a communications perspective – and not just from the perspective of availability and connectivity, but from how they are accepted and vetted into such systems. And in anticipation of that, I cite information security and confidentiality and its risk remediation requirements as just one possible point of justification of what is to follow here.

Outsiders such as temp and gig workers tend to be treated very differently than in-house employees would be in any such workplace communications flows taking place, and even when the same temp employees and gig workers are there in place over extended periods, and even when their work responsibilities while there are similar to those of in-house employees who they work with. They formally and officially are outsiders there, and they are often at least selectively left out of or only partly included in what would be considered more in-house only conversations and information sharing, and even by default. This makes these issues of employment and employability very important here, as this trend holds real potential for creating new forms of cost and of risk to businesses, even as it holds potential for limiting other cost centers, and personnel-related expenses in particular for that. And from the perspective of this series, this trend if anything, adds in information access controlling gatekeepers, and with all of the added delays and all of the added potential for friction-limited communications that this increased communications intermediation brings with it.

I stated at the end of Part 7 that I would continue this narrative flow here from a more game theory perspective. And I have at least begun doing that here by offering some further background to put that line of discussion into clearer perspective with. One of the core issues that I have raised and pursued in my concurrently running series: Some Thoughts Concerning a General Theory of Business (as can be found at Reexamining the Fundamentals as its Section VI), is that any such endeavor in conceptual organizing and analysis of business processes and practices, has to be able to account for good and best practices – which is obvious. But just as importantly such a body of theory and explanation would also have to be able to include and account for less than effective, and even bad practices too and certainly insofar as they are followed and adhered to in the real world too. And it should address the issues of contexts where what could be good or even best in one circumstance, might become less effective if underlying circumstances and contexts change.

This is true both because ineffective and bad happen, just as good and best do, and because their occurrence impacts on any corresponding effort towards following best practices too. And it is true because the value and the value-creating or limiting potential of business processes and practices is context specific; there are not absolute goods and bests in this, where such judgments would always hold true. In the real world, the types of communications-based business systems friction that I write of here, as a source of ineffective and bad business practice, happen, as do more effective alternatives to them. And good and bad, best and worst are context dependent. And how they would rate in this sense can be trade-off dependent.

I have been couching my approach to a more general theory of business in the above-cited series, in interpersonal terms and in terms of game theory and I cite that series here because of that. And two of the more general game strategies that I have discussed there are win-win with its goal of achieving stability-enabling mutual benefit, and win-lose with its goal of more effectively addressing short-term need, attainable resource limitations, and/or uncertainty in pay-off.

I have among other things, addressed these two strategic approaches in my general theory series using:

• Long-term businesses as they relate to their markets and to possible business-to-business collaborations (e.g. supply chain participation), as they seek out ongoing stability,
• And short-term, season-limited businesses that need to move in quickly, create positive revenue flow and profitability for themselves, then close down and hopefully without their holding much if any leftover inventory or other sources of what can be essentially unrecoverable loss. (Think of businesses such as sidewalk Christmas tree vendors there with their immutable drop dead date for when they would have to close out their business for the year, and where any leftover inventory would hold zero value beyond that date.)

I would argue that a traditional business personnel policy with all or at least most people hired, brought in-house as full time employees, leads to what can become a win-win strategic context. Us versus them conflicts as for example can and do arise between employees and senior management, or between unions that collectively represent employees and their interests, versus senior management, illustrate how it is still possible for these businesses to slip into more of a win-lose competition between a business and its rank and file employees. But win-win is achievable when a business seeks to secure and retain a stable pool of effective employees long term, and when they can reach agreement with them as to what fair compensation and fair workplace treatment mean in enabling that.

A shift towards a largely or even primarily temp worker and gig worker only, personnel policy ends that, and win-lose conflict between a hiring business and its employees becomes all but inevitable.

I am going to delve more deeply into these issues in my next installment to this series, and will focus on how this impacts upon and shapes communications and information sharing, and trust as that enters into this set of issues too. 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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