Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Career planning 16: career planning as an ongoing process of analysis and synthesis 10

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on October 9, 2017

This is my 16th installment to a series in which I seek to break open what can become a hidden workings, self-imposed black box construct of career strategy and planning, where it can be easy to drift into what comes next rather than execute to realize what could be best for us (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 459 and following for Parts 1-15.)

I have been discussing a set of four sources of disruptive change in the workplace in recent postings to this series, that all significantly impact on employment and even on the meaning of employability (see Part 14 and Part 15.) And for purposes of increased continuity of narrative here, I repeat them as offered in Part 15:

1. Non-compete clauses in hiring and employment agreements,
2. Automation and the spread of artificial intelligence and robotization into the workplace,
3. Telecommuting and the emerging capabilities for people and for businesses to conduct work online and from anywhere to anywhere, and
4. The workplace impact of the cloud on all three of the other sources of change that I make note of here.

Then at the end of Part 15, I stated that I would continue its line of discussion here, where I would:

• Expand the set of specific disruptive changes under specific discussion in all of this, and
• Address these issues in timeframe and related contexts as viewed from the individual participant perspective.

I at least begin this, by adding a fifth fundamental source of change into this narrative, that like the above restated fourth change: the advent of the cloud, impacts upon and shapes all of the others here listed:

• Legally mandated and enforced regulatory oversight and its case law history as that shapes how regulatory rules are interpreted and enforced.

And I begin addressing this, by noting that regulatory oversight, and particularly as explicitly mandated and enforced by weight of law, is probably the furthest reaching and the most impactful of all of the change drivers that I have been addressing here, and particularly:

• When businesses increasingly do business across national boundaries and even globally,
• And when at least one of the legal jurisdictions involved, is actively and even proactively regulatory in its approach to managing a level playing field.

This state of affairs is quickly becoming the new norm, in an increasingly globally interconnected day-to-day business context. And this certainly holds true from an employment and employability perspective when telecommuting and similar options can mean people working from anywhere to anywhere. Legally mandated workplace and employment regulatory protections offered in one locale, can and will impact upon businesses in others too – and certainly across international borders.

Let me start addressing that with a seemingly unrelated example that applies strictly within a single nation: the United States, but that can be seen as representing a somewhat developed-in-practice role model for what we can expect to see emerging in a workplace and employability context. And the example that I would cite here is the State of California’s legally mandated definition of what it means for food to be organic, as specified by the US federal government’s Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, and the California Organic Products Act of 2003.

The California standard for designating food as organic is one of the most stringently demanding and far-reaching in the United States. And California’s position as a leading grower and provider of fresh produce nationally – and a leading consumer of food products from its population size, means that its definitions and its regulatory requirements, have impact that extends way beyond its state borders. People in other states and even in other nations who buy California organic, know what that means and they come to demand the same quality control levels for food produced in their own states and their own legal jurisdictions too, and even outside of the United States itself. And growers who operate outside of California face pressures to conform to those standards too, and certainly if they seek to ship their products to that state and with an organic designation. California’s approach to defining organic food, has become the gold standard and the benchmark that others have come to use in defining and enforcing food quality control elsewhere too. Their clout and reach in agriculture has made that all but inevitable, and certainly given their pro-consumer position in this.

Let’s consider how the basic principles there, might be applied to an employment and employability context. And I begin with my first change driver from the above list: non-compete clauses and agreements. And I start by repeating a point that I have already made in this blog in regard to that terms of employment approach, and by citing a recent news story that I have made note of in other series. Even just within the United States, different states with their separate laws and case law records, approach non-competes differently from each other. See:

Noncompete Pacts, Under Siege, Find Haven in Idaho

Idaho’s state legislature, as influenced by “pro-business” lobbyists, have pushed through some of the most draconian anti-employee legislation in the United States for enforcing non-compete clauses in hiring and job retention agreements. If would-be employees could not move out of state to find new opportunity, and current and former employees couldn’t move out of state either, and if the job market was, and was always going to favor employers with many more qualified applicants for any given type of work opportunity than there are positions open for that work, and as the basic rule and for all types of jobs, then this might mean Idaho employers gaining and holding a stable advantage in employer/employee negotiations there. Add to that, enforceable barriers against telecommuting and against court challenges and either within-state or beyond as would arise through appeals to higher courts. But none of those qualifiers can be relied upon and certainly not long-term and definitely not for the types of positions that employers might more legitimately need that type of protection for. Like organic produce, job availability faces porous borders and competitive pressures that can and do cross them too.

And I stress here that even when employees and would-be employees cannot realistically cost-effectively and affordably move, at least for securing lower level and lower overall pay jobs, this type of measure still creates real instability for those employers, as the experience of looser and less restrictive laws in other jurisdictions shapes employee expectations and even in the heart of a state like Idaho itself. Loose and lax and even effectively nonexistent regulatory law governing and restricting use of non-competes can be challenged in court, and effectively changed in legal decision and in case law precedent moving forward. And the more win-lose and anti-competitive it is the more likely it is that that will happen.

So flipping around a basic point of conclusion that I made late in Part 15:

• The more win-lose a terms of employment change is as a business practice, the more unstable it is going to prove for the businesses that come to rely upon it,
• And the greater the resultant risk it will create for them for doing so, as reactive change developed in response to it can break it, and certainly as currently pursued, and with all of the direct cost and all of the indirect cost (e.g. bad publicity) that this would create.

With that stated and argued, let’s step back to reconsider change that would impact on employability in more general terms again, and how regulatory and other factors external to the business collectively help shape them. I am going to delve into that in my next series installment, addressing interaction issues. And in anticipation of that, I note here that I will add in one more fundamentally important emerging source of change to this narrative:

• The emergence of the lean and agile business model as an increasingly important strategic and operational approach, and one that will become essential for seemingly all types of businesses in our increasingly globally interconnected and globally competing markets.

I have been writing in positive terms of lean and agile businesses for a long time now in this blog. And in anticipation of discussion to come here, note as a starting point for that, that the lean and agile business model does offer both risk and positive opportunity in an employment and employability context. But capturing the positive opportunity in this change, means embracing its possibilities and in some specific types of ways; it means planning and developing career paths in terms of an explicitly lean change-driven business model. I will discuss all of this, at least in part in terms of timeframes too.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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Career planning 15: career planning as an ongoing process of analysis and synthesis 9

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on September 27, 2017

This is my 15th installment to a series in which I seek to break open what can become a hidden workings, self-imposed black box construct of career strategy and planning, where it can be easy to drift into what comes next rather than execute to realize what could be best for us (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 459 and following for Parts 1-14.)

I have in recent installments to this series, been discussing and analyzing a set of four distinct and crucially important disruptive changes that have been reshaping the workplace and the meanings of employment and employability (see Part 14):

1. Non-compete clauses in hiring and employment agreements,
2. Automation and the spread of artificial intelligence and robotization into the workplace,
3. Telecommuting and the emerging capabilities for people and for businesses to conduct work online and from anywhere to anywhere, and
4. The workplace impact of the cloud on all three of the other sources of change that I make note of here.

And I have primarily addressed them from an in-house and a within-business perspective. My goal here is to switch directions and at least begin to consider them from the wider context of a business’ functionally significant outside context too. More specifically, I stated at the end of Part 14 that I would:

• Turn this discussion more outward to consider how these changes and their impacts are shaped by factors arising outside of the business in question.
• And after that, I added, I will discuss how these factors and forces (and from both within and from outside of a business) would impact upon work and career planning there, in identifying and charting best paths forward.

In anticipation of that, I noted that “disruptive” in disruptive change means “uncertainty”, so flexibility and awareness are essential there. I also added that I will expand the set of specific disruptive changes under specific discussion in all of this, as I proceed from here in this series. And I added that I will address these issues in timeframe and related contexts as viewed from the individual participant perspective.

But I begin all of this by turning outward from the level and orientation of the individual business that enters into disruptive change, to consider its impact and on both the business and the individual people who work there. And I begin that by asking two fundamental, but easily overlooked questions:

• Where do these changes come from?
• And perhaps more importantly, how can they be shaped for their forms and impacts, and both by individual people and individual businesses and societally, and in ways that would lessen possible adverse impact for those caught up in them?

These questions might not matter as much for win-win creating changes such as the above listed Change 3 with its widening of the workplace, but they become vitally important for more win-lose scenario changes, such as the non-compete clause proliferation of Change 1 and for workplace automation: Change 2.

Where do these changes come from? They all come in large part, if not in their entirety from the outside, and not just for individual career developers, but for the businesses they would consider working for, and for the industries they would work in too. And they arrive at the workplace door in forms that individual businesses and even entire industries can have surprisingly little control over.

Let’s consider the four test case disruptive changes under consideration here, in order offered above as test cases in evaluating the relevance of that assertion. And I begin with the above-repeated Change 1: non-compete clauses.

Businesses can choose to use or avoid use of non-compete clauses and they can decide where they would use them if they do at all, in their overall systems. They can decide what types of employees with what types of skills and experience, in their business or in general, would call for this type of protective measure on their part. But the non-compete clause, or the more stand-alone non-compete agreement is a legal document that has to be framed in accordance with relevant societally-based law in place, and any relevant case law there too, that would interpret it and place constraints on its use. And the more such agreements are used and the wider the range of workplace and job-type contexts that they are applied to, the more likely it becomes that court challenge and new case law would arise that would undermine and fundamentally change those agreements and what they can cover and enforce. All of this arises outside of the individual business that might seek to use non-competes in their hiring and terms of employment agreements, but it would impact upon any business that deploys them and certainly when they use them more generally and in ways that might be construed as being “in restraint of trade,” to cite the key wording of the Sherman Antitrust Act – which I cite here as a de facto urtext of the legislated business and economic open playing field, as unencumbered by contrived barriers to fair competition.

As for Change 2: even businesses that actively develop automated systems and artificial intelligence resources, can at most just incrementally advance and shape the overall disruptive change that these synergistically connected technologies are bringing. And similar points can be raised with regard to Changes 3 and 4 here too. But the limits that individual businesses face in being able to shape these changes, and even as they would implement them in-house, only represent one side to the basic dynamic that I would make note of here and in their contexts:

• The more win-win enabling the disruptive change under consideration, the greater the all-around stability and advantage it will confer on businesses that enter into it,
• And the more businesses that do enter into it, the greater the pressure will be for later adaptors to jump onboard and adapt to it too.

I am not writing here of love of new and different and of innovation per se. I am writing about businesses tapping into and using the resources they need to remain profitable and competitively so, and in the face of change that is redefining what that takes.

I have already touched on the issues of outside forces that can redefine and effectively shape disruptive changes that businesses face, and in this posting when considering non-compete clauses as a specific case in point example. I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment, which I will begin with an at least a brief more detailed discussion of outside regulatory influence and forces as they can impact upon, promote or limit, and shape change in the workplace per se. And then I will proceed to discuss the points that I listed towards the top of this posting as coming next, where I will:

• Expand the set of specific disruptive changes under specific discussion in all of this, and
• Address these issues in timeframe and related contexts as viewed from the individual participant perspective.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

Career planning 14: career planning as an ongoing process of analysis and synthesis 8

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on September 15, 2017

This is my 14th installment to a series in which I seek to break open what can become a hidden workings, self-imposed black box construct of career strategy and planning, where it can be easy to drift into what comes next rather than execute to realize what could be best for us (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 459 and following for Parts 1-13.)

I have been discussing change and disruptive change in particular in this series since its Part 12, focusing there on how this is coming to redefine employability and jobs and careers opportunity and for many. And I have focused for the most part on four specific still-emerging sources of such change, which I repeat here for smoother continuity of discussion:

1. Non-compete clauses in hiring and employment agreements,
2. Automation and the spread of artificial intelligence and robotization into the workplace,
3. Telecommuting and the emerging capabilities for people and for businesses to conduct work online and from anywhere to anywhere, and
4. The workplace impact of the cloud on all three of the other sources of change that I make note of here.

I then concluded Part 13 by stating that I would continue its line of discussion here, by looking into:

• How these changes and their impacts are shaped, and both from within businesses and from outside of them.

And I went on to add that after that, I will discuss how these factors and forces would impact upon work and career planning, in identifying and charting best paths forward for them.

I begin addressing all of this from an in-house perspective, and by acknowledging a point that should be obvious to all. No business with more than one employee (owners included) can be truly completely monolithic. A business’ official policy and practice guidelines can and usually do define and enforce commonly held and consistently followed perspectives and practices actually followed and on what can be very wide ranges of issues. And this includes regimentation if you will, as it arises through more strictly business practice-defining operational standards as laid out in the business model and its strategic and operational implementations. Consider standardized forms and the standardized documentation and reporting requirements that they specify as a working example of that. And this can arise through corporate culture and certainly as owners and more senior executives define and enforce their standards on their businesses, and on all who work there. Consider officially required dress codes as they can be passed down as if from on high at a business, as a working example of that. But even the combined influence of both of these sources of unifying process and practice can leave room for variation in understanding and interpretation on the part of both managers and employees. And that means leaving room for variation in what is done and how, and with what prioritization, even when “standard and approved” are basically adhered to.

Let’s reconsider Change 3 from my above-repeated list here and in this context: telecommuting as a terms-of-employment option. Businesses are not monolithic, and even if the owners of such a venture are consistent and clear as to how actively they would adapt new and different, that does not mean that all of their employees and managers would mirror them for that and in all ways and details and for any and all types of change. A business might pride itself on being cutting edge and New-embracing for how they work with and support their managers and employees. And they might basically be supportive of telecommuting and similar workplace accommodations as a matter of general principle. But different managers and at all levels in that business might take very different views from each other when it comes to more personnel and related process issues and options like that: holding very different standards in deciding on a case-by-case basis when they should allow employees to telecommute, and when and under what terms and how often and for how long if they do so.

If a basic business model in place is oriented primarily in terms of reaching performance goals, which most are, and a manager consistently performs well in bringing their team to reach those goals, it is not likely going to concern their supervisor if they take a somewhat more restrictive approach to this option than their supervisor would, or a less restrictive one: as long as the employees impacted by this practice continue to perform effectively at their jobs and everything runs smoothly.

• This type of issue only rises to a level of notable importance higher up on the table of organization when and if work flow and overall performance begin to suffer, specific employee dissatisfaction rises to a level that can create risk for the business, or both.

A terms of employment change such as Change 1: the significant expansion of use of non-compete clauses in employee contracts, would in most cases be applied uniformly across an entire business that has decided to make larger sale use of them at all. If they deploy and insist upon these terms of employment for jobs that do not involve special or proprietary skills or knowledge, they are most certainly going to require them for jobs that do, too.

A change like Change 3 would be expected to show more variation and particularly as different managers argue the need for in-house on-site work participation differently, and for both employee performance and for how best to supervise and manage them. And the level of consistency in how terms of employment are managed for employees who are kept on in the face of automation (Change 2), or in the face of increased reliance on technological innovation such as the cloud (Change 4) would be much less certain still, at least in general terms: much more variable depending on the specific business and industry under consideration and on precisely how those changes were implemented.

And with that noted, I turn this discussion more outward to consider how these changes and their impacts are shaped by factors arising outside of the business in question. I am going to turn to that aspect of this discussion in my next series installment. And after that, I will discuss how these factors and forces (and from both within and from outside of a business) would impact upon work and career planning there, in identifying and charting best paths forward. In anticipation of that, I note here that “disruptive” in disruptive change means “uncertainty”, so flexibility and awareness are essential here. I will also expand the set of specific disruptive changes under specific discussion in all of this, as I proceed from here in this series. And I add that I will address these issues in timeframe and related contexts as viewed from the individual participant perspective.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 17: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 9

This is my 17th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-16.)

I began this series with a discussion of general theories and what they consist of, as a matter of general organizing principle (see Parts 1-8.) And after laying a foundation in that, for focusing in on a general theory of business as a special case, I began addressing the more specific intended topic of this series as laid out in its title. And I have focused essentially entirely since then on the organizational level of the business as a whole. I then switched orientation, and level of organization in Part 16, to consider business theory from the perspective of the individual participant in these systems. I offered Part 16 as a whole, as an orienting start to that discussion thread, and in the course of that offered two basic approaches that can be and that frequently are pursued:

• That of the entrepreneur who takes a more consultant approach to their work and to dealing with their employer,
• And that of an employee who in effect leaves their own longer-term jobs and career planning to their employer and in the hands of the people who they report to there.

I at least briefly argued a case for pursuing the first of these approaches but acknowledged both, and a need for a general theory of business to accommodate and include both as well. And with that stated, I offered a brief to-address list of points in Part 16 that categorically list how different types of stakeholders would participate in business systems. And I added that I will at least begin to address those topic points here, which I repeat for purposes of continuity, considering businesses:

1. From the perspective of the individual employee, whether hands-on and non-managerial or managerial, or executive or owner, and with consideration of a still wider range of stakeholder types as well.
2. From the perspective of how each of these groups of stakeholders see themselves and other stakeholder types, and in both risk and benefits, risk management terms and in game theory terms,
3. And according to how the members of these groups see themselves as strictly in-house employees with their leaving their longer-term planning in the hands of their employers, or as more independent entrepreneurs and consultants who take direct ownership over and responsibility for their own work and career planning and its execution.

And I said that I would begin doing so by way of offering an orienting scenario, which I framed in general terms that “begins with the individual career developer and the hiring and promotion-directed strategies that they follow, and ends with the approaches that those same individuals follow when actually working at a business. And as part of that, I will also consider the strategies and the tactics of others who work with them or who otherwise become stakeholders to these transaction flows (games.)” And I said that I will approach this from both the individual and the business perspective. I begin that here.

When you are looking for a new job and you put at least a measure of thought and effort into that proposition, you seek to find an organization to work at in which you can gain value for yourself in meeting your own needs, while offering value in return that would make you an attractive hire and a valued employee. This means you’re having and effectively presenting skills and experience that you would want to use and build upon in a next job and as you pursue further development of your overall career. And it means presenting them to potential employers who would find value to themselves and to their enterprises, in what you can demonstrably do.

This is not a friction-free system and particularly in an age and an employment context where so many would-be job seekers send out hundreds and even thousands of copies of the same generic resumes electronically, at no cost or additional effort on their part to essentially every business that might be hiring that fits within what might be a very vaguely defined target audience. The result is that essentially all hiring businesses these days, push all resumes received into digitalized database systems and effectively filter out and discard all that do not meet the initial screening criteria of automated search queries. No human ever reads the vast majority of the flood of what is essentially spam and background static that goes into those systems, and all of the submissions that are received that do not make any first cuts, is generally mass-deleted after some set period of time in limbo in them, never to be considered there again.

I would argue, in a more explicitly jobs and career best practices context that this means we should all be more focused in what we submit and where, and that we need to know and use the same wording that the businesses that we would apply to, use in their posted job descriptions that we would apply to, and both for the skills and experience that we offer and for precisely how we phrase them. From a business theory perspective, I focus here on how the hiring process takes place in the context of what communications theory would refer to as noisy channels that are filled with background static, and in a context that I refer to (in more economics theory terms) as being limited by business systems friction.

This flood of often and even usually non sequitur resumes would overwhelm the hiring process if it were not for automated, database screening filters. That work-around can and does add entirely new forms of constraint on those who seek to find work and certainly for any position that is not entry-level or otherwise highly standardized. I write here of the emerging 21st (and undoubtedly beyond) context that hiring now takes place in and increasing as a universally applicable source of constraints and for any job offering that would draw in wide ranging interest and response of any type.

If as a job seeker, you send out enough copies of your e-resume to enough businesses you will probably, eventually get something of a response – but the level of chance in where that comes from and in what you might achieve as a next job out of that will be very limited, and certainly insofar as you would seek to strategically pursue a longer-term career and advance in what you do. So I will presume in what follows that you take more of a planned approach, as I discuss in my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development in its postings and series (see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 listings.) And I presume that any hiring manager and other stakeholders who screen and select applicants, and who help determine who a final selection hire will be, are equally systematic in their hiring processes and decision making too.

• Basic underlying assumptions made are important. And I assume here, as an at least for-now axiomatic assumption that the people on both sides of a potential hiring process are following something of an at least relatively consistent and rigorous logic in what they do and how, and that they act accordingly.

This is very important. I will delve into the issues of reductionism and of emergent properties and processes as they arise at higher levels of organization, later on in this series and in some detail for that. But hiring new employees and I add the management of ongoing employees at a business is always carried out by individual people, and even if and when they do follow detailed strategically organized approved business-wide operational processes and procedures.

There is a dynamic balance in that. Most hiring managers in general, do seek to pursue courses that would benefit the businesses that they work for. But at the same time, they also seek to take actions that would facilitate their own personal success in their jobs too, and ones that would help them to advance their own careers, and to maximize their own job security and their own compensation received for what they do in the process. And they interpret what is best for their employer at least in part in terms of that.

The people on both sides of a hiring process participate in it as individuals, and even when they are also serving as agents for the hiring business when on the hiring side of that table. And this enters into their thinking and into their decision making, and both as they perceive and evaluate possible risk and possible benefit as they make their hiring decisions. And this shapes any emergent, higher level organizational factors (e.g. the overall business side to hiring here) that they might enter into.

Turning back to consider the employee side of this again, this addresses the emerging situation for employee participation in a business up to the point when they are first hired. Now let’s assume for purposes of continuity of discussion, that they prove themselves as a best candidate, are offered the job and accept it for the terms of employment and of compensation offered. I am going to switch directions in my next series installment here, and consider this narrative from their day one as a new hire, and how perspectives change, and for both the new hire and for their manager and other stakeholders involved. In the course of that, I will begin to more explicitly discuss the issues raised in the three numbered to-address points listed at the top of this posting.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, as topics section VI there, where I offer related material regarding theory-based systems. And I also include this individual participant oriented subseries of this overall theory of business series in Page 3 of my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, as a sequence of supplemental postings there.

Career planning 13: career planning as an ongoing process of analysis and synthesis 7

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on September 3, 2017

This is my 13th installment to a series in which I seek to break open what can become a hidden workings, self-imposed black box construct of career strategy and planning, where it can be easy to drift into what comes next rather than execute to realize what could be best for us (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 459 and following for Parts 1-12.)

I began to discuss disruptive change in general terms, as it impacts upon employability and career development in Part 12, where I focused on a set of four of them as they fall along a specific impact-defining continuum, ranging from more fully employee empowering to more fully employer empowering:

1. Non-compete clauses in hiring and employment agreements,
2. Automation and the spread of artificial intelligence and robotization into the workplace,
3. Telecommuting and the emerging capabilities for people and for businesses to conduct work online and from anywhere to anywhere, and
4. The workplace impact of the cloud on all three of the other sources of change that I make note of here.

And in brief concluding summary, I argued the case that:

• Change 1 of that list falls far out towards the more purely employer empowerment end of that continuum,
• Change 2 falls more towards its middle, even if it is often viewed for its more employee-limiting potential than for its new job-type creation capabilities,
• Change 3 is more employee empowering (even as it can and does offer real value to employers as well when effectively implemented, making it a more viable option in the workplace), and
• Change 4, as an essentially strictly technological innovation, is more neutral when considered in terms of this continuum at least. And how it holds impact on employability and on individuals’ jobs and careers depends on precisely what context and perspective you consider it from.

Expanding at least briefly on that relatively tersely stated set of concluding points:

• Change 1 sets up win-lose scenarios when viewed in game theory terms, and it does so unremittingly and essentially without exception.
• Change 2 as a disruptive force can and does offer real challenges and for all involved: employers included as they find themselves facing whole new ranges of risk and uncertainty from making fundamental changes in their systems. And the change that it represents can lead to win-lose, win-win or even what would amount to lose-lose situations. As an all too real example of the last of these possibilities, consider a situation where trained employees leave through downsizing and early retirement, among other means as a business begins transitioning into automation for what they had done there. And then this effort to automate runs into scalability and other problems that the business that seeks to deploy it did not anticipate and that it cannot resolve, and certainly within the fiscal and other resource base constraints that it would have to operate within. One again, and to repeat a point I have made before in this blog, this is all part of fundamental change being disruptive.
• Change 3, when planned and executed effectively creates win-win scenarios, making it both an attractive option and a viable one for all concerned.
• And Change 4 can enter into any of the above, facilitating it and regardless of any possible a priori consideration of employee or employer empowerment per se.

With this opening narrative in place, and both for the specific disruptive changes under consideration here and for the conclusions and explanatory notes added here regarding them, I concluded Part 12 by stating that I would continue its discussion here:

• “Where I will delve into issues of timing and reach, as change and disruptive change in particular, take form and take hold. And I will write of uncertainty of timing, and of reach of impact and their consequences on our decision making processes as a part of that.”

I begin this with timeframes and do so in the context of standard innovation diffusion and acceptance models, and with the fundamentals there. When a truly disruptive innovation emerges on the scene, the most likely and in fact the all but certain result will be that different audiences and different potential marketplace constituents for it will view it very differently.

Pioneer and early adaptor decision makers, in businesses that support and even actively encourage that approach, will be the first to actively seek out the new and disruptive, and even just for in-house prototype testing to see how it works out for them and in their hands, and in the context of their business systems and their marketplace. This means that even the disruptive changes that seem essentially certain to take hold and widely so, in business settings and even across multiple industries, are more likely going to start out small and with a seemingly fringe impact at first.

• If this change takes off as being generally successful in creating value or in reducing cost or risk for those first adaptor businesses, that small start will expand and more businesses will buy into it too. And this will continue until a tipping point is reached at which point many or even most businesses will see it as having been proven and as being safely reliable to try and to deploy too.
• And the more disruptively novel, and the more overall change-demanding an innovation seems to be at first, the smaller its realized starting market will be and the longer this process is likely to take,
• Unless, that is, it proves itself to be essentially important and even vital for businesses that adapt it and from very early on, and with only short learning curve and adjustment periods required in their reaching that point of value received.
• And one of the defining elements in all of this can be in how the range of applicability of a new disruptive change can change too, where ongoing use leads to wider types of use too.

Applying this line of reasoning to the employability-reshaping innovations under discussion here, consider earlier use of non-competes and how their perceived range of applicability has ballooned out until a significant number of potential jobs of essentially any type can be burdened by them, depending on where you live and seek to work. These contractual agreements between would-be employers and employees were initially deployed and tested under a limited set of circumstances, with a specific goal of protecting exclusivity of ownership of specific confidential information and knowledge owned by specific employers, from being transferred to competitors as their employees moved on to new work opportunities. At first, non-competes were used essentially exclusively to protect trade secrets and proprietary methods and techniques, and similar intellectual property. Then their use began expanding out from there and both for the types of businesses that would employ them and for how they would be used in protecting what for those businesses. This expansion of range of use has in fact followed an acceptance and usage pattern that matches in form, a standard innovation diffusion and acceptance curve, as more and more businesses and types of them have come to see value accruing from their use, outweighing any risk or loss that non-competes might create for them.

And consider workplace automation there too. The first, earliest iterations of workplace automation were only applicable to a relatively few highly repetitive specialized job types such as spot welding in automotive manufacturing. That was in fact one of the earliest job types to in effect become essentially entirely taken out of human hands, with robotization of this work coming to predominate this entire area of work performed and for an entire step in the overall automotive manufacturing process. Automation, with the application of artificial intelligence driven robots, is expanding out towards a tipping point too, for the number of types of jobs it can now be applied to, and cost effectively. That is why it has become such a hot issue for discussion, in thinking through and preparing for the workplace of the future, and even just for the immediate future.

And this has already become immediately important for many as they seek to work and to create and pursue careers, and certainly for the less educated and for those who have readily automated skills and few resources for gaining new ones (e.g. coal miners when the mines in operation are increasingly automated and they do not have retraining options that they can personally access and pursue.)

As for Change 3, a number of technological advances have come to facilitate that, Change 4 definitely included. And together, they have made this a win-win possibility and for both businesses and for their employees and certainly as both have gone through learning curves in finding and refining better ways to make telecommuting and similar options work for them.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next installment where I will look at how these changes and their impacts are shaped, and both from within businesses and from outside of them. And after that, I will discuss how these factors and forces would impact upon work and career planning, in identifying and charting best paths forward for them. In anticipation of that, I note here that “disruptive” in disruptive change means “uncertainty” in and coming from it, so flexibility and awareness are essential here. I will also expand the set of specific disruptive changes under specific discussion in all of this, as I proceed from here in this series. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

Career planning 12: career planning as an ongoing process of analysis and synthesis 6

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on August 22, 2017

This is my 12th installment to a series in which I seek to break open what can become a hidden workings, self-imposed black box construct of career strategy and planning, where it can be easy to drift into what comes next rather than execute to realize what could be best for us (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 459 and following for Parts 1-11.)

I began addressing fundamental changes that have been emerging in what it means to be employable going into the 21st century, in this series in its Part 7 when I began explicitly considering the emerging impact of automation on the workplace. And I have touched on that and the issues of non-compete clauses in hiring contracts since then, as emerging sources of disruptive change. My goal for this posting is to:

• “Further discuss how seemingly separate and distinct changes and disruptive changes in employability interact, in how they arise and in their overall collective impact – and in how that can be more effectively addressed by people who seek to take ownership of their own work lives and careers.”

I added at the end of Part 11 that I would address this complex of issues, starting with further thoughts regarding the non-compete clause as a still emerging challenge to employability. I will do that, by putting that one workplace change into a wider context and by discussing it in terms of the overall working environment. And with that goal in mind, let’s consider a somewhat wider range of change drivers for shaping jobs and careers to come. I begin with the two already cited here:

1. Non-compete clauses and
2. Automation and the spread of artificial intelligence and robotization into the workplace.

And I add in two more, that I have variously discussed in other contexts in this blog but that merit specific inclusion here too:

3. Telecommuting and the emerging capabilities for people and for businesses to conduct work online and from anywhere to anywhere, and
4. The workplace impact of the cloud on all three of the other sources of change that I make note of here.

Let’s start with the first two of those four complex sets of issues, and by positing a model of impact where different types of disruptive change here, would be positioned along a continuum that ranges from essentially complete employee empowerment to essentially complete employer empowerment. Change 1: non-compete agreements, can only realistically be seen as being anti-employee for its skewing of the power balance between employees and employers in any negotiated agreements that a job seeker or current employee, or a career developer would have to enter into. And Change 2: automation plus artificial intelligence, is often and even usually viewed in much that same manner too. But one of the key points that I would raise here in this series regarding automation and the proliferation of artificial intelligence in the workplace, is that these forces of change open up new types of work opportunity even as they reduce headcount need for other job types or even remove them from human labor entirely. Yes, jobs descriptions and functional requirements that are readily reduced to rote algorithm form are likely to disappear from the human employment context, and so will jobs that carry significant risks from how and where they would be done, where risk has to be considered as a cost to the business that requires them. But jobs that call for creative flexibility and a capacity to address the novel and unexpected and on an ongoing basis will likely remain fairly secure and for decades to come. And I add that people who can comfortably work both with people and with automated systems in this, bridging the gaps between them, will likely thrive and even see new types of possible work opening up for them.

Change 3: telecommuting, as a fruit of our increasingly always connected telecommunications and online computerized infrastructure base, presents itself as being further towards the employee supporting and enabling end of that continuum, than Change 2 is. And it falls farther along the continuum towards employee enablement, than would any changes that would fit more of a terms of employment “innovation” pattern, such as widespread use of non-compete clauses. And this brings me to the cloud, and Change 4.

The cloud is one of the defining great enablers for ubiquitous communications and computing and certainly when both data storage and raw computational power can be harnessed through even relatively simple readily portable wireless platforms such as smart phones, tablets and laptop computers. And when data and increasingly powerful software are combined with essentially open-ended, essentially instantly and ubiquitously available storage space and computational bandwidth, those portable devices all become what amount to virtual supercomputer systems.

• Change 4 enables Change 3 and in fact effectively makes it possible and certainly where telecommuting and related terms of employment and of work performance require wireless connectivity and not just hardwired connections that just happen to not be located in a business’ offices. But this change also fundamentally enables off-site wired connectivity too, so it s more general enabler there too.
• But Change 4 also makes the robotization of automation possible too, where most if not all of the data storage and processing, and the artificial intelligence that drive it can be distantly and centrally located and not have to be fully replicated in each and every working robotic node: every device or set of them performing specific instances of some job.
• And Change 4 even at least potentially impacts upon Change 1 too. Quite simply, the power of cloud computing shapes and expands the geographic range that a business would see as its employee catchment area: the expanse that its employees could realistically come from and work from in working for them. Change 4 and the potential globalization of where any of an increasingly wide range of employees could work from, at least in principle could effectively eliminate the distance limitations that at least some types of employers would stipulate in their versions of a non-compete clause that prospective hires would be required to sign.
• So Change 4 is essentially neutral as far as this impact continuum is concerned. And I add that a number of other emerging technological innovations are employee/employer empowerment neutral too, with any skewing in their neutrality there depending entirely on how they are implemented and not on the technological changes involved, themselves.

Thinking through, understanding and navigating the workplace of this still emerging 21st century has to include thinking through the types and levels of disruptive changes faced, and how they would individually and collectively fit along continua such as this empowerment shaping one.

As a final thought and returning for the moment to reconsider non-compete clauses: at least in principle, an employer might seek to force employees already in their systems to sign them too. The scenario that immediately comes to mind for me in that regard, would arise if an employer were to offer a category of their employees a simple stark choice: agree to a renegotiation of terms of employment that among other details includes signing one of these agreements, or face downsizing and loss of a job entirely. I add that possibility to this line of discussion to note that while I have up to here, primarily addressed this specific change issue from the perspective of job change, it might arise in a job continuation context as well. So simply being “grandfathered in” from having been employed at a business from before they started using non-competes, is not necessarily going to prove protective from them, and even just for that job itself.

• Disruptive changes can and do have impact in areas that they would not be expected to, and certainly when and as they first arise. That is part of their being disruptive. So you always have to look out for unexpected ways and circumstances where they might have impact on your employment and on your overall career path too. The change impact understandings that I offered here for the four above-cited changes, will all but certainly prove to be incomplete and in unexpected directions, and certainly as offered as of this writing.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will delve into issues of timing and reach, as change and disruptive change in particular, take form and take hold. And I will write of uncertainty of timing, and of reach of impact and their consequences on our decision making processes as a part of that. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

Career planning 11: career planning as an ongoing process of analysis and synthesis 5

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on August 10, 2017

This is my 11th installment to a series in which I seek to break open what can become a hidden workings, self-imposed black box construct of career strategy and planning, where it can be easy to drift into what comes next rather than execute to realize what could be best for us (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 459 and following for Parts 1-10.)

I began to more systematically address a set of issues that are coming to reshape and redefine employment and employability, and certainly in developed-world countries such as the United States in Part 9 and Part 10, where I briefly touched on the issues of:

• Automation and robotization with their combined impact on what types of work can be and will be cost-effectively available to human employees,
• And non-compete agreements as they have started to be more widely used to rebalance and skew the power dynamics in the employer/employee relationship, and the range of opportunity that employees can have in shaping and controlling their own employability and their own careers and work lives.

At the end of Part 10 I offered a brief set of news stories links that point to reporting and news analysis pieces that came out between 2014 and 2017, highlighting that second bullet point and its issues. I pick up on that narrative again here, by repeating one of those links and offering a new one that would best be understood in light of that June, 2016 news piece:

To Compete Better, States Are Trying to Curb Noncompete Pacts (for the earlier article), and
Quit Your Job for a Better One? Not if You Live in Idaho.

Some states in the United States are in fact actively beginning to push back against what is argued to be unwarranted and even ridiculously constraining overuse of non-compete clauses in hiring and terms of employment agreements. But some, and states such as Idaho in particular that are governed from the politically “conservative” and the “ultra-conservative” perspective, have taken an essentially entirely pro-employer and anti-employee rights approach here. Right now, this issue is playing out at a state by state level in the United States. Yes, as this becomes a larger and more overtly visible and discussed issue, pressure will arise for the United States Congress to address this at a national level – unless that is the US federal court system and the Supreme Court in particular, takes this up first. But in today’s polarized climate and with so much at stake and so much taking everyone’s complete attention in Congress with the Trump presidential administration scandals, and with the Republicans in Congress skewed by numbers to the right and to conservative and ultra-conservative positions, Congress will not and cannot take this up with any possibility of resolution soon. And when and if the Supreme Court or even just a regional federal court takes on this issue – that in principle could happen any time but that probably means years from now. And that might only happen after Congress acts nationally on this with the passage of affecting legislation, if that new law is taken to court and challenged for its constitutionality.

I can summarize the core message inherent in that paragraph in a few simple words: this is a growing problem that genuinely needs a nation-wide, federal governmental response and resolution but that will not happen for years. Because of that, individuals will have to find their own ways to survive and even thrive professionally in the face of these contractual employment restrictions – just as they have to when facing the inexorable shifts in the workplace and in employability that are arising from automation. And that leads me directly to, and I add into the closing note that I appended to the end of Part 10 where I indicated in brief outline, the types of issues that I would address here:

• “I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will at least briefly consider the issues of legal challenge to the open ended use of non-compete agreements. But more importantly, I will discuss this as a new source of disruptive change in a career development context, and how networking and other approaches that hold value in addressing disruptive change, can hold value here too – and before any court or legislative action limits the use or reach of these restrictions. And I will further discuss how seemingly separate and distinct changes and disruptive changes in employability interact, in how they arise and in their overall collective impact – and in how that can be more effectively addressed by people who seek to take ownership of their own work lives and careers.”

I just raised, and for now and for short-term dismissed the possibility of legal case and legislative action remediations to the blanket use of non-compete clauses. And that has left me with a need for at least suggesting more effective tools that individuals can use to remain as flexibly and effectively employable as possible as they pursue jobs and careers that would be best for themselves.

I have discussed the role of open and more widely reaching business-oriented social networking in several installments to this series, and return to that topic here and with a specific networking goal in mind, that calls for some very specific steps on the part of the networking individual before they begin reaching out.

• You need to know precisely what a non-compete agreement that you would face if you took a new job, would entail and how it would limit or block you later on as you might wish to take a next jobs and careers step. What precisely would this limit you’re being legally permitted to do and both for specific skills used and for specific applications of those skills? And what is the geographic reach of those restrictions? Would they only apply in the one state where you would work in this new job, or would they potentially follow you across state lines or even beyond, for more international businesses? And how long would they remain in effect? Confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements for protecting a former employer’s confidential or proprietary knowledge can be open ended for duration, to put that question into perspective. Could you get out from under the restrictions of this non-compete clause by moving to a state that was more restrictive in how it allowed them to be applied as barriers to further employment? You need to know the implications and the potential for what you would agree to for this, as a basic due diligence check-list issue in deciding if a new possible job would be best for you, or if it might in fact hold long-term negatives in it that would outweigh any possible short-term gains, given your more immediate short-term and here-and-now needs and their pressures.
• And as a part of this, you have to ask yourself and know what types of entanglements you might already be facing from prior jobs and their hiring and terms of employment agreements, that you have already signed and legally agreed to. This means addressing the same questions and issues raised in the above bullet point, but from the perspective of response to what is already in place, and not entirely from free and open choice on your part. Can you even take the new job offered you in the first of these bullet points, or have one or even more than just one prior non-compete agreements signed, prevent you from taking it without risk of legal action from a previous employer, who might have you in their sights because you just left them and not of their choosing?

Know where you stand now and what types of minefield you might already be in from non-compete clause restrictions as they would specifically apply to you. And know where and for how long they would apply. Now, what can you do with your current skills and workplace experience that would, through reframing and other means, not by disallowed there? Would for example, a change in industry worked in be sufficient to unblock you?

• Think this out and do your research – and keep copies of the agreements that you do sign with employers as part of your ongoing career documentation.

You should do this anyway, to document for your own use precisely what you have done professionally and in what contexts, but changes in the employability landscape such as the widespread emergence of non-competes makes this an absolute necessity.

Now openly reach out and network. Do this to help you find new paths forward in your work life and career path, if you feel hemmed in and for whatever reason: from workplace automation, non-compete agreements or whatever. And do this for information and insight that might better help you understand and navigate your way forward, and around these challenges, as well as for helping you find specific new opportunities.

• Do you need to retrain in some way and if so, how? This might mean learning new hands-on and related skills, but it can mean learning a new language too: the professional slang and perspective that is commonly taken for granted as known in some new-to-you industry that you are considering switching to.
• Network with a goal of finding out more fully what you already have identified that you need to learn,
• And with a goal of identifying gaps in what you know, that you have to learn and be able to demonstrate, that you have not already identified as being important or even essentially necessary for you.

Open and wide-ranging networking and a willingness to step out of your current tried and true comfort zone is essential to you here and it can be vitally important for your overall and long-term career planning and even just for your here-and-now employability.

I am going to turn in my next series installment to the second half of the to-address note that I appended to the end of Part 10, that I repeat here for clarity and ease of reading:

• “And I will further discuss how seemingly separate and distinct changes and disruptive changes in employability interact, in how they arise and in their overall collective impact – and in how that can be more effectively addressed by people who seek to take ownership of their own work lives and careers.”

Note that many of the points that I raise here regarding non-compete clauses and their challenges, apply to workplace automation and I add other widespread disruptive workplace and employability changes too, and how better to face them. With that stated I will start the next installment to this with some further notes on addressing the non-compete clause challenge as it is now and as it is still emerging, absent any legislative or court-decision remediation. And with that in place and in its context, I will delve into the issues and questions of this now-reduced to-address point, and the emerging flood of disruptive change in the workplace as a whole.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

Career planning 10: career planning as an ongoing process of analysis and synthesis 4

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on July 29, 2017

This is my 10th installment to a series in which I seek to break open what can become a hidden workings, self-imposed black box construct of career strategy and planning, where it can be easy to drift into what comes next rather than execute to realize what could be best for us (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 459 and following for Parts 1-9.)

I began addressing the issues of networking in a changing workplace and employment context in Part 9, and continue that narrative here. And with that context in place for this posting, I begin it by offering some specific, crucially important advice:

• When you are facing new and the uncertainty that that brings with it, effective professionally oriented networking can be one of your most powerful and useful tools.
• And the faster that change is advancing around you, that would impact on how and where you could productively find work, the more important it is that your networking reach be open to new possibilities – and open for who you would actively network with in finding them.

I restate and repeat this advice here because it is crucially important and for all of us, that we move past the restrictions of self-limited networking and that we be willing to actively move out of our perhaps comfort zone of only reaching out to the already known and familiar. You will not find the new and unexpected information or insight, or the job and career advancement next step guidance that you will need in addressing the new and the disruptively new, if you only converse with and share information with, and hear and learn from the smaller circle of those who you already know. You already probably know much if not most of what they could offer you, if you actually actively network with them anyway.

Let’s take this out of the abstract by considering a very real, specific emerging form of workplace and employability New. I wrote of automation in Part 9 as an increasingly important source of examples of this, for how workplace change is actively, rapidly reshaping and redefining what employment and even employability even mean. My quickly sketched discussion of that set of issues as offered in that posting, only addressed one minor aspect of an emerging change that will fundamentally reshape the workplace and employment forever. Think back historically to how the first industrial revolution reshaped both the working world and the meaning of employability. That progression of change and disruption included in it, a massive shift from agriculture as the major source of employment, as more and more mostly-young adult workers began to move to more urban settings and to new jobs and types of them in manufacturing. And small hand crafted shops that had constituted the basic manufacturing base already in place, gave way at an even faster rate than that, as mass production and the demand for new types of mass produced products, and for new types of employees to make them took hold.

More recently and starting in the late 20th century in countries such as the United States, manufacturing as a major source of employment and the manufacturing economy, gave way to the service economy (as briefly noted in Part 9) and now all of this is being fundamentally redefined yet again by automation and the advancement of artificial intelligence and robotization into the workplace. And this seismic shift in employment and employability might very well prove to be the largest and most far-reaching of these three.

Old and comfortingly familiar might offer real and even sustaining value in a stable and fixed context, or even when change is taking place but only in a slow and steady evolutionary manner. Disruptive change and very rapid ongoing change demand a different approach – a new and more open one for acknowledging what is happening and how best to meet its demands.

And with this said, I turn to consider the second basic issue that I said I would address here, at the end of Part 9: the advent of the non-compete agreement as a basic requirement for employment, as this is being used to skew the balance of power in the employee-employer relationship, starting with pre-hire negotiations and proceeding on from there.

I begin this line of discussion with some historical background notes, that I offer in order to put this topic in its current manifestation into wider perspective. Employees, and certainly hands-on non-managerial ones, and employers have always faced both points of agreement and alignment, and friction points of disagreement with at least potentially conflicting goals and perspectives driving them. This probably goes back as far in history as the first hiring of non-family employees does, if not farther. Ultimately, a business’ leadership and certainly its owners tend to think in terms of what would most benefit their business as a value creating organization, and themselves through it. And that business’ employees think more in terms of their own needs and interests and meeting them. That employee-oriented perspective definitely applies when employees hold no stake in the businesses that they work for and see themselves as receiving their salaries and whatever other specific benefits that were explicitly agreed to but nothing else – leaving them with no reason for their thinking of their workplace in any sense as being “their business” too.

I have written in this blog, of the benefits of everyone at a business coming to take a proprietary approach to where they work and a sense of this being their business too, and with everyone there acting accordingly. That can be accomplished as a matter of corporate culture and certainly when employees at all levels are rewarded for taking a stretch goals, beneficial to the company approach to their workplace. And that approach can tremendously add to the overall strength and resiliency of a business, when openly and widely encouraged and rewarded, as it can help that business to capture the fuller range of value creating potential that its employees could bring to the table there. But that sense of widely held ownership has to be explicitly worked toward, for it to be achieved and most workplaces and their owners do not seek to realize this as a practical possibility. (See for example: Accepting and Living an Ownership Approach to Jobs and Careers and More – a key to enabling a fuller life.) It is commoner, even if less functional and certainly long-term and in the face of change and challenge, for the employee-employer relationship to be more confrontational, and as an unstated but known possibility if not as an immediately acted-out here and now reality.

That is why so many people in so many industries and so many types of work positions have organized together through unions over the years. And it is why businesses that have seen their employees unionize, have historically and in so many ways pushed back against this strength in numbers approach, as employees seek a larger and more powerful voice in workplace and compensation negotiations. But unions and I add a wide range of other more traditional pressure points that could be cited here, only address part of this story, and that part from the employee-enabling side. And this brings me directly to the non-compete clause, usually added into the standard terms of employment agreement that new hires are required to sign as part of their being hired there at all.

Originally and as generally conceived and implemented until recently, businesses only required select employees to enter into non-compete agreements as part of their terms of employment, and this was used for basically just one reason: protection from loss of control and ownership of proprietary information and techniques, and of specialized in-house proprietary skills. And these agreements were generally fairly focused in what they restricted and both for specific next types of work for employees who move on, and for the geographic reach of such agreements, as well as for how long they would remain in force before expiring.

Then more and more businesses began deploying much more widely inclusive and much more widely restrictive non-compete agreements, in order to limit their employees in their ability to leave for better job and career opportunities. And their intention in this was very clear. It was to retain the people that they wanted to keep on staff by limiting or even entirely blocking their being able to move on, and certainly in the same type of work that they have been performing. And at the same time these contractually binding agreements have been used to limit the competitive pressures of the employment marketplace, as the possibilities to find better jobs elsewhere at higher pay have became more and more limited from them. And this meant their being able to retain those employees and at lower overall salary and compensation costs than they would have to face and accept, absent these new job change barriers.

The first antimonopoly law of any real stature to pass into law in the United States was the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. Ironically the first real uses of this law were not to reign in monopolistic business practices; this law was primarily used at least at first to challenge and break unions and employee organization through them. And the key phrase from this law that was applied there, and that was subsequently used in enforcing antimonopoly restrictions against large corporations too, was “… in restraint of trade.” I cite this law and this key phrase from it here because the widespread use of non-compete clauses in employment contracts, and their punitive open ended enforcement, arguably constitute the exact type of restraint of trade – here the opportunity for employees to enter into it and of their own free will, as envisioned to be problematical there.

I take this out of the abstract and by way of some specific relevant news story links that date from June 2014 through May 2017:

Noncompete Clauses Increasingly Pop Up in Array of Jobs.
When the Guy Making Your Sandwich Has a Noncompete Clause.
To Compete Better, States Are Trying to Curb Noncompete Pacts.
Companies Compete but Won’t Let Their Workers Do the Same.

The second of these articles and its discussion of how even minimally trained minimum wage workers can become caught up in non-compete agreements now, highlights the ridiculous extremes that at least some businesses are pursuing through use of these employability limiting contract clauses. And the third makes note of how this business practice is now coming under fire at least at the state level in the United States, where its use has become particularly rampant.

And as a final thought for this posting, and bringing its two halves together, right now a significant percentage of the overall workforce in countries like the United States, are being caught between disruptive forces such as workplace automation that limit the types of jobs that will be available, and rampant use of non-compete agreements that serve to limit ability and opportunity to advance in their careers and remain competitive in the workforce.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will at least briefly consider the issues of legal challenge to the open ended use of non-compete agreements. But more importantly, I will discuss this as a new source of disruptive change in a career development context, and how networking and other approaches that hold value in addressing disruptive change, can hold value here too – and before any court or legislative action limits the use or reach of these restrictions. And I will further discuss how seemingly separate and distinct changes and disruptive changes in employability interact, in how they arise and in their overall collective impact – and in how that can be more effectively addressed by people who seek to take ownership of their own work lives and careers.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 16: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 8

This is my 16th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-15.)

I began this series with a discussion of general theories and what they consist of, as a matter of general organizing principle (see Parts 1-8.) And after laying a foundation in that, for focusing in on a general theory of business as a special case, I began addressing the more specific intended topic of this series as laid out in its title. And I have focused essentially entirely since then on the organizational level of the business as a whole, first treating these entities as if they were essentially monolithic in nature, and then opening the box a little to consider their functional and organizational structure too – at least at the level of granularity that would appear on a standard table of organization. But even there, my focus was on how they fit together and functioned together in collectively comprising the business organization as a whole.

As a matter of organizing this series and its narrative if nothing else, I have chosen to address this fundamentally single business level of conceptual organization as a baseline that I would organize the series as a whole around. And then in the course of writing Part 15, I stated that I would turn from that to:

1. Consider the basic issues raised and considered in this series, from the perspective of the individual business stakeholders.
2. And then I will expand the scale of consideration outward from that of the single complete business enterprise to consider supply chain and related value chain systems and I add, business and marketplace ecosystems.

I will, of course recurringly return to reconsider the baseline middle ground organizational level of the individual business organization, and both when focusing in on the individual and when telescoping out to consider the larger business and economic contexts, that businesses reside in and function in. But I offer this as a brief anticipatory outline of what is to follow.

I begin all of this with Point 1, as restated and reorganized from Part 15, above. And I begin that by at least briefly connecting what I will offer here, to a progression of series and individual postings that I have been offering in this blog as my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development (see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 listings.)

My goal for that Guide is to offer what experience and insight that I can, on finding and securing jobs and working successfully in them, and both at the individual job and career step level and in an explicit career and overall career development context. I have worked with a fairly wide range of businesses and in a variety of industries and in a fairly wide range of types of positions, and I have actively sought out opportunity to learn from others in this. As such, I probably have seen first-hand and directly experienced a wider range of job and career possibilities than most. But I am still just a single individual and offer what I can there, as filtered through the biases and assumptions of my own experience. As such, I still offer a limited perspective there, and even if a relatively comprehensive one with over 550 short essays included in it as of this writing. But there are a few fundamental points of observation and experience that underlie all of that, that I would start from here as essentially axiomatic assumptions, going into this general theory discussion:

• Even when we work for a single employer as an in-house employee and throughout our work life, we should still think of ourselves as if we were consultants, who might find ourselves having to work with a next employer and a next consulting client as developing and emerging circumstances dictate. No job or job opportunity can safely be presumed to last forever, as a tacit and unconsidered assumption.
• An employing business and its underlying assumptions and sense of self-interest are separate and distinct from those of our own. And while our employment with such an enterprise might seem long-term and even open-ended, we can never assume that as an absolute given. Business employer, and personal employee needs and interests can come to differ and diverge and change, and even disruptive change in employment options and possibilities can arise.
• So always think of yourself at least in part as an independent consultant, even if you are working in-house and long-term with one “client” employer. And always think of yourself at least in part as an independent small business, and with your own needs: short-term and immediate, and long-term firmly and clearly in mind.

This is important, and I add this is a point of observation and of conclusion that underlies how I address Point 1 of the above list. Any general theory of business that seeks to address the organizational level of the individual needs to address this type of consideration, and both for those who are entrepreneurial (i.e. who take this approach) and for those who simply see themselves as someone else’s employee.

And with this in place, I offer here, an at least preliminary to-address list of Point 1 oriented issues and perspectives that I will delve into in this series as I consider its level of organization:

• From the perspective of the individual employee, whether hands-on and non-managerial or managerial, or executive or owner, and with consideration of a still wider range of stakeholder types as well.
• From the perspective of how each of these groups of stakeholders see themselves and other stakeholder types, and in both risk and benefits, risk management terms and in game theory terms,
• And according to how the members of these groups see themselves as strictly in-house employees with their leaving their longer-term planning in the hands of their employers, or as more independent entrepreneurs and consultants who take direct ownership over and responsibility for their own work and career planning and its execution.

I am going to begin addressing these points and their issues in my next installment to this series, with a discussion grounding scenario that begins with the individual career developer and the hiring and promotion-directed strategies that they follow, and ends with the approaches that those same individuals follow when actually working at a business. And as part of that, I will also consider the strategies and the tactics of others who work with them or who otherwise become stakeholders to these transaction flows (games.) My goal there will be to ground a perhaps more abstract line of discussion in more real world jobs and careers terms, and with a more familiar experience-based foundation point that I will be able to refer back to while discussing Point 1 issues in general.

And I will discuss all of this from the perspective of:

• The individual as they work and plan and carry out their careers, and
• From the business process and execution side as individuals work to achieve goals and priorities and stretch goals and their priorities, in meeting business needs.

And as my goal here is to offer a general theory of business that would offer value in an emerging 21st century, and not just serve as a retrospective on the 20th century, I will of necessity also address:

• The issues of globalization here, where outsourcing is just one piece to that puzzle,
• And workplace automation, where a combination of artificial intelligence and robotization are reshaping what employment and even employability mean.

I am going to begin all of this in my next series installment, with the above-cited grounding scenario and will proceed from there to address in turn the rest of the issues noted here. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, as topics section VI there, where I offer related material regarding theory-based systems. And I also include this individual participant oriented subseries of this overall theory of business series in Page 3 of my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, as a sequence of supplemental postings there.

Career planning 9: career planning as an ongoing process of analysis and synthesis 3

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on July 17, 2017

This is my 9th installment to a series in which I seek to break open what can become a hidden workings, self-imposed black box construct of career strategy and planning, where it can be easy to drift into what comes next rather than execute to realize what could be best for us (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 459 and following for Parts 1-8.)

I focused on a range of interrelated issues in Part 8 that directly relate to career planning and its execution. I said at the end of that installment that I would continue from where I left off there, by addressing two related topics here:

• Networking with a real career development focus, and
• Job transition challenges, where I will specifically focus on an increasingly common and troubling one: non-compete agreements as they are increasingly becoming common hiring requirements and by more and more types of employers and for more and more types and levels of jobs and work positions. I note here in anticipation of this line of discussion to come that while these impediments to next step employment were once essentially entirely limited to protecting a current employer’s proprietary knowledge and methods, they are becoming commonplace and even for low level jobs that do not require or involve special or proprietary skills of any sort, or access to special or proprietary information of any type either.

And I will at least begin addressing these points here, but before I do so I want to more fully address the career planning and execution challenges that workplace automation creates. And I begin by citing a piece of essentially axiomatically presumed “truth” that very quickly went from presumed trenchant observation, to trite catch phrase, to simply assumed and unspoken, and over the course of just a few years: “developed world countries such as the United States no longer operate in a manufacturing-driven economy; the real economic drivers in countries such as the United States now, are service-oriented and we now live and increasingly so in a service-based economy.”

That sounds very nice, and it is true that a great deal of mass production has moved to countries with lower payroll and related costs and certainly for industries such as clothing manufacture, with a relative increase in the proportion of service-oriented jobs arising from this shift. But let’s consider this in the light of our own individual experience. Do you ever call businesses for customer support? If so, and many if not most of us do this at least occasionally, when was the last time that your call was initially answered by a human operator and not by an automated response system?

Call centers and the customer support and related activity that they handle, represent quintessential support service activities. But it has become all but universal that call center and related support have become highly automated. How can that happen? I have in fact already answered that question in earlier postings to this blog, in the context of writing about Information Technology help desks, as for example are provided by businesses for employee support.

In most businesses, some 90% of all IT help request calls received are encompassed in a top ten list of recurring problems. And most of these help request problems tend to be amenable to standardized resolutions. “I forgot my password to — X–” for example, essentially always leads to some variation on “here is what you have to do to reset your password.” This is a context where the Pareto’s principle fully applies and usually in a stronger form than the more traditional 80:20 proportions that this empirically grounded rule of thumb would suggest. And given the way that the vast majority of all requests fit a single recurringly relevant list and the way that resolving them essentially always means following some single remediative process, it should not be surprising that the first thing most callers hear when reaching out to these call centers, is automated. And they generally never actually find themselves talking with an actual living person unless their call is one of those rarer “none of the aboves” that do not fit on the 80% or even 90% or higher, standardized list.

The principles underlying that apply in general for essentially all customer support help line systems. And an increasing number of businesses have sought to increase their range of issues and questions that can be resolved through automated processes, reducing their number of “none of the aboves” to as near zero as possible. And an increasing number of such businesses are entirely eliminating any opportunity to speak with a person through these systems – ever.

Automation does not always make related human employment disappear. Automated teller machines (ATMs) have not for example, made the position of bank teller a job and career possibility of the past. It is just that tellers spend less of their time handling routine bank deposits and withdrawals now, and less time helping customers check account balances or making account to account transfers. But automation has very significantly cut down on the number of people employed in help desk and customer support systems – and with the positions remaining requiring more and more skills and experience and very different ones than were traditionally required.

The service sector as a whole is facing tremendous change from automation, and in exactly the same way that manufacturing is, and not just in answering questions and offering consumer and end-user support services. Retail stores, for example, and certainly larger ones such as supermarkets are increasingly offering self service sales checkout machines for making purchases and offering payments. Human employment, and jobs and careers will not disappear in these sectors but they will change and a wide swath of types of work in them will give way to automation and disappear. The jobs that remain, and that open up and become possible from this transition will require more and different training and experience, and with that including an ability to work effectively in a mixed, human employee and automation setting.

With that noted, I at least begin to address the issue of networking with a more effective career development focus. And with the challenges of automation and of outsourcing, and of ongoing change per se in mind, and in ways that can and will impact upon all of us, I offer an assertion that should be fairly obvious even if it does violate how many of see social networking: business and professionally oriented online social networking included.

• Closed and intentionally limited-reach networking is an open invitation to be run over by change and the unexpected.
• And we are living in and still just beginning to enter into a period of profound change and uncertainty and certainly in any realistic jobs and careers context, and for all of us.

I offered a basic taxonomy of online social networking approaches and strategies in this blog, not that long after I began writing to it at all with Social Network Taxonomy and Social Networking Strategy. And I recently picked up on that topic area again in two newer postings: Topologically (Contrived Opportunistically) Connected Social Networks: rethinking a basic paradigm and its Part 2 continuation. And I offer a basic assessment that I had already arrived at in 2009 when writing and posting the first of these three postings, that I refrained from expressing then, and certainly with any forcefulness:

• People who network for work opportunities, as for example in job searches when currently unemployed, and who network with a goal of advancing their careers, but who do so with real a priori restrictions in who they would network with, do so with at least one hand tied behind their back.
• You cannot effectively network for new job or career opportunities if you only seek to connect with and communicate with the familiar and with those who are already your close acquaintances.
• Change in general and disruptively novel unpredictable change in particular, call for open networking and a willingness to step outside of your usual circle to learn and to join in wider reaching conversations, where you can make genuinely new acquaintances.
• And we are definitely living at a time of ongoing change and of disruptively novel, unpredictable change, and even when we see something of the change that is coming and have named it (e.g. automation and the advancement of artificial intelligence-driven systems in the workplace.)

If manufacturing and service sector jobs and career paths are being reshaped by this, so are every other areas of work and employment, with some all but disappearing, some in effect emerging as workplace possibilities and all fundamentally changing. You have to network actively and openly and with a wide reach and an open mind if you are to keep up with all of this.

I am certain to have more to add to this in a next series installment, but will end this posting and its discussion here. And after adding to my discussion of business networking in that next installment, I will turn to consider the employment and career barrier of non-compete agreements as noted at the top if this posting. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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