Happy Independence Day! To celebrate, the Catalysts at AdHocnium discussed Freedom of Choice and its impact on business for our third Catalytic Podcast. In this week’s podcast, Chris Heuer is joined by Mark Fidelman of Evolve! Inc., Mitch Lieberman of DRI Global, Bill Jensen of The Jensen Group, and Bill Sanders of Roebling Strauss. Each explains their own perspective on the ramifications associated with newfound freedom in the business world, and how that phenomenon has come into play within their own experiences. They also underscore the idea that freedom can ultimately be an incredible creative force by providing alternative experiences that enrich the value of an independent professional.
It’s no secret that many employees now have a certain level of freedom in choosing how and when they work, with many choosing to go independent and contract their services back to their former employers. The real question, however, lies in how companies should adapt to the increasing trend of employees seeking their freedom from traditional employment relationships. There are some positives and negatives on the path to independence, and our Catalysts discuss the issue at length.
Seemingly, companies who embrace the idea of hiring back their former employees as independent contractors more freedom are taking a potential risk of losing more of their best workers to a similar path. However, smart businesses today are striving to develop a loyalty in their employees with additional avenues of mutual trust. If a company empowers their employees by giving them the education to advance their careers, perhaps even teaching them the skills of entrepreneurship, there is a high chance of those skills being returned to the company in the future. Even if self-starting employees leave to found start-ups, there can still be a certain mutually beneficial relationship. There are a few progressive companies adopting these management styles, and the reality is that these emerging models have potential to grow businesses and their respective trustworthiness.
While all the Catalysts agree that there is no certainty in this area, Mark Fidelman asserts that he’s observed some important trends. One of those trends is the “Free-Agent Economy,” in which greater numbers of high-level employees move towards free agency in their careers. In the last decade or so, there has never been more opportunity for individuals to develop a personal brand using the Internet and Social Media. As people begin to develop these skills, they become more valuable to multiple companies and more interested in the diversity of experiences that such a situation provides. It’s no secret that companies have become less loyal to their employees over the past few decades, and many provide fewer opportunities for advancement and distinction. This has led to more individuals being attracted to the idea of working for themselves, and choosing what projects they deem worthy of their time.
Bill Sanders agrees, and furthers the conversation by discussing the inability of companies to tap into all of the resources available to them. Currently, talented individuals have become out of reach for many companies, and there is little understanding of how companies can harness the growing network of highly skilled individuals who are outside the confines of their own payroll. An increasing number of individuals are more interested in architecting their own career, rather than accepting what work is assigned to them. Many companies are having a difficult time accepting and adapting to this shift, let alone seizing it as an opportunity for greater value creation.
Further on, Mitch Lieberman explains how companies need to learn to bring in individuals with specific skills at opportune moments, like bringing in a pitch-hitter in the 9th inning of a ballgame. In a creative setting, individuals are brought together based on their skills and expertise to solve problems, and businesses should learn to emulate that model. Today, individuals have the ability to seek out companies that require their specialized skills and unique talents. That freedom has the potential to fulfill both the company’s needs and the individual’s professional aspirations.
Bill Jensen cites the book “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Schwartz, in the sense that many professionals live “a la carte.” This idea necessitates being responsible with our freedoms. The concept of this shaky “a la carte” lifestyle reduces the precision of our responsibilities both as workers and employers. “Anybody who is taking solely a paycheck is dinosaur meat,” and there is now almost a necessity for entrepreneurial skill for all workers. There are two necessary skills that individuals need in a business setting: triage and improvisation. People prioritize and improvise in any situation possess the essentials of the more academic term “critical thinking.” It is these critical thinking skills that end up fueling the responsibility of our professional freedom.
In the end, professional freedom is foggy territory. While all the Catalysts agree that freedom is ultimately a good thing, it is unpredictable by its very nature. Many factors prevent large companies from hiring skilled freelancers, and this only adds to the convoluted status quo. Freedom to work and freedom of choice is a common professional experience today, and a direct result of the technology in front of us. Social businesses that are more connected internally and across their ecosystems, have the capacity to tap into the growing community of independent professionals to harness their valuable talents. “The question becomes, how are you, as a business leader, going to be able to incorporate the best possible talent for each team? Not necessarily only from the resources inside your company, but from all the available resources that exist around you.” After listening to this podcast, please share your thoughts on this topic below, providing us with further insights through your unique perspective on the impacts of freedom of choice on business.