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    Work 2.0

    January 20, 2002) -You might as well get out your credit card and get ready to have this book shipped to your office. Over the course of the coming year, you are going to hear a lot about Work 2.0. You ought to be first for a change.

    We first heard about the book from Jeremy Shapiro, the genius behind HodesIQ. He emailed over a copy of the Intro, Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 (in acrobat format) with the same message we're giving you: this is, at least, the big fad of the year. It is, quite possibly more than that.

    The book is the same old breathy revolution that we've seen every couple of years on the business bestseller lists (Anyone still remember the Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun?). Only this time, the author is very close.

    Work 2.0 suggests that the demographics we continually rant about are in the process of creating a new employment contract. The gist of the new contract is that employees are really investors who need a clear picture of the return on their working capital that you, as the employer, are going to provide.

    Like any good piece of revolutionary rhetoric, the book targets executives and then socks them right in the eye (remind you of anyone?). Claiming that the new generation of workers won't tolerate having their time wasted, being forced to use shoddy tools, working in unheated cubicles or performance without passion, Bill Jensen (the author) expects companies to ask: What is the hourly/daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual return your talent gets for investing in your firm. It's a powerful question and one good  approach to the coming labor shortage.

    The new war for talent is a bare knuckle fight over people's assets. It isn't going to be about a new game room or an inhouse pizza place. It's going to be about whether or not your team is better off for working for you...in their terms, not yours. Hourly and weekly, not annually.

    We wonder how new this really is and what the fuss in the workplace is likely to be this year. In any company we've worked in or led, autonomy is a function of trust and competence. The high value workers have always had the independence to organize their work so that their return was maximized. A significant portion of workers chose not to do this, preferring to maximize external activities by investing no more than necessary. Like many in our business, Jensen broad brushes all workers into a single category and then sets about fixing things.

    We've always run our operations on the assumption that the best workers require independence and autonomy. Periodically, it feels like the opposite of a good retention strategy. It's a tough work environment and not for every company. We expect performance, innovation, struggle and commitment. We give opportunity, independence, freedom, great wages and autonomy. It's not everyone's idea of a great compensation package but, we prefer workers who behave like owners. We don't even vaguely believe that this is an environment for 'most'. Risk based compensation assumes the sharing of risk. It's the rare employee who believes that sharing on that level is appropriate. The great ones earn their living in performance environments already. While Jensen makes a compelling case, he leaves little insight into the management of the other 90%.

    We are definitely not arguing the Work 2.0 is not a useful read. It is provocative and important. We believe it will have a potent and lasting impact on the workplace. We're simply suggesting that it presents a panacea and we've never seen one that worked. 

    Your really smart workers and your really smart prospects are going to begin to demand more tangible returns on their investment in your operation. As you try to explain to hiring managers why this is happening, have a copy of Work 2.0 with you. Make them read it. Warn them that a big change is coming and show them the book as evidence.

    - John Sumser

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