Is a Job Still A “Job”

Where communications abilities takes us a host of other trends and patterns follow.

For better or worse it’s given us a world where you can be tethered to work by iPhone or computer, and share information via short text bursts and immediate access And as this week’s Wall Street Journal chronicles in “Why E-Mail No Longer Rules“, changes in the nature of communication have changed how we fundamentally think of a host of related relationships – such as jobs.

And just as we become more casual about communication in the Twitter / Facebook age, will we become more casual about the lines that demarcate something called a “job?”  As the Journal story notes, “Having your identity pegged to communication creates more data to manage and some blurry lines.” And a job is a line that is already blurry for many.

Does these types of communication trends propel to the “always on” job (as if many aren’t there already) and / or does it push us to have many jobs simultaneously because with the new communication abilities we can?

In the (really) old agrarian age, people were serfs on some feudal lords farm (or the sad equivalent) and were compensated marginally or not at all. Some people get some type of compensation based on a sense of production via barter or services. In the industrial age, compensation for some got translated into piece rates (parts /amount produced” and later – at least for some – pay based on hours worked.

As more people work multiple jobs – both fulltime (remember how strange it seemed when Steve Jobs was both the CEO of then-independent Pixar as well as the CEO of Apple, Inc?) and part-time, does the model of hours (for those working part-time) or a “job” make any more sense?

And now that some jobs are of the “contractor” or “consultant” flavor – and perhaps spread over many firms by the person doing the work, what does it mean to the concept of “a job.”

In some fields, such as music, new models beyond the current “traditional” royalties compensation stream system are being explored and have been kicked around recently for Wall Street. Studies from Europe (Cooperation or Competition? New Models of Work Organization in the Information Society) give us some sense of how we may need to rethink what it means to have a job for how we get paid will inform how we think of work and a job.

Charles Handy way back in 1994 noted, “Very soon, half the work force of the developed world will be ‘outside’ the organization. The future prosperity of all of us will depend on their competencies and their education, yet no one seems to be noticing or caring.”

I’ve got no neat concise answer on this question of is a “job still a job?” What is clear to me that in the United States we’re in the forefront of change on the order of massive plate tectonics shifting about the nature of work, and how that relates to the concept of a “job.”

More to come: and we get to watch together.