Now this is a provocative article from BusinessWeek.com titled Defining A Job. The article is quite thorough in it’s reasoning and well worth the read. But let’s start with this explanation:
In a nutshell: how do you define a job? For most organizations today, it’s based on the unit of time—40 hours week, for example—but I believe that definition is rapidly reaching the end of its useful life. Going forward, many jobs in our economy will be better defined by and compensated according to the task performed, regardless of the time spent achieving the desired outcome.
Ironically, the switch from time to task takes us back to the way most workers were compensated for centuries. In both agricultural and craft-based economies, rewards were directly related to output created: the amount of farm produce, the number and quality of pottery pieces, and so on. Even in the early days of the industrial revolution, workers were paid by individual piece rates, in most cases with no guaranteed base pay. As late as 1920, 80% of all workers in the U.S. were paid on a piecemeal basis or in some other way that linked pay directly to the quantity of results produced.
This approach is no revelation to those of us from the sales world. The purest form of selling is straight commission. As we say, “you eat what you kill.” The thought of switching to a performance-based compensation structure makes complete sense to me due to my sales focus. But here is a well-worded explanation from a macro perspective:
The majority of workers of the western world are now employed in service industries—and already more than half of those are knowledge workers, paid for writing, analyzing, advising, counting, designing, researching—and countless related functions, including capturing, organizing, and providing access to knowledge used by others. Time-based jobs make little sense for these workers. Who’s to say how long it will take an individual to write a report, conduct an analysis, or produce a piece of software? Why not specify the outcomes that each individual is responsible for producing, and let each knowledge worker determine how much time is required to do the job well? Task-based makes sense in a knowledge economy.
And the reality is, many corporations are there already—but just haven’t acknowledged it. The move to telecommuting is essentially trusting that the task will be accomplished, although in most cases the job is still stated in terms of an expectation to work a specified number of hours from home. As virtual work continues to spread, the logic of confronting this slight of hand, of making the stated expectation fit the operational reality, grows.
Brilliant. I couldn’t agree more with the author.