The future of work is like a doughnut

Not the jam-in-the-centre kind we're accustomed to from the local supermarket. But, more the pink hole-in-the-middle sort from across the pond

The future of work is like a doughnut

Sprinkles aside, this shape reveals a new world of thinking about how both organisations and individuals engage with work. In the centre are the core activities that are low-risk, dependable and necessary for either an effective organisation or a financially independent individual. Surrounding this are the secondary activities that are higher-risk, one-off and situational, which often evolve into projects that can scale up and down to meet changing business needs. 

For the organisation this doughnut reality means engaging talent can differ greatly depending on the type of work.

If the work falls into the centre then the pressure on the organisation is to turn the necessary work into repeatable units that can be scaled through automation, augmented by artificial intelligence or delegated to the full-time employee who’ll be trusted to work 40 hours a week to get the job done. This is the type of work we all know. It’s always looking to be done faster, cheaper and smarter. 

However, around the edges the pressure for the situational work looks a whole lot different. The need is often time or skill sensitive, requiring capacity or knowledge that the current full-time team does not have available to them. This often means that the best option is to look for fractional project workers who are happy to get involved quickly, remain flexible with their time commitments and can bring their specific expertise to the business problems. 

But, it’s not just the organisation that must embrace the new world of work. So must the individual. 

Their core is made up of the work they know will pay the bills at the end of the month, while the edges allow for flexibility to engage in higher risk, more aligned work (paid or unpaid) that enables them to develop their skills, expand their network or build their credibility. For those at the beginning of their career who are likely to have a larger core, the edges often evolve into side-hustles and 5-9s that build around their 9-5s. While for those with more established careers they can afford to downscale to a part-time role and scale-up their edges, which in time can look like multiple roles, contracting, freelancing or running their own businesses full-time. 

So, what can you do about it?

In an ever-faster changing world it’s the organisations and individuals who recognise that working arrangements must extend beyond full-time who will stay relevant. Both future thinking parties look first at the work that needs to be done, not the role that must be created, and then find creative ways to engage with one another. Just a few larger organisations who are trialing this new approach are Unilever who’ve introduced U-WorkHSBC who are utilising an internal talent marketplace and the 110 companies introducing a 4-day work week. 

If you’re willing to think differently about engaging talent, but unsure where to start then drop me a message on LinkedIn

Charlie Rogers
Charlie Rogers

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