I’m not a socialist, not by any stretch of the imagination. I am critical of some business practices because I like business. I like the ebb and flow of commerce and the introduction of new ideas. I just hate the imbalance that comes with our current system where the employers and leaders are always systematically driving as much of the risk of being in business onto the workforce, and where the preference of operations is directly opposed to the structure of our society. In an earlier post on Encore Careers I touched on what they were and how if everyone was treated like they were working in an encore career, then the working environment would be much different.
First, let’s redefine an Encore Career for the purpose of this post: Typically an Encore career is one where the bills are paid and your doing it just for the love of the endeavor. It’s generally retirement… so if your healthcare is paid, and if you have a pension or a really fat 401K, and if the kids are gone and the house is paid for. Then you may be ready to do something completely different. Instead of working 65 hours a week and making $125,000 a year as a logistics manager for a 5000 site convenience store chain, maybe you work 30 hours a week and make $24,000 / year as the marketing director for a regional theater company. The key here is that the basics are covered. Housing, healthcare, childcare (they are out of the house), etc.. so you can typically live on much less. Using our logistics manager example, If you enjoyed what you did but want to do it on a more reduced level, maybe you’re a consultant for another convenience store chain and you work four days a week. Assuming you’re a senior leader in politics, you could go from Senator or President of the United states back to your hometown and became Mayor or city council member (some Presidents did go back to more junior political roles after their terms). The point is you can do what interests you and you have walkaway power if things get bad. That means the balance of power becomes equal again between the employer and the employee. I touched on these benefits of a workforce filled with encore career employees in my earlier post. The challenge of course is that you can only be in an encore career if you have flogged through the first career and were smart enough or lucky enough to acquire enough wealth where you do have that vaunted walkaway power. Ideally you wouldn’t want to slog through the misery of a first career to get to the benefits of a secure second career. It’s not hard to envision an employer who only hires employees they have unfair levels of influence over. Generally speaking there are many employers who do that today.
So if my first post answered the question: What is an Encore Career and why are they so great? Then this post will answer the question: How do you empower everyone in their first career to enjoy the benefits of an encore career? There are some ideas, here are a few of them, yes, some are flying rodent excrement unbalanced, (“Bat S__t Crazy” if you didn’t get the reference), but they are all worthy of talking about.
Guaranteed Minimum Income: The first concept is the Guaranteed Minimum Income. The idea is that it doesn’t matter who you are, if you are a citizen then you get a guaranteed basic income. Not a bad idea really, especially if it really does get rid of every other social program out there. It’s been gaining steam in the public discourse because of the rapid adoption of technology displacing jobs faster than economic growth can create new ones. This is a highly flawed foundation as throughout all of history, there has been job creation after job destruction by technology. No matter what the naysayers say, this pattern of job creation won’t change as creative people will always figure out how to use available human resources. Will the jobs being displaced pay at the same rate? That’s up for debate. But will there be jobs eventually created that weren’t conceived of before? That will absolutely happen, It just takes time. But even considering this, If we are going to live in a society with redistribution (which we do) and the Guaranteed Minimum Income takes the place of all of that redistribution then it’s an intriguing idea.
This will only work if it’s not a number, but if it’s a ratio. So if there are one hundred million people each sharing a hundred billion in tax revenue, then everyone gets $1000. If only fifty billion is collected in tax revenue, then everyone only gets $500. If we just say that everyone gets $1542.65 a month, the ebb and flow of the economies ability to support the program will make for non-stop political fighting the likes of which would have no historical comparison. Our current political climate and arguments over minimum wage will seem positively cordial by comparison. But the bottom line with this option is theoretically true. If everyone is getting an income, and what they earn is more ‘bonus money’ than ‘living money’ then every job starts to feel like an encore career job.
Equity sharing: if you are at XYZ company and you get a piece of the company (stock options) that’s a direct ratio of your salary vs. the ceo salary.. Then guess what? You get to benefit from the growth of the company in your time. Great for fast growing companies, maybe not so good for stagnant companies. The caveat here is that if people get to cash out their options every quarter then it’s just a profit sharing vs. equity growth. That doesn’t allow for much in the way of independence, if anything it has the opposite effect where it’s more like golden handcuffs.
Severance: In my policy on severance, my thought process is that for every year an employee works, they should get two months severance. The two months worth of wages are paid out over three months. This accomplishes two goals. The first goal is that it rewards employees for longevity. The second goal is that it provides an extended ramp to get the next job. As job’s get more and more complicated, and companies look for the purple squirrel, the longer ramps are necessary to secure a position. The depreciating amount of the payout means that incentive grows for the employee to get out and get that next job.
A challenge is that companies can play games where by they make an environment so caustic for an employee that the employees feels like they must quit. If that’s the case, then do we force the employer to pay that rate? What about if the employee falls on hard times, maybe a substance problem? The way I see it, the answer is yes. In both cases the severance is built around longevity, so if the employee spent five years as a model employee, then fell on hard times and screwed up so bad in the last year that they got themselves fired, they still get the benefit from those years of service. In this case it would be 18 months of severance.
Universal Health Care: This is way too sensitive a topic politically for this blog and I simply don’t want to go there. That being said, no matter where you stand on the issue, the idea that if you exist, you get health care in some sort in a way that’s completely unrelated to your job. This, by default, means that would mean that all the challenges of employer provided healthcare disappear. Business understand that employer provided health care makes their employees more ‘sticky’ to the organization. Knowing business as well as I do, I know that healthcare is an issue for business right now, an issue they would like to eliminate one way or another, even if it means losing the employee stickiness that comes with providing it.
These are all super interesting solutions to the problem of driving a better balance between the employee and the employer. – That balance would actually be better for both groups as any truly seasoned business person will tell you. But what if these solutions are fixing yesterday’s problem, not tomorrow’s? We have lived through the industrial age. Now we are living in the Information age. In the industrial age your value as an employee was all about how well you were a long term consistent employee. It’s why there were Unions and Pensions and K-12 school systems designed to make good little human robots to do the things they needed to do. Now we have real robots to do that stuff.
The information age is all about on-demand needs. We are fast moving into the world of the Uberization of everything. If everyone is an independent contractor, then you’re technically not an employee. That means the benefits associated with being an employee evaporate into the ether. It’s easier to go from organization to organization (walkaway power) but the longer term life needs of the worker, professional or otherwise, would require consistency that simply doesn’t exist in the Uber model. How can you easy meet a monthly mortgage payment if you only get paid six months out of every year? If healthcare isn’t socialized, then how can anyone afford it when you’re a commodity of service?
We had the industrial age pretty well figured out Post World War II. Now all those Baby Boomers are living their own Encore Careers and still having a positive impact on the world while they maintain a solid quality of life with the best part being they are doing it in many cases for passion rather than fear of loss of what they have. It’s a shame we can’t empower everyone at every point in their career with the same ability to positively impact the world. I think that this new world would be very different and maybe, on the whole, a much better one than the one professionals exist in today.