THIS year has turned out to be one like no other that has caused all of us to reinvent ourselves in both our personal and work lives.
A lot of the change that has taken place will remain as part of the new normal and this will influence who and what we are in the future.
I’d also like to focus on how rewards are evolving and how we view pay will have to change. We are already witnessing the growth of bartering with goods and services paid for through the supply of other services as payment replacing cash or money transfers.
We have seen the rise of the gig economy. This is a free market system in which temporary positions are common and organisations hire independent workers for short-term commitments. The term “gig” is a slang word for a job that lasts a specified period of time.
Many years ago, one of my favourite management gurus wrote a book titled The elephant and the flea that was all about the changing relationships between large corporations and small enterprises.
Today we can see this in action with giants such as Amazon relying on an army of self-employed drivers who are the final link in the supply chain getting what the customer had ordered into their hands.
During 2020 we have awoken to the fact that the greatest value-creation stories going forward won’t be in these giants such as Amazon. They will be in small companies led by talented entrepreneurs. It is here that their ideas will have the greatest impact and the conditions for the creation of new ideas are most fertile. The most-talented people won’t stand working in bureaucracies of companies worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
In the book, Charles Handy wrote all those years ago he saw all this happening. The fleas were small or independent operators. For him, we were turning into a world with a lot more fleas (not a flattering metaphor, I know). Handy saw the fleas as the innovators, the source of new ideas. The elephants needed them for these things. So, a symbiotic relationship existed.
The elephants provide security mostly. As Handy writes, they provide “secure household incomes for most, a convenient tax-collecting mechanism, a way of packaging society into boxes so that you knew where they would be, and what they would be doing in the years to come”.
The fleas are about freedom and uncertainty. And while the elephants would continue to get all the attention, the fleas would have the bigger impact – especially in the game of wealth creation.
As this change accelerates driven by events in 2020 governments and individuals are presented with a new normal which no longer meets the requirements of accepted ways of employment and paying taxes.
We have been very fortunate in Bahrain over recent decades with the labour law legislation that is in place to protect the employee and the employer. As we move towards a world where full-time employment is no longer going to be the norm governments need to change laws and regulations to meet the new reality.
Governments and business leaders who respond quickly as required will thrive. Those who hang on to the past will not only fail to match up to the new reality but will be left behind in the dust as the rest of the world changes as needed.
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at [email protected]