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January 02, 2013

The Workforce in 2013: PHBs Everywhere Start Freaking Out Now



For those familiar with the Dilbert line of comics, that headline has you laughing. But one thing's for sure, based on the recently-released results of a study conducted by MBO Partners, the workforce of the near future--even this year near-term--is going to be much different than it was in the past, and one that won't be near so accommodating of Pointy-Haired Bosses.

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One of the key points in MBO Partners' study is the idea of a "revolving-door career," in which some professionals will find themselves in "traditional" jobs at some point, followed up by a period in which they're operating independently. MBO Partners projects that by 2020, half of the workforce will have experienced what's called "career independence," in which they operate their own business of at least some type. This will give rise to a set of new industries designed to facilitate this growing business segment, ultra-specialized businesses designed to support these independent business owners.

With the growth of independent businesses will also, according to MBO Partners' projections, come a sea change in terms of hiring at more traditional businesses. "Contingent talent management," or the management of talent that provides services to an organization yet is not specifically on their payroll, like contractors, temps and similar workers, will not only become more in demand, but it will also play a wider role within the business itself, in terms of boardroom hires and the like as companies attempt to get expert talent into their fold.

All of this in turn--coupled with the declining numbers of traditional jobs--will likely lead to a microbusiness renaissance as not only will there be plenty more microbusinesses being launched, but in turn, about one in 12 of them will go on to build employer firms.

Naturally, little of this will escape the notice of a cash-strapped government as more notice will be taken of independent workers' finances to ensure they get their cut, and a government desperate for money is often one of the most vigilant creatures on Earth.

Five predictions comprise the MBO Partners' study of independent workers in 2013 and beyond -- five predictions, but a world of implications. The small businesses designed to support small business, for example, are themselves small business. Will they in turn have small businesses to support them? Will we see the rise of regional clusters of small business, with the Chamber of Commerce welcoming new business owners with a fruit basket, a hearty handshake, and a, "Go see this guy for your accounting and this lady over here does great things with marketing and...."? For the one in 12 figure cited earlier, does this apply to these support businesses as well? That's a lot of potential new hires, and a lot of potential new business. But what will these new businesses do? There are only so many slots for knowledge workers out there; eventually something has to be produced. Will the rise of 3D printing make production more local? Will rising fuel costs give way to the end of China's stranglehold as the world's factory?

Implications like no tomorrow surround MBO Partners' simple five-point study into the future of small business, and as such, make 2013 a year very likely to be heavily represented with change. With more and more businesses being built around one person, or a very small number of people, the chances of incompetent, Dilbert-style Pointy-Haired Bosses getting ahead will be slimmer than in the past.

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Edited by Rachel Ramsey
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