The report on the rise of small businesses noted in Rick’s recent post got me thinking about why people leave or avoid corporate jobs in favor of something more personal. Many of us aren’t interested in working for large globo-corp companies that may be headquartered far away, staffed by thousands of employees you’ll never know, with a mission that may be tough to directly connect to your daily activities. The supposed “security” of these large employers is an illusion we just don’t buy into anymore.
Nobody dreams of being employee #10,239. Today’s knowledge workers in large companies can spend their day taking data from someone, doing something with it, and giving it to someone else — without any personal connection to the final product, customer or result.
I recently interviewed a candidate to replace me before I left my product management job at a mid-sized software company. He had been laid off by our area’s largest technology employer (along with hundreds of his marketing colleagues). It was shocking to hear this smart guy tell me what he actually did there — spending all of his time on an activity that was only one of many I was responsible for. He was one step in a huge workflow, with a narrowly focused job in a niche of a niche. It was like a 21st century assembly line of information, and he handled step 16 of 212. Yes, he was paid well, and I heard the benefits and stock options were great. And he and his co-workers all got laid off in one fell swoop.
What can employees do to ensure they don’t get stuck in a highly specialized role, not gaining (or losing) skills that broaden their capabilities? And with the rise of small businesses, as well as technology, tools and communities to support independent workers, how will these mega companies entice top talent to work there?