Can’t Fill Jobs? Deconstruct Them

Breaking roles down into tasks reframes the talent problem from one of supply to one of demand.

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An MIT SMR initiative exploring how technology is reshaping the practice of management.
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The surge of workers leaving their jobs as the COVID-19 pandemic wears on — adding to employers’ talent woes in the midst of an already tight labor market — has drawn predictable responses. Organizations are typically reacting to the Great Resignation with increased pay and flexibility and better, more personalized benefits. But these are short-term solutions to a long-term problem. If the job opportunities your company offers are the same as everyone else’s, and pay and benefits are your only differentiator, then you will continue to churn through workers in an ever-escalating war for talent and an ever-escalating cost structure.

What if, instead, you offered better work?

Bend the Demand Curve

With most organizations focused on addressing the labor supply side of the equation, progressive organizations recognize the opportunity to use today’s fight for talent as a catalyst to rethink and reorganize work. In our new book, Work Without Jobs, we show how job deconstruction can help bend the demand side of the work equation through the creation of an agile, flexible, inclusive, and resilient new work operating system.

The most common challenge employers face in trying to attract and retain talent stems from the assumption that the job itself is fixed and what needs changing is who does it. This leads to a false choice: Retain someone to continue doing the work, or seek a replacement with comparable experience and expertise. The solution to this false choice is to perpetually deconstruct and reinvent the work itself, making it both more attractive to talent and of greater value to the organization.

Today many organizations query from the supply side: “How do we find or build talent with the skills that fit with future automation?” In a new work operating system that bends the demand curve, they would ask, “How do we rebuild the work to optimize the combination of humans doing some tasks while automation does others?” Supply-side thinking leads to the question, “How can we get our jobs done with the right policy about remote-hybrid-onsite work?” Demand-side thinkers ask, “What new jobs can we invent to optimally combine the tasks that should be done in each work arrangement?” Reframing the question creates more options for making work more attractive and solving prominent dilemmas such as labor shortages and resignations.

Topics

Frontiers

An MIT SMR initiative exploring how technology is reshaping the practice of management.
More in this series

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