Economic Disobedience

Economic Disobedience

Economic disobedience is a key theme in my novel, A Multitude of Hope. Why are we discussing it here? An article in this Sunday’s New York Times provides one answer.

The article was written by Adam Davidson and entitled “Skills Don’t Pay the Bills.” It lays bare one of the most gut-wrenching truths in today’s workplace. In many organizations, you can be a skilled worker in a high demand field and still earn less than a McDonald’s shift manager. That’s right, even if you have state-of-the-art-expertise in a profession, craft or trade your employer needs, that employer won’t pay you enough to support a middle class standard of living.

The so-called skills gap that the politicians and pundits keep wailing about? In some fields, at least, it’s a figment of stupid management. As the Boston Consulting Group put it in a recent report: “Trying to hire high-skilled workers at rock-bottom rates is not a skills gap.”

How can you protect yourself in such an environment? Be a career activist and practice economic disobedience.

That’s what a lot of your peers are already doing. For example, between February and April of 2010, more Americans resigned from their jobs than were laid off. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.7 million Americans were handed a pink slip during that period, while 2.0 million walked away on their own to find a better career advancement opportunity.

You see, Mr. Davidson only got it half right. Yes, there are inept employers out there trying to hire talent on the cheap. But, there are also many others trying just as hard to hire talent at a salary commensurate with their contribution to the organization’s success.

If you have any doubt about that, consider this: according to SHRM, the number of employers using financial incentives to acquire skilled workers has gone up over the last eight years. Today, seven out of ten employers will pay a bonus to hire a highly skilled and dedicated worker, while almost a third will pay a bonus to hang on to them once they are hired. And, almost a third will pay above market wages to recruit them while almost four out of ten will adjust salaries to retain them.

No less important, these increases have occurred during the steepest economic downturn since the Great Depression. At least some companies understand that they are no longer competing with cheaper labor overseas, they’re competing with smarter labor. And, the only way to keep up is to pay whatever it takes to hire the best and leverage that talent to win with quality work and innovative products and services.

Knowing how to find and get hired by such employers is, in part, what economic disobedience is all about. As we’ve discussed in other threads, it involves three actions: (1) redefining yourself as a “person of talent,” (2) acquiring the occupational knowledge and skills necessary to excel on-the-job, and (3) acquiring the knowledge and skills to manage your own career effectively. Take those three steps and you’ll be on your way to becoming the master of your career, rather than the victim of some employer, the economy or both.

Work Strong,
Peter