Tag Archives: Jobs

Gig workers: guinea pigs of the new world of work

Most discussion of gig workers has focused on their material insecurity. More attention also needs to be paid to what goes on in their heads.
By Pierre Bérastégui – The ‘gig’ economy has grown to become an intrinsic part of our society and yet the benefits and risks of this new way of working are still much debated. Understandably, the employment status of gig workers captures most public attention.

Most European Union member states lack clear regulations on this, so a platform’s terms and conditions determine the status of its ‘users’, based on the existing regulatory framework. Although there are instances of platforms offering employment contracts, most consider gig workers as self-employed.

This is often referred to as ‘bogus’ self-employment: workers are treated as such for tax, commercial and company-law purposes, yet remain subject to subordination by and dependence on the contractor and/or platform. As new forms of work outpace regulation, the key legal challenge is to ensure no workers are left outside of the regulatory framework.

That should, however, not hide the fact that gig workers deal with unique challenges when it comes to working conditions. In addition to the specific hazards entailed by the different types of activities mediated through online labor platforms, there are also risks related to the way gig work is organized, designed and managed. Addressing these is essential, to safeguard working conditions and ensure a socially responsive transition to the new world of work. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

This one ubiquitous job actually has four distinct roles
The avatars of the strategist
By Ram Shivakumar – Among the occupational titles that have become ubiquitous in the 21st century, “strategist” remains something of a mystery. What does the strategist do? What skills and mindset distinguish the strategist from others?

Is the strategist a visionary whose mandate is to look into the future and set a course of direction? A planner whose charter is to develop and implement the company’s strategic plan? An organization builder whose mission is to inspire a vibrant and energetic culture? Or is it all of the above?

Academic scholarship does not settle this question. Over the past 50 years, many competing schools of thought on strategy have emerged. The two most prominent are the positioning school and the people school. The positioning school, closely associated with ideas developed by Harvard’s Michael Porter, argues that strategy is all about distinctiveness and not operational efficiency. In this view, the acquisition of a valuable position depends on the unique combination of activities that an organization performs (or controls). The people school, closely associated with the ideas of Stanford’s Jeffrey Pfeffer, posits that the principal difference between high-performance organizations and others lies in how each group manages its most important resource—people. In this view, high-performance organizations foster a culture that reward teamwork, integrity, and commitment.

Because these two schools differ in their doctrines (assumptions and beliefs) and principles (ideas and insights), each envisions a distinct role for the strategist. more>

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Updates from Chicago Booth

There will be more innovation post-COVID. Here’s why.
By Harry L. Davis – Since the COVID-19 pandemic threw our lives into disarray, we’ve had to change how we do anything involving other people. Rather than counting on bumping into colleagues in the hall, we now have to schedule Zoom calls around the competing demands (childcare, a broken water heater) that everyone is dealing with. There isn’t time for the kind of small talk that often, unpredictably, leads to big ideas.

There are unquestionably benefits to handling some tasks over video conference. Last spring, I taught a class in which groups of students take on consulting projects with the guidance of Chicago-based Kearney. Consultants spend countless hours on airplanes to make face-to-face meetings with their clients possible, and it’s a big part of their culture. In past years, regular in-person meetings and schmoozing were built into the syllabus.

Of course, none of that was possible this year. Our students were thrust into a new world where even senior executives were caught off-guard and without webcams. Whiteboard brainstorming sessions became Zoom calls.

Curious about their experiences, we surveyed the students about the impact of remote work throughout the quarter. While pessimistic at first, by the end of the nine-week course, they later felt that their remote situation was actually helping them be more efficient and helped them do do a better job responding to their clients’ needs. I had a similar experience with teaching remotely—although daunted at first, I found that I was able to deliver my classes effectively, even if I was tethered to my desk chair.

Once the pandemic is behind us, we’ll have to choose what to return to and what to keep from our remote way of working. I think Zoom and its ilk will continue to have an important place for those situations where teams are geographically dispersed or there’s some urgent decision that needs to be made. But the type of work that delivers innovation—creative work—will still best be done in person. more>

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3 Keys to Engineering Success

Although success can be defined in different ways by different people, there are three very specific keys to engineering success.

By Jacob Beningo – Every engineer and engineering team wants to be successful. Success can be defined in many different ways whether it is meeting a deadline, making a customer happy, or completing work within the budget. Whatever the definition of success is, there are three keys to successful engineering, and they aren’t necessarily technical.

Success Key #1 – Maintaining Discipline

Related: 50 Top Private Engineering Firms of 2020

The first key to success is that even under the toughest conditions, discipline needs to be maintained. This isn’t a military thing, it’s common sense. I see a lot of teams that when things start to get tough, corners recklessly start getting cut. The loss of discipline creates additional problems that further get in the way of delivering and quickly become a self-feeding doom loop that wastes time and kills budget.

Maintaining discipline for success must be done at more than one level at the company. First, individual developers need to agree that no matter what pressure is put on them, they will follow their processes, perform their due diligence, and not allow themselves to decay into wild west programming. Individual developers form the foundation and if they crack, the whole project is going with them. Second, the collective team needs to agree that they will maintain their discipline no matter what. Everyone working together will help ensure that they are successful. Finally, the company management team needs to be on-board and understand that while there may be a fire today or a critical delivery date, the team has to maintain the discipline to make the delivery successful. All three levels of the business need to be on board.

In my experience, engineering success comes down to much more than technical prowess. It comes down to having and maintain discipline. It requires carefully managing expectations to deliver what is needed when it is needed not by overpromising and under-delivering. Perhaps most importantly, to have long-term success, it requires having fun doing whatever it is that you do and with the people you are doing it with. more>

Staying Focused on the Big Picture

U.S. election-related uncertainty may persist a while longer, but the relatively optimistic longer-term economic outlook hasn’t changed.
By Lisa Shalet – Now that former Vice President Joseph Biden is President-Elect, much of the election uncertainty has dissipated. Markets have factored in Biden’s win as well as the apparent lack of a Congressional Democratic sweep, but headlines concerning the transition of power could contribute to volatility.

We encourage investors to ignore short-term price swings based on the headlines and stay focused on the bigger picture. We still believe that investors should emphasize global stocks over bonds. Morgan Stanley & Co. strategists forecast that the S&P 500 Index, a broad measure of the U.S. market that is now trading around 3500, may reach 3700 by the middle of next year.

Several key points in our economic outlook are unlikely to change due to election results. Here are three reasons why:

The V-shaped economic recovery is on solid ground. October’s nonfarm payroll data was a solid upside surprise, with the unemployment rate falling and the labor participation rate rising. Consumer sentiment is holding up, and manufacturing and services indicators continue to show expansion. Housing and durable goods orders support the capital spending narrative of the new business cycle. In 2021, U.S. GDP could grow at an annualized pace of 5% to 6%—in part because the recession this year enhances the year-over-year comparison, but also given the midyear return to growth. Such economic expansion could power double-digit increases in corporate profits.

The Federal Reserve remains ultra-dovish. The central bank has stayed firm on holding its key short-term fed funds rate near zero through December, 2023. Low interest rates can stimulate growth by facilitating more borrowing, allowing consumers and businesses to spend more. The Fed has yet to define metrics or time frames for “average inflation targeting,” which will likely allow inflation to trend higher without rate intervention to check its rise. Under a policy known as quantitative easing, the Fed also continues to buy government bonds at a significant pace, a direct injection of liquidity across fixed-income markets that can also contribute to economic growth.

The COVID-19 trajectory is unlikely to lead to national lockdowns. The recent surge in new infections is unfortunate and concerning, however, as was the case in the summer, the U.S. economy remains resilient in the face of localized shutdowns. We believe that public health measures and vaccine availability will drive the pandemic’s economic impact. Hopefully by January, we could be past the peak of new cases and closer to available vaccines. Drug development pipelines remain on track to deliver some scaled vaccine distribution by summer, 2021. more>

Testing a mysterious instrument

By Michael D. Allen – My first job after leaving school was that of an associate engineer. This meant that I was half technician and half engineer, and I would design something and then build and test it. Because of this position, I frequently got some odd and interesting jobs.

One day a cardboard box showed up on my bench with a test box, a bunch of blueprints, a test procedure, and an “angle of attack” aircraft instrument. Management told me to grab an inspector, perform a functional test on the instrument, and buy off on all of the steps. This was the first aircraft instrument that anyone had seen in our lab area.

There were no program identifiers on the blueprints, the test box, or the instrument itself. I had no way to compare the numbers on the blueprints to any program. If anyone knew what the associated program was, he wasn’t telling.

The instrument was connected to the test box and turned on. A given DC input was supposed to drive the needle to a certain location on the dial face. This worked to a certain extent; the needle would drive to the commanded location but overshoot, back up, and overshoot again. The needle would be a blur, oscillating around the commanded location.

The test box was checked and appeared to be working correctly. Because the instrument was not working correctly, I ask the inspector if it would be OK to open it up to see what was inside, and he agreed. The instrument had a can extending several inches beyond the back of the dial face. The can had a sealed connector and a purge port to refill it with nitrogen. The inside of the instrument looked like several pocket watches stacked together. more>

Updates from McKinsey

Reimagining the auto industry’s future: It’s now or never
Disruptions in the auto industry will result in billions lost, with recovery years away. Yet companies that reimagine their operations will perform best in the next normal.
By Thomas Hofstätter, Melanie Krawina, Bernhard Mühlreiter, Stefan Pöhler, and Andreas Tschiesner – Electric mobility, driverless cars, automated factories, and ridesharing—these are just a few of the major disruptions the auto industry faced even before the COVID-19 crisis. Now with travel deeply curtailed by the pandemic, and in the midst of worldwide factory closures, slumping car sales, and massive layoffs, it’s natural to wonder what the “next normal” for the auto sector will look like. Over the past few months, we’ve seen the first indicators of this automotive future becoming visible, with the biggest industry changes yet to come.

Many of the recent developments raise concern. For instance, the COVID-19 crisis has compelled about 95 percent of all German automotive-related companies to put their workforces on short-term work during the shutdown, a scheme whereby employees are temporarily laid off and receive a substantial amount of their pay through the government. Globally, the repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis are immense and unprecedented. In fact, many auto-retail stores have remained closed for a month or more. We estimate that the top 20 OEMs in the global auto sector will see profits decline by approximately $100 billion in 2020, a roughly six-percentage-point decrease from just two years ago. It might take years to recover from this plunge in profitability.

At the operational level, the pandemic has accelerated developments in the automotive industry that began several years ago. Many of these changes are largely positive, such as the growth of online traffic and the greater willingness of OEMs to cooperate with partners—automotive and otherwise—to address challenges. Others, however, can have negative effects, such as the tendency to focus on core activities, rather than exploring new areas. While OEMs may now be concentrating on the core to keep the lights on, the failure to investigate other opportunities could hurt them long term.

As they navigate this crisis, automotive leaders may gain an advantage by reimagining their organizational structures and operations. Five moves can help them during this process: radically focusing on digital channels, shifting to recurring revenue streams, optimizing asset deployment, embracing zero-based budgeting, and building a resilient supply chain. One guiding principle—the need to establish a strong decision-making cadence—will also help. We believe that the window of opportunity for making these changes will permanently close in a few months—and that means the time to act is now or never. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

When giving feedback, focus on the future
By Sarah Kuta -When managers give performance-improvement feedback to employees, they presumably want the conversations to result in positive changes—not to inspire defensiveness, excuses for poor performance, or skepticism of the managers’ point of view.

Offering forward-looking feedback can help keep such conversations productive, suggests research by Humanly Possible’s Jackie Gnepp, Chicago Booth’s Joshua Klayman, Victoria University of Wellington’s Ian O. Williamson, and University of Chicago’s Sema Barlas.

Performance-improvement feedback often fails when managers spend too much time diagnosing or analyzing what went wrong in the past, according to the researchers. When managers and employees talk about possible next steps and solutions, however, employees tend to be more receptive to the feedback and more likely to intend to act on it, the researchers find.

Recipients respond just as well to predominately negative feedback as they do to positive feedback, so long as the conversation focuses primarily on how the recipient can best move forward, the research suggests. more>

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Updates from Siemens

Solid Edge 2021 Feature Highlights: Free CAD Models for Solid Edge Users
By Shannon Kruse -Solid Edge 2021 has been launched and with it comes a vast array of new capabilities and features for users! In this blog series, we will be highlighting a new capability every other week, allowing you to become familiar with the software and learn what Solid Edge 2021 has to offer.

This week’s blog post will be covering 3Dfindit.com, powered by CADENAS. 3Dfindit.com, an online visual search engine, streamlines the process of finding 3D models using advanced search functions such as classifications, geometry, filters, sketches and much more to allow you to significantly reduce technical search times and increase design efficiency.

3Dfindit.com for Solid Edge gives engineers like you a wide variety of intuitive search methods, making it easy to find the exact part you are looking for. You can create a rough model in Solid Edge and initiate a geometric search in 3Dfindit.com to find parts that are similar to that specific model. With millions of 2D and 3D CAD files verified by component manufacturers to choose from, you can easily select and configure the components that match your needs. Once the proper part is located, a single click places it directly into your active Solid Edge assembly.

CAD files of requested parts are automatically generated on the fly, ready to use in Solid Edge. Depending on the catalog, the digital parts are enriched with extensive metadata such as kinematics information to test motion sequences, centers of mass, material, environmental protection standards, order numbers, etc. This saves time by enabling engineers to find and deploy approved parts instead of manually creating them. more>

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Evaluating democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in the EU

The defense of universal norms needs to be broadened beyond Hungary and Poland and beyond the rule of law.
By Birgit Sippel – There is currently a lot of discussion in Europe about democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights. The European Commission and the European Parliament have submitted their proposals, on what should examined, in what framework—and by whom.

But to understand what is at issue, the concept of ‘rule of law’ must first be considered more closely. The English term seems clearly expressed: laws lay down what is permissible—and what is not.

This is a definition favored especially by the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, the leader of the Polish Law and Justice party, Jarosław Kaczyzński, and their supporters. In every case, it is said, appropriate Hungarian or Polish laws exist for all that is criticized by the European Parliament and the commission, by the Council of Europe and indeed by many judges, lawyers and citizens in their own countries.

In reality such a definition falls short. In the narrow sense, it could apply to many autocracies and dictatorships, which none too seldom have laws for discrimination, exclusion and persecution.

But the European Union is an association of democratic states. Of course, laws determine what is possible—and what is not. At the same time, however, our laws also have the function of protecting democracy and the democratic rules of the game, as well as the fundamental rights of all.

Today, coalitions of two or more parties rule in many European countries. Orbán and Kaczyzński can rely on absolute majorities in their parliaments. Yet, wherever they are, democratic governments are bound by the rules of the game—for example, orderly procedures, which pay attention to the rights of the opposition, the parliamentary minority, sustaining democracy and diversity of opinion.

The same applies to the allocation of funding. Public monies must only be used for the purposes envisaged in each case. And all municipal and social organizations must be able to receive such funds—independent of whether they affiliate to the governing party, support it or associate with the opposition, adopting a stance critical of the government.

In this context, the judiciary has a special role to play. On the one hand, it must be able to apply the laws of a democratically constituted state in a manner independent of parties and governments. On the other hand, it must be able, in the light of the constitution, to examine independently whether new instruments protect its principles, the democratic rules of the game and the rights of the citizenry.

The media also have a special responsibility on all these issues. They should report freely and critically, ask questions, highlight abuses and where necessary touch a raw nerve. This is an important element of democratic control and an important contribution to an informed public. more>