The current employment model is outdated. For the majority of workers, vocation and avocation are incongruent vectors. Here, we describe a set of tools that can be used to form a better-integrated work model, to dispense high-quality work to everyone.
The number of jobs* is ever-mutating. There is no finite number of enterprises being segmented since ancient times. Evolving cultures yield evolving problems, increasing opportunities for innovation. Synchronously, an increasing knowledge base curates more individuals with unique competencies and interests.
So the issue of optimal employment is neither of quantity nor quality. As a crude formulation, we have $n$ tasks to be solved and $k$ agents to solve them. The problem is optimally matching the $k$ agents to solve those $n$ tasks — the problem is constrained optimisation.
Constrained optimisation is the process of optimising an objective function with respect to some variables, in the presence of constraints on those variables.
Here, we won't be formulating any linear equations or defining any statistical metrics*. Instead, we'll follow a more descriptive approach and peek at a set of components we could leverage. We can gain insights into the solution by gauging the pitfalls of current model.
The idea of (voluntarily) working for someone, even at the expense of one's freedom and contentment, is not intrinsic to us. We started out as a tight-knit band of hunter-gatherers, for subsistence, some 200,000 years ago.
The genesis of the Agriculture Age, some 10,000 years ago, conceptualised a tree-like work culture. The following Industrial Age, merely 300 years ago, only concretised the model.
Hierarchies skirt some underlying principles of the work model (to be discussed). To analyse its effects on work efficiency, it is crucial to understand the implications of the question: Why is a company the size that it is?
Ronald Coase argues that the size of a firm depends on finding an optimal balance between the internal transaction costs vs the external transaction costs to the company. A firm can outsource some one-off task, but any resource that requires frequent ministration is better off in-house.
Pre-Information Age, there was friction to outsource some task — constrained by low bandwidth mediums in communication & commute. Hence, it was practical to have a large assortment of workforce on-premise. Such a workforce, left unchecked, yielded sub-optimal outputs. In turn, inducing the need for middle managers (or a top-down hierarchy) to scaffold it.
Top-down management was efficient in herding the workforce. Also, hierarchies thrived in competitive markets, as they reinforce structure and regularity.
However, inherent to a Hierarchy are also factors that inflate inefficiencies. People in Hierarchy tend to rise to their level of incompetence. A competent person will earn a promotion to a position that requires different skills, even though skills in one job do not necessarily translate to another. Also, as tending to managers became the face of "mastery", the game was renamed from savviness to sycophancy.
This, of course, is not a novel viewpoint; such shortcomings have propelled multiple firms to adopt a form of no-boss protocol. But the problem is not a hierarchy itself. Some parameters of the current model poorly conflate with Hierarchy to catalyse the above issues. The goal is to leverage utilities that prune the minuses while maintaining the pluses.
Another inefficiency stimulated by the current model is a temporal drag.
The process of exiting a firm is tedious. Notice periods, a sunk cost bias, anticipated dread of job hunting, and uncertainty of better opportunities lead to a drag. Hence, there comes a threshold after which an employee is just coasting through (minimal engine utilisation) until he runs out of fuel / jumps ship. While the probation period is meant to minimise this disposition, the nature of the period makes it akin to a "honeymoon phase". There is overcompensation in leeway, understanding and enthusiasm, among both parties, during the period. A false painting.
On the other hand, entering a firm is a gamble. A good analogy is to contrast a worker and a firm to a refugee and a country, respectively. The refugee scouts multiple countries for refuge. The nation has its own inflow of applications and limits. They both carry a bias of expectations from the other. The refugee bears unique skillsets. The country has a set of opportunities that may or may not intersect with it.