Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Yahoo!, and How Not to Create Value

There's been quite the uproar recently over Yahoo!'s recent announcement to ban all telecommuting for their employees. It's an extremely controversial topic, cutting close to individual's livelihoods, their careers, and their families. It's also a fascinating topic for managers and business leaders looking to drive performance from their teams.

Yesterday morning in TechCrunch, Alex Williams voiced Sir Richard Branson's opinion on the matter:
"However, on this occasion I disagree completely. Many employees who work from home are extremely diligent, get their job done, and get to spend more time with their families. They waste less time commuting and get a better work/life balance. To force everybody to work in offices is old school thinking."
While it's great to hear a counter-opinion to the discussion, especially from one of the world's most wildly successful and brash entrepreneurs, it was the author's follow on comments that struck a chord:
"But the issue is more about the future of work more than anything else. As one commenter said, in the future a lot of people in the workforce will not even have jobs. Instead, they will have projects. It’s a future I feel right at home with. My job is to write about the Internet and all things related to the enterprise."
Avoiding the trivialities of what might be best for Yahoo!, and any other organization for that matter, it's important to take a step back and figure out what's the true crux of this controversial issue.

The real issue at hand is value

Few well-informed leaders would ever make a data-driven decision to not pursue or encourage value. Encouraging value from an individual or team of employees today usually involves deciphering how much value they're creating in return for their compensation. If it was discovered that employees at a certain organization were creating more value when a telecommuting option was available, could you fathom telecommuting being banned? Conversely, if it was discovered that value decreased the more an individual telecommuted, especially at scale, it would be a silly to allow that process to continue.

Fundamentally, the problem lies in the inability to tie how we compensate telecommuting employees to the value they create. Whether Yahoo!’s decision was driven from data that confirmed decreased value from all telecommuting employees, or was simply a broad-stroke across the organization as an attempt to increase the value employees create for their compensation, the end result was simple: get a better handle on how Yahoo! employees spend their time.

This is because in-house workers are paid for their time - not the value they create.

Make no mistake - whether you receive an annual salary or are paid hourly, you are compensated for your time. Coincidentally, any professional who can create value with just a laptop and an internet connection now has a certain freedom. Not every professional in the world can do their duties from a remote location, but certain professionals like journalists, designers, and developers can. What the internet and the age of cloud computing has enabled is an entire remote workforce of the most talented technologists on the planet.

This remote workforce is not a disconnected pool of individuals either. Though recent technology advances have enabled users to contribute remotely, the network that connects these individuals still exists, and it is this network of connected people that truly adds value. Collectively, the input to work (whether it be a team-driven task, a crowdsourced challenge, or an editorial on enterprise computing) is refined through various forms of communication empowered by the same technology that allows people to work remotely. These networks are proven in the open source communities where a highly collaborative situation drives success not just because individuals can work, but the system of contribution enables and accelerates it at scale.

At CloudSpokes we're creating a marketplace that connects businesses that need help - that need value - with this incredibly powerful workforce, this network of remote collaborators. We don't have central offices for our community members. We don't want or need them. We’ve found a way to compensate our members for the value they create, therefore their time belongs to them.

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