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The Future of Work is Customized Work

Posted by on May 16, 2013

The typical career path for an employee starts in an entry level position in a particular department wherein the employee needs to then ascend the corporate ladder and move up the proverbial food chain to a more senior level role.  Most of the time the employee ends up stuck in a particular department or a particular role but occasionally some horizontal pivots are possible.  This is a type of pre-determined work because essentially the career path of the employee is set out for them once they join the company.  If they get hired in the marketing department then they will typically stay in that area.  It’s akin to set-up marriages which used to be common many years ago in some countries.  Before the child was even old enough to know what marriage was they were already paired up with someone.  Thankfully in most parts of the world this custom is now no longer being practiced but we run our companies in much the same fashion.  This is how it has been for many years inside of organizations and it’s starting to change.  The future of work is about customized work.

What is customized work?

Customized work is exactly what it sounds like.  It’s the ability of an individual employee to shape their career path within an organization and allows them to navigate to the roles they are best at and most passionate about.  Employees no longer need to focus on ascending the corporate ladder, they are now building their corporate ladder.

There are two things making this possible within organizations.  The first is technology in the form of collaboration platforms that allow employees to share their ideas and passions while becoming leaders in areas of their choosing.  The second is the changing behaviors we are starting to see in management around following from the front.  We still have a long way to go before this notion of customized work becomes pervasive within organizations but we are certainly moving towards that direction.

We are all still collectively learning what this is going to look like and how exactly it’s going to take shape but it’s a fascinating journey for organizations to be embarking upon and I’ll be doing my best to explore much more around the future of work and collaboration.  Stay tuned as I’ll be exploring several key themes around this!

  • Glad to see this topic getting more attention. The pervasive statute is to look at the earned credentials (diploma, etc.) that make a person fit a certain position versus providing opportunity for individuals to dip into projects they have interest in and let them shine, further allowing them to assume more responsibility. Simply looking at earned credentials to provide context for what a person is capable of is at this point absurd. (I am reminded of the example you give about your brother learning cinematography from YouTube).

    Given the knowledge available for consumption, anyone can become an expert! This might be something we hear often, but I would disagree with the statement and challenge the notion of “being an expert”. Just because an individual can learn everything about being a heart surgeon doesn’t mean that I will let them perform heart surgery on me. Inside of a “customized work’ world we will need a well developed system to define “expert” and continuously re-validate the level of expertise. (LinkedIn’s might have an edge/ start on this as they have the recommendations function.)

    The bigger challenge for organizations is recognizing interest, mentoring towards a desired skill level/set, with agility and nimbleness. The first two are still a crux for larger organizations, whereas I still see the last two being the crux for any organizations.


    Thanks for starting the conversation.

  • Anna Pham

    This sounds amazing for employees, but I am not sure whether this can be possible in many organization which have very fixed structure.