Nomadic Corporation - Bonds

What is a nomad-friendly corporation from contracting or binding point of view? In previous blog, we discussed why it is difficult for nomads to integrate into current system. Today I will try to share some practices that can be used to improve the nomad’s situation.

By digital nomads I mean a person delivering intellectual shipments which are location independent. The mentioned kind of enterprises are based mostly on intellectual kind of work that can be delivered through the internet. I draw my original assumptions of current state mostly from situation in European countries, it might differ in another parts of the world. If you have different experience, I would gladly hear from you in the comments below.

Bonds

One of the barriers that most of the potential nomads might encounter is binding. There are two options: either become an employee or be part of a sub-contracting company, which means be also an employee in most of the cases. Work-around is employment agency, which means: be an employee as well. Corporations simply prefer to “buy man/days” from another company or to have in-house person than to temporarily hire external freelance workers. For various reasons, some of them relevant, others not.

Employment contracts are protected by law and are not very flexible. A company can not have an employee for a week or two, nor for a month, and then have another one. Well, there are ways around the law, but the company will be considered suspicious and not well-behaved. Employment contracts are mostly for six and more months, counting usually in years. Worker is tied to a position, has no freedom of projects nor co-workers. This is very strong and exclusive bond which goes against nomadic way of working.

Another issue of this long-term bond is that the employees are being paid either they work or they don’t. What a waste of company resources. Nomads are being paid for their shipments.

From nomad’s perspective, the ideal bonding will be temporary. It does not mean weak, just short-lived. In fact, nomad’s binding to the company might be even stronger than employee’s - nomads are more devoted to the work they are doing, using their skills at their best.

It has to be noted, that it should be distinguished between binding and relationship. Binding is formal connection based on mutual agreement - from requirements to delivered shipments. Relationship is long-lasting connection during which the company might want the nomad to help them again and during which the nomad cares about the company.

Enterprises should not limit freedom of nomads and should not ask for exclusivity. Reasonable business restrictions should apply though and should be part of nomad contract or at least good honour of conduct of a nomad. For example it would be disrespectful for a nomad to work for two competing enterprises and to transfer knowledge between them. It is naïve to think that contract can prevent that transfer. When breach is discovered, information has already leaked and business damage has been done. Nevertheless, reputation and code of conduct of nomads is another topic we will talk about later.

To sum it up:

  • nomads prefer temporary bindings
  • nomad can have multiple bindings with multiple shipment recipients
  • nomad is being paid for shipments
  • if a company wants to sustain a nomad for “just-in-case” moments, they might agree on “support fee”

Micro-tenders

Instead of job listing with positions and job descriptions, nomad-friendly company should list tasks and projects. The company should then poll pool of nomads, create the project binding and let the nomad be free again. It is kind of series of micro-tenders without unnecessary overhead.

There are several sites with general tasks, where anyone can submit a task and anyone can accomplish it. On one financial spectrum is amazon’s Mechanical turk, where rates are in cents, on the other side (for tasks accomplishable by individuals) is for example, Innocentive, where not only financial award is granted, but also patenting of the work. There plenty of sites for freelancers, mostly programmers, out there.

How the simplified process looks like:

  1. Company publishes requirement with public part of task description, deadline and budget
  2. Nomads observing the board would notice the task and would bid
  3. By company based rules, one of the bidding nomads will be assigned the task
  4. Nomad will deliver shipments
  5. Company will pay-off the nomad for the shipment

It might seem, considering how employee hunting works, that nothing would be finished with this kind of process because of lack of nomads. There is one assumption to make it work: high concentration of nomads. It is like within a living cell and synthesis of proteins. No protein is synthesised if there is low concentration of required amino-acids for the protein to be created. Despite being it issue nowadays, it will not be issue in the future, when nomadic kind of working will be wide-spread. Would you rather wait one week more for a skilled nomad, eager to work on it with all his energy, to catch the public requirement specification or would you rather have an internal, but mediocre, non-motivated employee, that can start working on it right now and will deliver crappy shipment with month worth of work fixing?

In the following image you can see employe bound to his position, immediately available, working on tasks regardless of his skills:

Nomads chose to work on something, because it is their domain, they are good at it. They need the money, but they have a choice for what they are going to get the money. Given many choices, they will chose they can show-off by doing, they will put all their potential into it and deliver high quality shipment.

Issues to be resolved

The system has it’s issues, nonetheless. Some of them are causes of current system setting and will fade out as the time goes by. The others might be tied to the business goals and might be tricky to handle. Just to name a few

Corporate confidentiality - reasons may vary, and this can be achieved with employees more easily. However, I think that this will become less issue in the future for two reasons: nomads will gain verifiable reputation and publicity about breach might impact they future contracts. Secondly, with open business models there will be less things to have confidential – adaptability and innovation is the key to survivability.

Knowledge – employees might have better knowledge of internal workings of the organisation. Each new project requires minimum training if any training at all. This might not be true with pseudo-random nomads coming and going which might impact overall organisation performance. We will discuss this in separate talk later.

Questions for discussion

  • What companies you know working this way?
  • What other sites with this kind of task aggregation you know (there are plenty, mostly for programmers)?
  • What other professions you know, besides designers and programmers, can work this way?

Topics to be discussed later:

  • The importance of knowledge management in nomadic environment
  • Skill and project matching
Tags: nomads business
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