Thursday, April 21, 2005

Off-peopleing (Dubs gets preachy)

I think the point of this guy's blog is to sell his book (ok - maybe not as you can download it for free), but he makes an interesting point. And no, I haven't read this yet either, but I'll comment anyway. Just so you know (before you download it) it's targetted for the future job seeker, not for the employer.

In today's world of offshoring debate, national protectionism, and trade tariffs, his argument is basically that technology is displacing jobs at a much faster rate than offshoring. First of all, let me comment on the whole economics of "offshoring." And yes, I do have a degree in Economics.

What we in the U.S. are so concerned about (losing jobs to lower priced labor overseas), is quite idiotic. Perhaps I would not feel this way had I lost my own job, but as an economist, we're talking about trade, and the "production possibility frontier" or PPF. The PPF is basically a graph that shows the total possible quantity of goods produced in various trade scenarios. Basically, if you are trading with another entity, the PPF will shift out - more good in total than had each producer thried to go it alone. Basically, we increase efficiency which is a good thing, the effect being that net income eventually rises and thus standard of living.

So, technology may also be displacing jobs? I say it's a good thing. At the current moment, technology is replacing mostly labor or administrative work. Thus, there is probably a corresponding increase of skilled (knowledge) work to go around. Is this such a terrible thing? Once again, no. Efficiency increases, and with it net income and standard of living.

Why nobody has gone ballistic over technology displacing jobs but people are incensed that Sri Lanka manufactures all the sweat pants in the world is beyond me. Why is it so terrible for us to allow the developing world to actually develop? Don't we want more knowledge work anyway? Sorry - I almost got political in this post.

OK, so for HR, we'll go back to this workflow discussion. So we eliminate the 5 minutes each floor manager has to waste walking a stack of performance reviews to HR. This is 5 more minutes s/he can use to oversee the widget machine. So we eliminated one of these managers. Didn't we actually promote him/er to a more analytical job? And if not, so they go back for retraining.

Ok - the author goes on to say that the future of jobs is basically going to employ the most creative, persuasive, and well rounded in the world. Nations that have economic advantages now will see those advantages dissappear as the world economy expands. So I suppose this is all interesting to thing about, but for me, I'm obviously still all about saving that manager 5 minutes and I really don't care if s/he gets displaced. In the end, its good for the economy as a whole..