Work without Jobs

“Leaders, policy-makers, managers and workers require a new work operating system that requires freeing work and workers from the traditional boundaries of work embedded in jobs and worker capabilities embedded in job holders.

* Available on March 15 2022, The MIT Press

Work without Jobs

“Leaders, policy-makers, managers and workers require a new work operating system that requires freeing work and workers from the traditional boundaries of work embedded in jobs and worker capabilities embedded in job holders.

* Available on March 15 2022,
The MIT Press

The future of work requires
the deconstruction of jobs
and the reconstruction of work.

The future of work requires the deconstruction of jobs and the reconstruction of work.

You know that feeling you have that work, workers and capabilities are shifting under your feet? It’s true! Organizations and leaders typically think of work as a “job,” and workers as “job holders.” Jobs are structured by titles, hierarchies, and qualifications. This cumbersome and ungainly legacy is a formidable barrier to your ability to meet challenges such as accelerating automation, increasing organizational agility, enhancing diversity and inclusion, and tapping new work arrangements.

In Work without Jobs, Ravin Jesuthasan and John Boudreau show that the solution is a radically new “work operating system” and they offer a practical roadmap for the future of work. Their new system deconstructs jobs, job holders and formal degrees into components like tasks/projects, skills/capabilities and qualifications. They show how that enables fluid and agile work reinvention, as these components are constantly recombined into more optimal work, worker relationships, public policies and organization designs.

The future of work demands that organizations address the following reality: their work and workforces need to be perpetually reinvented because they are perpetually being rendered obsolete. Deconstructing jobs into tasks/projects, skills/capabilities and qualifications, and distributing such work to the best option—automation, gig workers and/or internal talent marketplaces— creates agile, humanistic and cost-effective workplaces that can perpetually reinvent.

Implementing this new work operating system enables talent to seamlessly flow to the work, while simultaneously generating an oracle-like ability to see what skills are becoming obsolete and which new skills will grow in demand.

Many leading organizations, including Unilever, Providence Health and Genentech have embraced job deconstruction and perpetual workplace reinvention, to enhance their agility and resilience. Work without Jobs presents real-world cases as a useful guide of how leading organizations are embracing work deconstruction and reinvention.

Praises

“This timely book will help you radically rethink how to organize work.”

Adam Grant
#1 New York Times best-selling author of Think Again and host of the TED podcast WorkLife

“The world of work is changing, purpose and social impact are becoming more important than ever, and employees are demanding more from their employers. It is time we reinvent the world of work as we know it. Work without Jobs provides the radical framework needed to completely rethink the working models we use to ensure work works for everyone.”

Leena Nair
Global Chief Executive Officer, CHANEL

“How can an organization evolve in an ever-changing world? This book is essential reading for any business leader who wants to understand the future of work, jobs, and skills.”

Saadia Zahidi
Managing Director, Centre for the New Economy and Society, World Economic Forum

“The world is changing fast but the way we work is, in many crucial ways, stuck in the past. Ravin Jesuthasan and John Boudreau lay out a powerful argument for moving beyond the staid and outdated assumptions and toward a reimagined work system. This engaging book will help both individuals and organizations become more agile, resilient, and inclusive.”

Daniel H. Pink
#1 New York Times bestselling author of When, Drive, and To Sell is Human

“Work and jobs are changing fast and in this fascinating book the authors provide a masterful guide that will help every manager make the most of the extraordinary opportunities to rethink jobs and boost productivity.”

Lynda Gratton
Professor of Management Practice, London Business School; author of Redesigning Work

“Work Without Jobs should be required reading for the leader and HR manager of the future! Masterfully written, Ravin and John guide readers in understanding the changing landscape of technology in the workplace and how to approach some of today’s toughest questions and fears for employees. Become versed in a profound, new understanding of your team and company’s jobs with this incredible new book!”

Marshall Goldsmith
New York Times #1 bestselling author of Triggers, Mojo, and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

“Work without Jobs is a joy to read, an innovative and thoughtful account of where the workplace is, and where it is going. It is extremely well-written, with gold nuggets of ideas scattered throughout. This is a must read for anyone concerned about the future of work from two thought leaders.”

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, CBE
50th Anniversary Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at the ALLIANCE Manchester Business School, University of Manchester

Book Review

Work without Jobs is about how work is changing, inexorably, in ways that will eventually transform every aspect of society. Deeply researched and compelling, this is the book to read this year if you want to gain a deep understanding of how work is changing and what it might mean for your organization. Full of history, data, research, and ideas, it will be an invaluable resource for academics and practitioners alike.

Reading the title, the first thing that comes to mind is likely the gig economy, or the gradual lessening of mutual commitment between employees and employers, along with the rise in freelance work and short-term assignments. In other words, fewer of us will be full time employees for extended periods in the same organization. Fewer jobs, more work. But the authors are not so much focused on whether you’re employed by a single company as whether the work you do can accurately be described as a “job.” The book’s overarching idea is that people will be engaged in work in far more fluid ways than the term job, with its implication of a finite set of specific responsibilities, can convey.

They are interested in questions that are hard to answer, without a crystal ball. How, for example, will work be organized to encompass a perpetually changing mix of full time employees, part time employees, contractors, freelancers, gig workers, robots, volunteers, and more? How will society be reshaped as a result?

As the book makes clear, the future of work will be complex and dynamic and fraught with both ethical and practical dilemmas. How we will navigate these challenges, and who will be most influential in doing so, are important, highly related areas for continued study. But the book’s core idea that work will be increasingly disconnected from jobs. That does not mean you won’t have an employer, nor that you won’t be able to stay at a single organization for a long time. It does mean that you will not be hired by an employer to deliver a knowable, limited set of tasks tied to a job or job description. Nor will your advancement opportunities involve being promoted out of one job, into another better one.

Despite the ambitious, encompassing topic covered in this book, the authors manage to provide practical ideas that will help managers and work-seekers alike navigate the fluid world that lies ahead. I particularly appreciated the authors’ emphasis on starting with what needs to be done: rather than designing a job, we must figure out the objectives we’re trying to serve, and go backwards from there to how best to achieve them. What role will automation play? What role will people play? What skills and competencies will be needed, in what sequence?

There is too much covered in the book for me to do it justice here, but I would be remiss in not mentioning its clear, elegant writing, which makes the prospect of learning about how work is changing an enjoyable investment of time.

Amy C. Edmondson
Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School

Ravin Jesuthasan

Follow Ravin

Ravin Jesuthasan is a recognized futurist, global thought leader and author on the future of work and human capital. He has led multiple research efforts on the global workforce, the emerging digital economy, the rise of artificial intelligence and the transformation of work.

Ravin is Global leader of Transformation at Mercer, a regular presenter at the World Economic Forum’s annual meetings in Davos and Dalian/Tianjin and is a member of the forum’s Steering Committee on Work and Employment.

He has been recognized as one of the top 25 most influential consultants in the world by Consulting Magazine, one of the top 8 future of work influencers by Tech News, one of the top 100 HR influencers by HR Executive and was named to the Thinkers 50 Radar Class of 2020.

He is the author of 4 award winning books, and has authored over 150 articles including 14 for the Harvard Business Review and the Sloan Management Review. His article in the HR People and Strategy Journal entitled Performance Management as a Business Discipline received the Walker Award for the most original and valuable contribution to the HR profession. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes Magazine and his research has been featured in distinguished media around the world.

John Boudreau

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Dr. John Boudreau is recognized worldwide as one of the leading evidence-based visionaries on the future of work and organization, through breakthrough research on the bridge between work, superior human capital, leadership and sustainable competitive advantage. His large-scale research studies and focused field research addresses the future of work and the global HR profession, work automation, HR measurement and analytics, decision-based HR, executive mobility, HR information systems and organizational staffing and development.

Dr. Boudreau has produced over 200 publications, including more than 10 books, and his research has been featured in Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and Business Week.
Dr. Boudreau is Professor Emeritus of Management and Organization and a Senior Research Scientist with the Center for Effective Organizations, at the Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California.

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