From education to employment

Are and replacing the full-time employee?

Should our soon to be ‘future employees’, namely our pupils and students that are about to leave education, step away from the ‘norm’ of seeking a full-time role with an organisation?


There is another route to ‘making a living’ they could seriously consider, as this article will (hopefully) explain.

‘Are your standard 9 to 5 employees’, as we have always known them, becoming a thing of the past? A controversial question I know, and with unemployment levels at their lowest for almost a decade how could I pose such a question?

Whilst the UK economy may be looking rosy with rising wages and an increase in output, the opportunities for finding full-time employment has never looked better, or has it?

Lurking behind all of that, is a new, technology driven style of self-employment that is starting to make a lot of the traditional full-time roles redundant, namely the freelance ‘niche’ remote worker who haunts cyberspace on sites such as PeoplePerHour and Fiverr.

The multi-functional full-time employee is starting to lose, well, their multi-functions!

I ask; would you rather have one person who is good at 50% of the tasks they perform and pretty mediocre at the rest, and works at only 30% of their capacity – or would you rather have a selection of dozens of people who are 100% good at their one specialty, who have to constantly compete against each other, and you only pay them for completing a task when they do it to your 100% satisfaction, not to mention an agreed time scale?

I think I know how most business owners would answer that one!

So the key question is; should we be embracing this rising tide of ‘remote worker’ websites such as PPH and Fiverr – who will effectively be the competition for full-time employees in the future, and should we be making our full-time employees aware of the challenges and competition that they will face in the future, and more importantly how will we do it?

Before we answer those questions, let me ask you another. If you manage an organisation that is, let’s say 50% automated (as most non-tech companies are in 2014) do you really need full time staff at all? That last 50% of ‘hands on’ tasks required are of course necessary and need to be completed – but why have somebody sitting around for the other 50% of their time waiting for them to happen?

Now, before anybody starts grabbing their pitchforks and flaming torches to hunt me down and burn me at the stake, let me put this into context: most employees work on average 8-hours a day of which roughly 2.5 hours are taken up with lunch, tea, toilet breaks, surfing the net (non-work related) water cooler chats, interruptions, office gossip and cigarette breaks (these are not my figures, Google it) and that all starts from around 9.30am NOT 9.00am (I will explain later).

A further hour is wasted on reading unnecessary emails (average times an employee checks their emails is 36 times per day!), and dealing with unwanted and most definitely time wasting internal and external phone calls.

At least another hour vanishes into thin air with unnecessary meetings (80% of people feel that they did not need to be at most meetings they attend, a simple email would have sufficed).

That’s 41/2 hours gone before we even start to look at the to-do list!

It’s estimated most employees don’t really get going and produce anything of significance for the first 30 minutes of the working day, and that’s if they arrive on time in the first place! Booting up computers, grabbing that all important cup of tea or coffee, eating their breakfast and catching up on the latest gossip, discussing the previous night’s football match, soap opera or whatever it may be is all part of the ‘bedding-in’ process – as we call it in consultancy.

Then of course there are the ‘hide-amongst-the-paperwork-gang’. These are the people with a desk full of ‘stuff’ that when you ask them to do something they guide your eyes to the desk with their own ‘peepers’, and give you a shocked, caught in the headlights look that says; ‘you cannot be serious man!’.

So putting the ‘hide-amongst-it-gang’ aside that’s still around five hours of the so called ‘working’ day already gone with little productivity. So hang on, a quick calculation; that is over 60% of an employees time wasted when you are paying them for the entire day. It’s not looking good is it?

We then have to ask ourselves, in the remaining three hours, are people working to their maximum capacity? If you look at Parato’s Law of energy versus results, 80% of all productivity comes from only 20% of the workforce. These are the employees with focus and ambition who really want to excel at their jobs and progress their careers. Go-getters, who show positive attitudes, develop themselves and happily help others (they also tend to have tidy desks!).

This brings me back to my original question – are PeoplePerHour and Fiverr making the traditional employee obsolete? For those who are not in the know about these websites, they offer virtually every type of work task you could possibly imagine and all for a fixed price (incredibly competitive, literally only £5 for some tasks – hence the ‘Fiverr’ brand name) and all delivered within a specified and very fast timeframe, typically somewhere between 24 hours and five days depending on the task and availability of the freelancer. To give you an idea you can get a business plan drawn up in five days for just £350! or your database updated in two days for £10!

And before you even consider engaging one of these remote workers, you have the luxury of assessing their work via online portfolios, read their feedback from other people that have hired them, and compare them to dozens more offering the same service, therefore, you can pick the best from a very large bunch. Of course, the trust or capability issue is not just one specific feedback, there is feedback from buyers of freelance services that comment on communication, turnaround, reliability, etc.

A number of companies that I consult with only use these sites for those other 50% of the tasks that need a human being to perform, from designing, proofing, typing, adapting, database cleaning, writing, optimising websites, sales calling, printing, answering customer calls, etc, the list is endless.

And the beauty of it all is that not only is it inexpensive, every minute you engage a person on these sites is maximised because if they don’t deliver on time and exactly to your specification you are not obligated to release payment from the Escrow holding account!

If you took that approach with a full-time member of your staff (and let’s face it there’s nothing wrong with wanting value for money from an employee), you would be up in front of a tribunal before you could say; “I only wanted them to do the job I’m paying them to do, nothing more, nothing less, your honour”.

Couple that with the fact that you don’t have to worry about the following:

  • No national insurance or PAYE to come out of your hard earned money
  • No health and safety issues to worry about
  • No pension black holes to rectify
  • No sickness or sickness payments to make
  • No office gossip or conflict to consistently battle
  • No underperformance issues to deal with
  • Not having to deal with other peoples personal issues brought into the workplace
  • No 9 to 5 schedule to work to (most PPH and Fiverr workers, work evenings and weekends)

It really is starting to sound like the working ‘Shangri-La’ for business owners and managers!

The freelancers on these type of sites also tend to be (my client’s words) ‘really nice and easy people to work with’. They are professional and understand the value and competitiveness of delivering over and above their competition on the sites, which by the way has global coverage, so you benefit from different cultures, ideas, and ways of doing things.

Ultimately the individuals are self-motivated and self-disciplined.

The two sites I have mentioned in this article are the most commonly used in the UK, however, there are literally dozens of others, and with new ones popping up every week there is greater scope for businesses to find freelancers they want to work with.

So how does a business with a desire to retain their people and maximise productivity move forward?

Well I could go on and ask all the usual consultancy questions such as;

  • Are your people aligned with your strategy?
  • Does everybody understand their role and how they fit into the overall goals and objective of the business?
  • Do they all have measurable key performance indicators in place?
  • Do you have the right leadership style reflecting the current business environment? Etc, etc.

I could ask these questions – and more – but I wont! Why? Because it does not matter if all the above are firmly in place and have received a resounding thigh slapping ‘YES’, if the work ethics and attitude of your employees is, shall we say, less than enthusiastic, then all the above management ‘musts’ will not work.

The individuals who use PeoplePerHour and Fiverr would laugh in your face if you asked them what their strategy is, or if they have a vision or three-year plan! Asking them about key performance indicators is totally meaningless and irrelevant to them.


Because in the words of ‘Nike” they ‘Just do it’, simply because their ‘attitude’ is right! And if they do not have the right attitude they won’t last five minutes and will not earn a living. It’s as easy as that – and it’s that crucial element that’s missing from a vast majority of the UK’s workforce.

Most people from my era were fortunate enough to have been brought up with a strong work ethic, simply that if you were paid to do a job you did it! And if you didn’t you would be out the door very quickly. Before certain employment laws were introduced, if an employee did not have the motivation to do a job, the owner would get somebody else in who was ‘willing’ to do it! Nowadays with the same scenario employees can keep their job, but the business loses out on productivity.

The non-performer would then be carefully taken through a series of ‘performance’ management meetings to discuss how the company can support them and what can it do to help re-motivate them to perform. And it would all be handled in a very softly, softly manner, because if they are put under too much pressure to do the job they are being paid to do, ‘heaven forbid’ they might go off with stress for six months on a full salary, followed by an expensive tribunal!

Now of course some unscrupulous bosses in the past, who used and maltreated their employees, completely abused that ‘old style’ and self-governing system, and (rightly so) new laws were introduced to protect the worker.

However the ‘human rights’ of workers have, like all things that governments (our own and others) get involved in, has gone, way, way too far in the wrong direction. Employees that know their ‘rights’ inside out feel so protected they consider themselves untouchable and push the boundaries to the point where bosses nowadays are asking themselves the same questions that I asked earlier: Do I really need to have the hassle of full-time employees and all the grief that brings?

And who can blame them?

I asked a friend of mine who has recently sold his engineering business in the West Midlands, and has since moved to Spain, what he was looking forward to most after retiring. I expected him to say ‘having a few lie-ins, travelling, relaxing in the sun, spending more time with the children/grandchildren’, etc. But no, his answer was instant, heartfelt and poignant:

“Not having to deal with a workforce ever, ever again!”

When I asked him to elaborate he said that, for the last 10 years of his business life, he would estimate that 80% of his time was spent dealing with people issues, and having his hands tied when it came to resolving them.

He went on to say that if he had known then what he knew now about employing a workforce in the late 20th century (he had around 50 employees), there is no way he would have ventured out into starting his own business, and would have been more than happy carrying on working as a shift supervisor in a factory.

And this from a man who has two beautiful homes (one in the UK and one in Spain), and has received over £2m from the sale as a reward for all his hard work! Says it all doesn’t it?

So before we end up with the working attitudes of some of our European counterparts, where work is seen as a necessary evil and impediment on their lives, we need to ensure we maintain the ‘take pride in your work’ approach that used to be, and to some certain degree, still exists in the UK today. That ‘British Bulldog’ mindset that we used to be so famous for.

Some might say that it’s too late to rectify this situation, and that all hope is lost. Well actually, I don’t think that is the case. I know we cannot change the current employment laws, although I hope that sometime in the future common sense may once again prevail, and there may be some positive changes when the reality and the full extent of this ridicules situation kicks in, but I won’t be holding my breath.

So how do we go about changing people’s attitudes towards work? I have three answers to that question:

Managers observed attitudes and behaviours

As senior and middle managers, do you ensure that you and your colleagues demonstrate a positive attitude to the company, its policies and to each other? Or do your employees see constant in-fighting, disagreements or rule breaking by the senior management team, the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ style of leadership that only reinforces their own negative attitude to work?

At the interview stage

When interviewing a prospective employee, do you ensure that you question their attitude to work in terms of supporting others, taking a flexible approach to their roles? Do you take them through your expectations of them; walk them through the job description and its measurable outcomes (a vast majority of companies that I have worked with over the years do not have these in place). Do you thoroughly check that they will fit the working culture and ethics of your company, and merge easily into the team?

In other words, are you aligning yours and their expectations of the role and the relationship?

Or, more pro-actively:

Install the work ethics of old, in our young before they hit the workplace

At Leading National Training we have devised an accredited programme for students who are in their last year of study (‘Prepare 4 Success’) which key focus is on giving them the interpersonal skills required for the workplace and to instil the right ‘attitude’ and mindset to succeed.

The programme has been designed by our senior business consultants, our education consultants and with feedback from our many business clients (who were incredibly keen to assist). The one single question we asked was: How can we ensure that those leaving education are ready to deliver in the workplace, as well as starting with and retaining a positive attitude and finally taking pride in what they do?

It was off the back of this question that each module was designed, written and will be enthusiastically delivered. As well as being accredited each programme will benefit the students place of learning.

We believe that if students can see the value of a personal commitment to deliver results, as well as doing it in a way that supports their teams and their managers, without being negatively influenced by others who do not have the same outlook, they will succeed and be of great value to their new employers.

So to summarise; when our politicians say ‘let’s make Britain Great again’ I fundamentally believe that to regain that ‘Great’ status it needs to start with the future of tomorrow, those who are about to embark into the world of work, most importantly starting with a positive attitude, reminiscent of those individuals who deliver such great work from the depths of cyberspace.

Philip Peters is managing director of Leading National Training

For further details of ‘Prepare 4 Success’ contact: [email protected]

Related Articles