There’s a lot of talk right now about the rise of the 'slashie' - otherwise known as the increasing numbers of people who’ve eschewed the nine to five and are pursuing a portfolio or 'multi-hyphenate' career.
The chatter follows a study published by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) yesterday (24 April) which revealed that more than 320,500 self-employed people in Britain now have two or more jobs - a rise despite (or because of) all the uncertainties around Brexit.
Although being a 'jack of all trades' is a phrase that’s as old as the hills, what was once something of a derogatory term has been repackaged in the past decade or so to reflect young people becoming increasingly entrepreneurial. Hobbies are now a means to earn money and everyone has a side hustle; Brits are embracing multiple careers as a positive choice rather than through necessity.
Deputy head of research at IPSE, Chloe Jepps said: “The majority of people who start a side hustle are making a choice to fit work around their lifestyle and dreams. The internet has enabled more varied working, connecting people with ideas and opportunities.”
And the rise of the 'slashie' and the side hustle is only going to grow.
Generation Z is set to overtake millennials globally as the largest generation this year. The oldest Gen Z-er is now between 22 and 24 depending on the data you use, and they’re even more revolutionary than their predecessors in what they want from their careers - and more often than not, they aspire to be slashies.
They want to work less, create more and design a career that works for them, as fellow slashie journalist/podcaster/author/broadcaster Emma Gannon outlines in her book of last year, The Multi-Hyphen Method.
They’re the first generation to have grown up with social media and, living in a hyper-connected world, they don’t want to embrace a 9-5, nor is the concept of a job for life a realistic one.
While money is important to Gen Z, according to a recent Ernst & Young survey, only 15% would choose financial security over job satisfaction and 50% want flexibility when it comes to any employer.
Couple this with a report published by Dell, authored by the Institute For The Future (IFTF) back in 2017, an estimated 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven't even been invented yet. And this doesn’t take into account job uncertainties in the present financial climate.
It’s no surprise then that young people are hedging their bets and becoming slashies. On the flipside, this is liberating for young people who should feel encouraged and curious about treading the untrodden path, because you never know where it might take you.
But businesses and society at large are going to need to adapt and fast to this paradigm shift if we’re all not just going to survive, but thrive. Tomorrow’s industry landscape will be defined by the companies who can take on and embrace the reality of ‘fragmented talent’.
So far, we’ve all been slow to respond to this brave new world when there’s such rapid change. As a society, whether parents, schools or businesses, we are still pushing the narrative of a very traditional linear path when it comes to careers.
In industry, we’re all obsessing about multimedia and technology, but the big challenge of the future will be how to hire people when the job you’re giving them might just represent 25% of their income as they have other gigs ongoing. This very much challenges the old ideal of people aspiring to dedicate themselves to lifelong servitude and personal sacrifice for one company.
The upside is that, say you’re a 30-person company, the talent pool expands to hundreds of additional people in a freelance world who are all pursuing different careers. You’ll be able to access more diverse input than you would if it was a permanent person in a particular job 100% of the time.
So, how do you attract talent in this new world in a way which goes beyond a merely freelance model? Perhaps rather than talent attraction and retention in the traditional sense, it’s about being agile and casting a big net with tasty bait to attract the people you need.
The way we employ people is going to have to be far more ephemeral and fluid and the onus will be on employers to provide interesting enough work to attract new slashie talent who will work to enhance their portfolio for an attractive wage.
As Donald Rumsfeld said in 2002 when he was US secretary of state for defence: “There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say; there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don't know.”
This pretty much sums up the future of work right now. We need to train people right from a very young age to work with these unknowns.
To let kids at school who don’t know what they want to do when they grow up that it’s okay not to be sure. That if they think the university system might not be right for them, or that the apprenticeship system might not be either, that’s okay too. New technologies will help people train and retrain as they go through life, and the emerging workforce should feel confident that this is the future.
We’re living in truly fascinating times right now and slashies are increasingly the future. In business, we must rethink our talent strategies and ideals to embrace them.
Zaid Al-Zaidy is the founder and chief exec of The Beyond Collective. He tweets @zaidalzaidy.