Friday, March 25, 2011

A new take on job displacement/replacement?

This posting is based on a post entitled A new take on job displacement/replacement that Rob Jackson made to the UKVPM forum. I'll start with Rob's thoughts.

“Hi all. I came across a situation recently that I'd welcome your thoughts on. An organisation currently delivers a service to its clients through freelancers. These self-employed people are engaged by the organisation to deliver a specific, time limited service direct to their clients. Due to changes in funding etc. the organisation is looking to deliver the same service through volunteers in future, rather than freelancers.

Now, if they people were currently employees and not freelancers I guess some people would raise concerns about job replacement.However, because they are self-employed freelancers engaged for a specific task would you have the same concerns?”

Rob raises a great question. I have come to believe that the sector looks at this issue with both conviction and intense polarity. We all know of examples where volunteers are restricted from doing the work otherwise done by a unionized employee. In some cases this restriction can exist in the absence of a union as well. On the other hand, I have come across many postings looking for volunteers to build a nonprofit’s website. In doing so, the organization is taking away the opportunity for an independent contractor or small business to earn revenue. Why do we look at these two so differently? I think Rob’s posting provides some direction to the answer to this while asking the question, should it be this way.

Would you reduce someone to part time because you found a volunteer who could make a long term commitment to take on a portion of a staff member’s job? Would you stop using an outside accounting service because you found a volunteer who could make a long term commitment to fill the role? If yes, would that change if you knew that the decision meant that someone at the accounting firm you were using would have to reduce someone to part time?

If you would not reduce a staffer to part time but would switch to the volunteer accountant, why? A good accountant could, like a staff member, become part of the team that helped make the organization strong.

If you would not switch to the volunteer accountant, would that decision be supported by your organization’s mission statement in that you are giving up the opportunity to use the saved funds to apply directly to the achievement of your mission? Is an organization’s moral obligation to fulfill its mission to the best of its ability or to provide employment? Certainly in most cases employees are required for an organization to fill its mission but in many cases there are particular roles that go either way. In those cases what should guide an organization, providing incremental employment or accomplishing more of what was created to do?

What are your thoughts?