The prospect of employment in the year 2020 and beyond

In 1990, Charles Handy predicted in his book “The Age of Unreason” that by the year 2000 there would be less than fifty percent in full time employment. November 2011, Gallup released data that indicated less than forty-five percent were in full time employment. Estimates for the year 2020 indicate a trend of less than forty percent in full time employment with the remaining sixty percent of the population either: unemployed (too young, too old, or incapable of working), underemployed, (working more than one job) or self-employed. Seemingly in agreement is a December 2011 article by Ryan Kim which argues that by 2020, independent workers will be the majority.

This is not great news for those who are looking for full time employment. Research indicates that currently there are roughly 16 million freelancers, consultants and other independent workers and by the year 2020, that number will exceed 65 million comprising of more than half of all employees in the marketplace. For those remaining in traditional full time employment, they must learn to work with consultants; do more with fewer resources; and change the way they view their work. Employees who are traditionally territorial in nature will have the most difficulty in this new reality. Looking for work will require individuals to develop marketing skills needed to compete in a new arena. By nature of the competitive field, consultants and freelancers will become more educated and creating market advantage. Cottage industries will develop linking consultants and freelancers to organizations and staffing agencies will increase market share as they develop divisions catering to consultants and freelancers.

Organizations must prepare for the eventuality of a changing landscape in the engagement of human capital. With an event horizon of less than 8, much needs to be done to understand the implications of these changes. Leaders must begin to create new perspectives on these emerging issues and ask questions to prepare for the changes that are sure to come. Organizations will likely trend toward employees and consultants bidding on project work rather than receiving assignments. Research exposes a general consensus of anticipated acceleration in changes, leaving little stability and great increase in demands, conflicts and stressors on the workforce. Employees likely will feel instability in their job security. They may feel replaceable by consultants or freelancers. Organizations are less likely to be compelled to keep full time employees as payroll taxes increase and government imposed healthcare emerges.

Organizations must learn to develop solutions to meet the demands of a fluid future. Leaders must begin to think about the implications of these changes. What will the office of the year 2020 look like? With the expansion of open systems and networks, organizations will likely be forced into flatter more open organizational structures. Overhead costs of company benefits and office space will shrink. Virtual offices and telecommuting will be the norm as consultants are no longer bound by geography. It will be common for consultants and freelancers to be spread out around the globe. Organizations will compensate based on new measurements such as keystrokes, projects completed and time logged into company systems creating solutions for the organization. Consulting and freelancing will not be left to the rank and file. Organizations will begin to develop fractional leadership in which executives are also consultants within the organization. Flatter, more open organizations and telecommuting creates new challenges for organizations. Concerns over trade secrets and overall company security will increase. Organizations will require all employees to sign confidentiality clauses. Government laws will also need to catch up with the changes in the employment. Leaders should ask questions such as: will companies be required to offer contract labor health insurance and 401k retirement plans; will companies be required to offer workers compensation; and what rules and regulations will be developed to avoid discrimination in hiring consultants? As the new realities of employment emerge, organizations will become mindful of the implications of making these changes. Because organizations are no longer bound by localized geography in hiring employees, other implications will emerge such as payroll taxes. Will hiring consultants located in other countries create a form of tax evasion and will government change the laws to secure tax revenues?

While we don’t yet know what to expect economically, politically or geopolitically, we do know change is happening before our very eyes. How we prepare for and maintain our competitive edge will mean everything. With these changes on the horizon, there comes a great need for leaders and organizations to be ready for the future. Preparing for the future removes certain levels of uncertainty. Organizational leaders must understand the potential implications of moving to a predominant consultant and freelancer driven economy. Preparing for the eventualities will help organizations gain a better competitive advantage.

Organizational leaders must prepare. Trends already indicate that these changes are on their way. We are eight years from a very important event horizon. The way organizations engage human capital is on a rapid course that will forever change the landscape of the organizations of the future. Now is the time to consider a very simple question. A question all leaders should be asking every day. What if…While the question is very important to all aspects of how an organization develops future opportunities, it is how we answer this question that matters the most. The trend is well on its way to a freelancing economy. How we prepare for it and how we deal with it remains to be determined. Competitive advantage is rooted in how we approach the question of what if.


Philip A Foster, MA is Founder/President of Maximum Change Inc. Elevating leaders and their organizations to the next level since 2005. Master Certified Coach, Philip A Foster, MA and his associates facilitate effective positive change by helping organizations, leaders and individuals in high demand — design and implement strategies that maximize focus and deliver results. Specializing in Organization and Strategic Leadership.

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Skype: philip.a.foster | 615-216-5667


May 24th – After thoughts on my trip down south.

One of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done is to step outside of the United States and to walk amongst the cultures of this planet. In Leadership studies we talk about the cultural context of leadership and cross-cultural context of communication. When you step into a culture different than your own, you live out the context of those studies.

There were times when I was surrounded by language somewhat foreign from my own. Granted, I grew up in South Florida and have been around Spanish half my life. But, this is different when for 5 days, over 100 hours – you are immersed in a language that is not your own.

There are many things I still have to learn about Colombia. I desire to go back and engage this beautiful country and the beautiful people. I wanted to get to know them and to see their wonderful country.

It is not until we eat at someone’s table, live within their culture and take the time to get to know them one-on-one that we can begin to understand them. Going to Colombia has been rewarding but also very humbling. The people there are hungry for knowledge and information. It was strange to have so much focus on oneself. They welcomed me with friendly arms and hosted me, translated for me and made me feel like family.

One final thought. As I grew up in my faith I often would “negotiate” with God that he not ever send me out into missionary work. I’ve decided that not only is God true to his word that he will not force us to do anything… he also has a great sense of humor. You see… I went to Bogota to teach a certificate course on Leadership but what God did was actually send me there to change me… I may not ever live in a hut in Africa or follow the Amazon River in a dugout canoe. But I can go into the world and teach them and where possible talk to someone about my faith.

I didn’t originally see this trip as a spiritual journey – but I did go into it with an open mind and heart and a willingness to receive what God had for me there. My heart now longs for the friends I have back there. My eyes long for the beautiful mountains that surround nearly 9 million people. I see a return trip sometime in my future… and it will be a wonderful homecoming.

May 20th | Bogota Colombia– Service Learning Update

This post could be titled “I met God in Bogota!” Today we went to church at La Casa. This is a spirit filled church that Visionet is affiliated with. I specifically requested that my interpreter not interpret this time. I wanted to experience the church service as it was happening and free from interpretation. I will make no assumptions as to your beliefs – I am just going to write about what I experienced.

Church began at 10am with very passionate praise music Latin style. Imagine keyboard, electric guitars, drums and congas. The singing was awesome and I can only say that if you are a Christian you might understand my next statement very well. The Holy Spirit fell in that place and it was so beautiful and overwhelming that it brought me to tears. While the praise music was the same as I am used to, the language was not.

After church we went around the block to the church offices and had traditional Cuban food. For me it was Puerco Assado, Frijoles Negros, Arose Blanco, y plantains and fresh squeeze lime juice. (translation: Roasted Pork, Black Beans and Rice). Anyone that knows me will agree that I love Cuban food. So this was a very special treat.

Guatavita, Colombia

Next, we took a trip into the country to a place called Guatavita. The town that is presently there was moved from down in the valley up onto the mountain because the government flooded the valley to make a man-made lake.

From here, we returned back to Bogota and stopped at a local grocery store. Walking into the store you could smell fresh baked bread and the fruits and vegetables were so fresh and beautiful that you could see it. Honestly puts American grocery stores to shame. What I have discovered is that very little of the food here has any preservatives in it. The food I had was natural, fresh and fantastic.

We ended the day at the home of one of the host’s friends. We had a wonderful time of talking and sharing a meal together. Back at my hosts home I prepared for my journey back to the US. While I am still trying to process all that I’ve seen here and am trying to fully understand what my purpose here was for, I am certain this won’t be my last trip to Colombia. After all… I have new friends and family now!

May 19th | Bogota Colombia– Service Learning Update

My day started at 6:30 am. I got up and prepared for the day. We had breakfast and then we were off to the University Bosque for the conference. At lunch we ate at a local restaurant called “quickly.” It was actually a small patio in someones back yard. The Colombians are very resourceful people. And the lunch was very good. I ate an Arepas and a Colombian soda. The Arepas had beef and pork rinds in it. It was very tasty. The soda was similar to cream soda.

The conference ended very well. Many great questions and may thanks. There were individuals that traveled from a distance to hear me speak. Everyone seemed grateful.

Since my day was consumed with the conference, I thought I would tell you about some of my observations. My hosts laugh at me because I keep taking pictures of the buildings here. They are very modern buildings. Many of them are what we would call “smart” or “intelligent” buildings. The architecture is simply amazing. The buildings use resources wisely. There are motion sensors on many lights in hallways, stairwells, and bathrooms. Speaking of bathrooms… very interesting to say the least. In some of the more modern buildings, there is one common area between the bathrooms. So you enter into your gender specific bathroom and do your thing and then you enter back into the common area to wash your hands. Also, there is no toilet paper in the stalls of the bathrooms. There is one receptacle hanging on the wall outside of the stalls for everyone to use. So if you need to use a stall you had better grab a handful of paper on the way in.

University Bosque

Another observation: When someone greets you here it is either with a handshake (first meeting ) or a hug and kiss (2nd or more meetings).

I have to say that everywhere I go, the view is absolutely stunning. The mountains around Bogota just capture my imagination. I can’t event begin to say how amazing they are. I wished my camera would catch what my eye is actually seeing. It is breathtaking.

To end my day, we went to a birthday of one of the hosts kids. It was a very cute way to end the day. Tomorrow we will go to church and then visit the small towns outside of Bogota. I am looking forward to seeing more of the country. I am tired but very happy. I miss home but am grateful for the time I have been given here.

I came to Bogota with no idea why I was coming here. At the very least, one of the attendees said that they had been praying for answers for a very long time. And that the information I gave them these past few days were answers to prayers with every comment I made. I feel great about the things I presented. I feel welcomed and that I have friends for life here.

More tomorrow my friends


May 18th | Bogota Colombia– Service Learning Update

Today was a lot more relaxed. We didn’t have to leave the apartment until about 11am. We took a taxi out to a private school “Beth Shalom” where I met with the board of directors of the school and then later with the faculty. Colombians ask a lot of really great questions. I love the dialogue that I am having with them. They a hungry for information on leadership and entrepreneurship. Because I was speaking to a group of educators, their questions were mostly about how they could best prepare their children for the future. I was impressed by the amount of notes that they take at each of the sessions I have spoken at. I was blessed to speak to the large number of faculty at the school. I was able to share my passion and understanding and offered them an insight into worldviews and cultural context. I spoke for about 45 minutes and at the end, the staff laid hands on me and prayed over me. Being here has been the most amazing, yet humbling experience of my life. I am so honored to be able to pour myself and all I have learned into these whom are hungry for knowledge.

We headed back to Bogota and straight to University Bosque. Before our next session I received feedback from the Dean of Education. He had attended some of my session the night before. He was impressed with my presentation and complimented me on my ability to take complex subjects and reduce them to a simplistic manageable message that didn’t overwhelm but informed the audience in practical and useful ways. I was most honored to know this feedback. I had actually said early this morning that he is the type of person I believe I could spend hours speaking with and learn so much from him.

Tonight’s conference went much better. We were all in one room and at capacity. Many notes were taken – some even took pictures of my presentation to remember the information. I was most impressed with the questions and interaction. Tonight we spent a great deal of time talking about values, ethics, worldviews, conflict resolution and communication. At the end of the conference two young men (students from Beth Shalom) came up to me and asked a very insightful question “how do you do business with someone who is unethical?” then he asked how “can you do business with someone who refuses to recognize other worldviews?”

I have to say that I couldn’t do this conference without the amazing assistance of those who are translating for me. This afternoon with the school and tonight with the conference I had the pleasure of working with a fantastic interpreter “Tato”. I called Tato my shadow because every motion I made – he copied. When I was speaking with passion – he mirrored that passion. The funny thing is that he was wearing a black sweater tonight just like I was. I’ve attached a picture of Tato. I truly believe I’ve made a friend for life… He makes me want to learn Spanish! I discovered that Tato loves to hike so I told him he must come to Tennessee and I take him to the Great Smokie Mountains.

Tomorrow is the final day of the conference and then I spend all of Sunday here before leaving. More updates are to come.

May 17th | Bogota Colombia– Service Learning Update

I didn’t get much sleep. Sleeping was difficult as there is a mixture of excitement within me to experience this country and to be honest; the city is noisy with buses, car alarms, honking horns, and people talking on the street throughout the night.

I finally got up at 5 am to check the internet connection and still no connection. For some reason my computer does not want to talk to the hosts internet connect so I am limited in my online time while at the apartment.

My schedule is fairly packed today:

At 8:00 a.m we headed to Emmanuel School for breakfast with Paula Nabia at the Emmanuel School.  They are a partner with Visionet and run an entrepreneurship program there with grades 7 to 11. For breakfast we had juice and Empanadas – these are small pastries filled with the best tasting beef I’ve had in a long time. The leaders of the school asked me many questions about leadership and entrepreneurship. I was most impressed with the vision of the founder whom started this school over 30 years ago. I was given a tour of the school and was escorted into the classrooms. This is a private school and the rooms are small but functional. The children are in uniforms and when we enter the room they all stand until told to sit. I spoke through interpreter to these children about why I was here and they asked many fascinating questions about where I live, who am I and what, do I do for a living. The most inquisitive class was the seventh graders. The most striking thing I notice was that there were no computers in the classroom and yet these children had some command of business.

Next stop, we traveled to Cerro Norte which is a poor barrio in the north part of Bogota. Bogota is a contradiction. There are modern looking state-of-the-art buildings I’ve ever seen. I dare say that these building rival some of the architecture of even the United States. But, right next to these areas of prosperity is factions of poor and extremely poor conditions. Cerro Norte runs up the side of a mountain as if someone threw paint of a wall. These are mostly squatters and the homes are, well…built with materials as they can obtain them. The road up to the top of the mountain is very steep and the switch backs are tight (I will tell you about the driving here in a moment). These people are very resourceful. These building spring up from the side of the mountain and in some cases are stacked on top of each other. Once you can look past the realities of poverty here the view off this mountain is stunning.

At the top of the mountain I stood in awe! I was standing at 6,000 feet above sea level and overlooking the valley below that is covered with a vast city. The view is breathtaking. Even my pictures do not do it justice. I was left speechless at the awe and beauty. In the distance I could see other mountains and before them I could see the flower farms where many of the flowers we purchase may come from. There are a lot of fresh roses here in Bogota.

Now a little bit about the drivers in Bogota. I have been shuttled from one end of the city to another. Riding in a car in Bogota is like riding a rollercoaster with pot holes. Cars, buses and motor bikes weave in and out of traffic in some kind of crazy dance that seems to work. I’ve never seen anything like it. People use their horns a lot here. I have to say that I’ve not felt in danger or at risk in anyway. To be honest, if people drove like this in the US we would have many many accidents. But here, I’ve yet to see a single one.

Next on my agenda was lunch with Edgardo, the founder of Visionet.  We ate at a place called Crepes and Waffles. Bogota is the leader in Entrepreneurship worldwide. The ideas that I am seeing are astounding. This restaurant only hires single mothers. Yes, you read that correctly the servers are all single mothers. The food was absolutely amazing. I had a beef in some kind of white sauce served in a bread bowl. The coffee was the best I’ve ever tasted. The coffee here is not bitter at all. I found that I only had to use one packet of sugar in my coffee. I finished my lunch with lime sorbet.

One note on the security of Bogota. As a result of the drug kingpin days, there is a great deal of security around the city. Honestly I only saw two military guards up to this point and that was because we were close to an area where the wealthy and politicos send their kids. There are security guards on the streets, in front of banks, in stores – everywhere. Despite the level of security, I have felt extremely safe here.

Before our next agenda item, we stopped in what I would call a big box store called “Exito” which means success. I was most impressed with the store. Columbians are genius in their marketing techniques. Vibrant colors and the use of photography is a refreshing change of the blandness of the US marketplace. I think marketing companies could learn a lot from their colleagues here. I found a mountain bike I really liked (not sure how I would have gotten it back home). It was a reasonable 690,000 pesos. Oh.. I’m sorry – I meant $300 US.

Finally we ended up at the University Bosque for a meeting with the Dean of Education and several other important members of the faculty and staff. My role was as Ambassador for Regent University and to introduce myself and even my company to them. They asked me several questions about my education and about coaching and mentoring. They are interested in launching an Entrepreneurship center in Bogota and this would be the first in its country. They held a particular interest in how I might help them with some aspects of the future program.

The meeting ended with the Dean hosting myself and Visionet for coffee in the courtyard.

The conference began at 7pm and was well attended. Students on up to business leaders attended the conference. It was a slow go and we had a few technical glitches. It also took me about an hour to get used to working with an interpreter. After the break we left the lights up and continued to engage the audience. This time they were more engaged in the conversation. I had many good question about the information presented and I am now looking forward to our next session on Friday night.

After the conference, we drove around and dropped off some of the people in our party.

May 16th | Bogota Colombia– Service Learning Update

Sorry for the delay in posting. There have been challenges in getting connected to the internet. But here is the update:


Flight from Nashville was uneventful. Landed in Houston and made my way to my Gate. I believe I landed in terminal B (which appears to be somewhere in Egypt) and had to make my way to terminal E1. It was a hike to get there but I made it with much time to spare. Houston appears to be a melting pot of Latin and American cultures. It reminds me much of my days in South Florida.

When I entered the airplane ramp to board my flight to Bogota we were greeted with drug sniffing dogs and were questioned by the police. This is standard procedure as they check your passport and ask how much money you are carrying into the country. It is apparently illegal to carry more than $10,000 US into Colombia.

On the airplane I began to get settled in and prepare for the 6 hour flight. I often look at flights as God appointments as I never know who I will be seated next to. On my flight into Bogota I happened to be seated next to the President of Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura (yes I did get his business card!). His agency is under the Ministry of Transportation for Colombia. Luis was educated in the United States and speaks excellent English. We had many great conversations about the country and what I could expect. He mainly spoke of the challenges Colombia is facing regarding their highways and infrastructure. He was honest and forthright about those challenges in Bogota and the country but he was also gracious in his welcome to the country.

Our flight landed in Bogota about 25 minutes early. I actually found this to be humorous because much of what you hear about Latin culture is that they are “fashionably” late. Customs was uneventful, even though I only understood about 5% of what the agent was saying. A few minutes later, an official stamp and a smile I was on my way to baggage claim. Once my bags were collected I was on my way through customs, rather quickly I might add because I had nothing to claim. I would imagine this process is likely more complex leaving the country than coming in.

I and the rest of the arriving mass exited out onto the sidewalk and here I am in Bogota Colombia. For the first time ever I am standing on South American soil and my hosts are not here. Remember when I said we landed 25 minutes early? My hosts had checked with the airlines and they told them that I would be about 30 minutes late. My cell phone did not work, so I couldn’t call anyone. I was tired, thirsty and to be honest could use a restroom! Not to mention the fact that I was asked about 50 times if not more if I needed a taxi or a hotel. I felt pretty safe on the curb of the airport as there were police everywhere and the people were generally friendly.

Finally I met my hosts and I was whisked away from the airport. It is now nearly 10 pm and my hosts took me to, of all places, a McDonalds. Now, before you laugh… this McDonalds was nicer than any I’ve been in back in the states. I had a Coca-Cola (that’s how you say it here). Speaking of McDonalds, there appears to be one on nearly every corner here. And they all are really nice – I’m talking upscale café!

We finally made it to the apartment I would be staying and I was anxious to email back home to let them know I was safe. Unfortunately I could not get internet access and my hosts had already gone to bed.