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Why You Don’t (Always) Need Employees!

I’m going to place a sportsman’s bet (of £1), that you try and find someone to fix it. This would appear to be a logical approach to take, but I’m going to tell you, that you are wrong.


What do you do when you have you a problem?

I’m going to place a sportsman’s bet (of £1), that you try and find someone to fix it. This would appear to be a logical approach to take, but I’m going to tell you, that you are wrong.




Let me put some context around that statement before you tell me I’m smoking my socks.


What is a common approach taken when we are faced with a challenging situation?


The chances are, you will at some point, decide to brain storm to find the answers. That seems like a logical step but, again, I’m going to tell you that you are wrong to do this.


Why you ask?


The fundamental problem with brain storming is that you pretty much ignore the question and jump straight to finding the solution.


Think back to the last time someone stood next to a whiteboard or flip chart and said let’s brain storm (or ‘thought shower’ for all those politically correct sensitive types) some solutions.


What did you do?


I bet (again) that you will have briefly considered the question but jumped straight to trying to find the solution; randomly throwing out suggestions and ideas.


This is a fundamentally flawed approach.


Einstein was a bright chap and knew a few things, so I’m going to use his teachings as part of my explanation.


He was quoted as saying that if he had 60 mins to save the world, he would spend 59 mins understanding the question and 1 min resolving the problem.


The essence of the statement, is to properly understand the problem statement, rather jumping straight to the answer. By breaking down the question, tackling each element within and working through logically, a better solution is likely to evolve.


As Einstein’s quote indicates, if you have considered the question, then implementing the solution is simple (not necessarily easy).


However, if you are unable to clearly and concisely define the issue, implementing a solution is considerably more challenging.


I talk about this on an almost daily basis - just refer back to a previous article which discusses the ‘Exam Question’.


So how does Einstein’s quote relate to not needing employees?


The simple answer is that businesses follow the brain storming approach almost every single time.

And does it work? Well, I would argue no.


The reason is the same situation arises on multiple occasions in different guises, each tackled with the same approach.

  • Need to increase sales? Employ more people.
  • Need to prepare monthly financial reports quicker? Employ more people.
  • Want to solve a problem? Employ someone. 

Can you see the trend? Thought so.


At this point, let’s consider the definition of insanity?

            “Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.”


Would it be fair to align the two here? I think so.


I’m sure someone will at this juncture, will comment that the employment of more people has either sorted the problem or helped resolve the issue. And that may be true, but how can you prove a negative?


Rather than go toe-to-toe with you over the throwing people at problems, I’m going to propose a radical and innovative approach...


How about, rather than employing someone, you take a greater, more in-depth look at the situation (or root cause) and develop an output?


This may provide some quite eye opening insights.


Let me paint a hypothetical picture for you:


Company A (industry agnostic) decides that they need a highly specialised expert (e.g. data scientist) to solve an issue which has arisen.


The problem is that they have data and don’t know what to do with it. But have been tasked by the CEO to use data science to improve revenue / reduce costs (you choose the outcome as they are all the same)...


The road most travelled is to engage HR and say ‘we need a data scientist to resolve this problem’. From here a job description is reverse engineered and the hunt for an appropriate person begins.


To keep things simple, let’s say the recruitment process is short and straight forward (!) with person B joining Company A on £80k per year primarily to tackle problem Z.




So, two weeks in and Person B realises that problem Z is far bigger than he/she was led to believe. In fact, the real root cause has now been discovered which is a deep and technical process problem (lets call it problem X), that sits outside of their skill set.


This presents an issue as Person B was brought in to solve problem Z but feels that he/she is not the best person now to do so. Company A also realises that they may need to employ someone else to solve problem X.


Company A has a few choices here:

  • employ someone new, 
  • reassign someone internally (which is on top of their day job), or 
  • engage an external company to fix it

The simple fact is, at this stage, the costs to fix the issue will be £80k PLUS the choice Company A decides to take.


There is an alternative...


Upon Company A discovering an issue they need help with, rather than employ someone, they approach a Collective.


The Collective encourages Company A not to employ person B but to look at the situation causing the issue. From here, the brief (driven perhaps from a job description) is given to the Collective for review.

The analysis conducted shows that by radically re-engineering some processes, the initial issue can be resolved and re-integrated back into Business As Usual (BAU). Thereby not having to rely on any one person to deal with it. This reduces key man risk and increases process robustness.


The cost of the solution is a fraction of the annual cost of employment (don’t forget to consider all comp and bens!). In addition, the skills available to Company A are considerably larger than those offered by the data scientist. The reason?


The Collective is a community of freelance, gig economy and contract workers who all work together for the better of everyone.Therefore, Company A has effectively tapped into a (potentially) unlimited resource pool.


So when a subsequent issue or problem is discovered, Company A can re-engage the Collective to address the problem. This time, calling on a different set of skills, applicable to the situation in hand.

Company A can, therefore, be rest assured that the output delivered is performed by the most appropriate highly skilled people in that area.


Over the course of a year, Company A may pay a similar sum in fees to the Collective, but significant difference?


The skills available are vastly increased and deliverables are output driven not people driven.


In addition, the skills required will ramp up or down depending on Company A’s requirements. There is no heavy, upfront investment required. Moreover, it is a nod to the Kaban / Kaizen approach.


As a result, the aim is not place people, but deliver sustainable solutions.


How does this differ from a traditional agency or consultancy?


The Collective operate on their own #workstyles.


This is the style of work defined by each person. The wave of digital disruption, has allowed talented individuals to shun the traditions of working environments, in favour of locations which fit their schedules or desires. This could be near a beach, close to family or just “not in the office”.


The Collective work together to deliver the solution, everyone responsible to each other to ensure Company A gets the highest quality possible output. The focus is, after all, outputs not people.

Because the Collective allows each individual to stipulate their own workstyle, there is greater flexibility, improved productivity and increased happiness. Company A benefits immensely from this innovative setup.




There is a key consideration. Management need to be open-minded and forward thinking.Expecting the placement of a person is NOT in the solution.


If Management are open to redefining the workforce, tapping into a huge pool of skills and operating in a remote / flexible manner, then great things can happen.


The traditional methods will not work here. Presentism is shunned. Trust is implicit until actions indicate why it is not. We are adults, after all, and do not come to work to learn how to trust someone.


Flexibility is available. Trust is given. Responsibility is taken.


This approach is the model for the future, in my opinion.


It appears that my thoughts, align wonderfully well with the forward thinking and visionary views of Alex Hirst & Lizzie Penny. They have brought the vision to life. It is in exciting time.


My aim is to tackle the data world and disrupt the finance industry. It is absolutely ripe for change, especially with considerable ‘old school’ thinking.

  • 3 weeks to prepare for month-end, for example? Madness.
  • Needing to be sat in an office every day? Negotiable

The finance industry is facing the competition of digital disruption. The question is, will they fight like the black cab drivers or adopt it like Uber?

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