Impact-Driven Category Design — Its time to retire the word Employees, start using CREATORS

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I had posted something on the PEAK community about the category of work being redesigned. Some of my friends had commented on it. This coupled with the book from the Category Pirates on Languaging, got me thinking. Most employers are refusing to see it or acknowledge the changing category of work. With the creator economy upon us and employees thanks to the pandemic, having personal agency. Isn’t it time the terms changed?

The term “Employee” is derived from the French word employe in the 1800s. Back when slavery was still legal, women couldn’t vote, and people traveled in horse-drawn carriages. And since then the term has become synonymous with inequality, control, and exploitation.

Let’s take a look at what the word employee means:

Source — https://www.dictionary.com/browse/employee

And since this word was coined, employee and employment have evolved.

How employment/work evolved over time

Humans have always worked. Whether it's hunting and foraging for food. Building huts or making clothes to stay warm. But the model has evolved over time. Initially, work was just for survival. Then humans started farming and early agriculture.

As ruling classes started to emerge owning slaves who did our bidding became the norm. This too evolved over time. As cities started rising so too did tradesmen and craftsmen.

The industrial revolution “cemented” employment into the category it is today. Workers unionized to demand rights. Several workplace acts and legislations were passed. And the new 9 to 5 work environment was born.

But technology started changing employment and work. Remote work became possible. Employees were no longer physically required to be present in the office. Corporate ladders started disappearing. But larger companies seem to be hell-bent on maintaining the status quo of work.

The COVID-19 pandemic fast-tracked the evolution of the modern workplace and employment. 18 months later employees now know definitively that remote work is possible and that they have options.

This has lead to what is being termed as the Great Resignation of 2021. Offices are “forcing” employees to come back to work and more employees are choosing to quit.

For the first time in a long time, the working class had a taste of equality. Now there is no going back.

  1. Rush hour traffic synonymous with working-class was a thing of the past
  2. Working mothers didn’t need to feel guilty about not spending enough time with their kids
  3. Pregnant women could stay at home and continue to work and care for the newborn baby
  4. People moved from big cities to the suburbs.

Hello FLEXIBILITY! We have missed you!

But that's not the only change that was happening. The creator economy was upon us. People used the flexibility and free time to create content about what they loved. And turns out it can be quite a lucrative business.

  1. Since Oct 2020, $800 million VC funds have gone into creator economy startups
  2. The creator economy is currently valued at $104.2 Billion
  3. On average creators are earning a minimum of $23,500 per annum.

On the flip side, we have many companies forcing people into hybrid work and pay cuts for remote work. And employees are fighting back differently. They are cherry-picking companies that have adapted to the emerging world order.

Source- https://twitter.com/DanPriceSeattle

Employees now know that they are the creators within a company. They create:

  • value
  • customers
  • experiences
  • and much more…

Without the employees creating businesses wouldn’t exist. Given the massive redesign of work already underway, isn’t it time we revisited the language of work.

For starters, smart companies have people they work with. Not people who work for them. And an employee is someone “who gets paid to work for a company”.

Additionally, the creator's economy has blurred the lines to how people get paid. They value people CREATE on social networks bleeds into their “day job”. So the one-way relationship that was established centuries ago — whether is master-slave or employer-employee doesn’t exist anymore.

Here’s what I propose:

  1. Creator Agreement not an employment contract
  2. Measure success as a creator not as an employee or as Andressen and Horowitz — “metrics for the passion economy”
  3. Creator engagement, not employee engagement
  4. Pay as you grow
  5. No burnout
  6. Building identities

Instead of continuously trying to improve “employee engagement” and finding hacks to keep employees motivated, perhaps the best place to start is how they are referred to?

Source — Google

Plus look at the impact. There is an immediate mind-shift when you refer to someone as a creator. They are suddenly no longer part of a corporate cogwheel engaging in repetitive tasks to make the ruling class richer. They are part of something. They have as the Category Pirates call it personal agency. They have passion. You don’t need to keep them motivated. They will keep you motivated. They decide how much money they want to make. They have control. They have individual identities and individual impact.

They will CREATE. And in creation there is abundance. They will have a growth mindset.

Source — https://biglifejournal.com/blogs/blog/growth-mindset-vs-fixed-mindset-differences-and-how-to-shift-your-childs-mindset

It also forces companies to redesign the experience of work. If not your creators can go elsewhere.

Call me biased, but I don’t see a downside to this.

So please stop calling us employees, we are CREATORS.

Impact-Driven Category Designer | Working group member Wicked 7