Friday, July 12, 2013

Study Finds Companies Aren’t Keen to Hire the Self-Employed

Last night I watched Moneyball, the 2011 movie about the Oakland Athletics’ (Oakland A’s) General Manager, Billy Beane, and his attempt to create a winning baseball team using computer-generated data.

Great movie. Check it out if you haven't already!
Like any team, the Oakland A’s needed good players, but there wasn’t enough money to get or retain top talent—or what everyone commonly perceived as top talent—and so a solution other than money needed to be found. Beane finds that solution in an unexpected place by making an alliance with an unexpected person—a young economics major from Yale who understands data and how to use them to see what others are blind to.

Generally, any movie that has to do with sports will send me running in the opposite direction, but Moneyball is no ordinary sports movie. Nope. This is a thinking person’s movie about gumption, challenging assumptions, challenging the status quo, and the beauty that’s created when cold hard data are analyzed with smarts and insight. (Well, I think it’s beautiful when someone takes the time and is motivated to view things a little differently than everyone else; when someone recognizes the importance of asking the right questions rather than the same old questions that are yielding the same old unhelpful answers.)

So, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and was still thinking about it today when I read "Firms Back Away from the Self-Employed" in the Wall Street Journal.

Seriously? Now there’s another group hiring managers don’t want to be bothered with?

Over the past few months we’ve read about companies not liking the unemployed, the middle-aged, the too young, the too black, the overweight, and now this.

Or, as one commenter put it, “Ran out of people to red line. Gotta find a new group.”

What’s this got to do with Moneyball?

Well, the WSJ article was brief and didn’t go into a whole lot of detail, but readers conjectured that maybe one reason employers are leery of the self-employed is out of suspicion that many are using the term “self-employed” to cover up a lack of employment, period. Or maybe out of a belief that self-employed people are just too "free spirited" to make good corporate employees. Or … something. And that brings me smack back to assumptions and biases and all that good stuff that Beane’s methodology cut through, allowing him to hire what turned out to be some pretty special talent.

Will other employers find the courage to do the same?

The study the WSJ referenced was conducted in the United Kingdom, not the United States, and one (a selfish one that is, living here in the States) can only hope that were the study replicated with American employers there’d be a different result. 

But I wouldn’t bet money on it.

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