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Digital Content/OffShoring/1099s: Is It HR's Job To Find the Cheapest Labor for the Same Quality?

Note to the kids in HR: If you really want to move up the ladder, you're eventually going to find yourself asking the following two questions:

"Is It My Job To Find the Cheapest Labor for the Same Quality?" CheapLabor02

"Is it My Job To Do That Before I'm Asked?"

Welcome to the show kids, where the curveballs come at your head before they break off for a stike.  You think being ethical means treating people fairly.  You're half right.  Your board thinks it also means finding the cheapest labor available for equivalent quality.

That might mean your workforce now.  It might mean India.  Might mean South Carolina.  Might mean an army of 1099s.

Depends on your business.  Don't hate the player.  

Case in point: Journalism, especially as it moves online.  More from an AOL Content Slave from The Faster Times:

"I got the job through a friend. The job was this: I would write about TV for a section of the AOL Television website. In theory, this sounded great. In exchange for writing about “The Simpsons” and other TV shows, I would be making $35,000 a year (which sounded like a shockingly large amount of money to me at the time; and sadly, it still does). I performed this job for less than a year before I was fired. During that period, I wrote more than 350,000 words for AOL.

I was given eight to ten article assignments a night, writing about television shows that I had never seen before. AOL would send me short video clips, ranging from one-to-two minutes in length — clips from “Law & Order,” “Family Guy,” “Dancing With the Stars,” the Grammys, and so on and so forth… My job was then to write about them. But really, my job was to lie. My job was to write about random, out-of-context video clips, while pretending to the reader that I had watched the actual show in question. AOL knew I hadn’t watched the show. The rate at which they would send me clips and then expect articles about them made it impossible to watch all the shows — or to watch any of them, really.

That alone was unethical. But what happened next was painful. My “ideal” turn-around time to produce a column started at thirty-five minutes, then was gradually reduced to half an hour, then twenty-five minutes. Twenty-five minutes to research and write about a show I had never seen — and this twenty-five minute period  included time for formatting the article in the AOL blogging system, and choosing and editing a photograph for the article. Errors were inevitably the result.  But errors didn’t matter; or rather, they didn’t matter for my bosses.

I still have a saved IM conversation with my boss, written after 10 months of employment, when I was reaching the breaking point:

“Do you guys even CARE what I write? Does it make any difference if it’s good or bad?” I said.

“Not really,” was the reply."

Go check out the article; it's a fascinating read and should make you throw up, even if just a little bit. Supply and demand, availability of labor, etc.  What's your job in all of this, HR?  When I say HR in this case, I mean the SVP of HR helping AOL figure this one out.

Hire traditional staff or go after the 1099 labor situation described above?

I don't know.  I do know, however, that the people who run your company expect you to ask the questions we led with - proactively, without being asked.

Scary times.  Be the best to avoid becoming a freelancer.


Jacob Weinfeld

Scary times indeed...

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