Entrepreneurs pursue innovation for a variety of reasons. Many of these have something to do with bettering the world in some way.
One way to better the world that comes from entrepreneurship is through creating something that customers want.
Another important motivation for many of us is through the creation of good jobs for others. There are few ways to improve the world than providing a regular paycheck to someone through which they can support their individual and family dreams.
This is why some of our attitudes toward certain labor is mystifying today. The New York Times reports today about the increasing use of part-time near minimum wage labor.
“It’s almost like sharecropping — if you have a lot of farmers with small plots of land, they work very hard to produce in that limited amount of land. Many part-time workers feel a real competition to work hard during their limited hours because they want to impress managers to give them more hours. (A retail consultant describing attitudes in the retail world.)”
“You don’t want to work your team members for eight-hour shifts. By the time they get to the second half of their shift, they don’t have the same energy and enthusiasm. We like to schedule people around four- to five-hour shifts so you can get the best out of them during that time.” (A Jamba Juice manager.)
Now, I don’t have a problem with either part-time or minimum wage labor per se. They can be great ways for young people to enter the work experience, some jobs are better than one, they can be the gateways to work your way up the ladder to managerial positions, they can be ways to supplement other income, etc.
But, at a certain point, it can become abusive. Giving people last-minute, irregular schedules week by week so they cannot find other jobs, having policies to primarily employ part-time workers instead of consolidating these into full-time jobs when employees want to work full-time, etc. crosses the line.
If we are not going to as entrepreneurs — as a central part of our mission in starting companies — recognize that this has become abusive, we do have to recognize it as a society.