Business TED Talks

7 talks with big ideas for hiring

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Some employees can work 9am to 5pm, five days a week. Others are available on evenings and weekends. But in today’s talk, filmed at the TEDSalon in London, entrepreneur Wingham Rowan describes another type of worker — one who has a highly unpredictable schedule.

“Think of someone who has a recurring but unpredictable medical condition, somebody who’s caring for a dependent adult, or a parent with complex childcare needs — their availability for work can be such that it’s ‘[I can do a] few hours today’ and ‘Maybe I can work tomorrow, but I don’t if and when yet,’” says Rowan. “It’s extraordinarily difficult for these people to find the work that they so often need very badly. Which is a tragedy because there are employers who can use pools of very flexible, local people booked completely ad hoc.”

Rowan says that he is encouraged by websites like Task Rabbit, which allow people to pick up odd jobs. But he pictures a far more wide-reaching effort to employ flexible workers, beginning with his website Slivers of Time.

His big idea: instead of giving people at the bottom of the economic order online tools that are essentially glorified classifieds, could they use complex analytic tools —  more like what a Wall Street trader deals with — to chart their economic opportunities? And could governments help on this front? Rowan reveals that there is actually a precedent for this — lottery systems, which governments across the globe have approved. To hear how flexible employment would work on the same model, watch this talk.

Below, more TED speakers with big ideas on hiring.

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Misha Glenny: Hire the hackers!
Hackers are, generally, thought of as common criminals. But there is another way to treat coders who use their talents to point out flaws in cyber-security measures rather than to steal money, says underworld investigator Misha Glenny. At TEDGlobal 2011, he suggests a bold reversal: instead of prosecuting hackers, engage them and even put them to work.

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Andrew McAfee: Are droids taking our jobs?
With unemployment high, people are very concerned with the question, “Are robots and computer programs taking over jobs that people could be doing?” At TEDxBoston, Andrew McAfee admits that, yes, they are. But this is no reason to despair, McAfee says. Because human beings will always excel in one area that digital technology cannot compete: coming up with new ideas.

Maria van der Heijden: Jobs for 1 million women
In India, an estimated 700 to 800 million people live on less than two dollars a day. Maria van der Heijden, who founded Women on Wings, shares a vision for how to change this equation — by hiring women for jobs that pay a living wage. In this talk from TEDxDelft, van der Heijden shares how she hopes to employ a million women by connecting their handiwork with global markets.

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Majora Carter: 3 stories of local eco-entrepreneurship
Brenda Palms-Barber of Chicago, Illinois, took an interesting approach when she started a line of skincare products made from honey. She hired ex-convicts to care for the bees. The idea was to give them employment experience and teach them life skills that could keep them from returning to prison. In this talk from TEDxMidwest, Majora Carter looks at Palms-Barber’s approach — as well as the approaches of two others — to work toward a greener planet and, in the process, hire local workers.

Heiko Fischer: The future of work
A stunning number of people don’t feel like they have any control over how things work at their place of employment, says Heiko Fischer. In this talk from TEDxKoeln, he shares a vision for turning human resources on its head and thinking about employees as resourceful humans. Because companies need their best work — and innovative ideas — in order to stay competitive.

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Clay Shirky: Institutions vs. collaboration
There are two ways to accomplish a business goal, says Clay Shirky at TEDGlobal 2005. You can build an institution with employees, and then layers on top of those employees to manage them. Or you can build a mechanism that allows for collaboration, and harness the spirit of hobbyists and volunteers. In this talk, Shirky explores the upsides and downsides of hiring versus coordinating.