I heard the term “free agent nation” recently that I hadn’t heard before. The speaker described free agent nation as the population of folks who detached themselves from large corporations and more or less worked for themselves. Years ago, “lifers” were common place. Then, employees felt their security in corporations dwindle. Companies saw employees as expendable resources. Employees reacted by regarding companies as expendable as well – loyalty was rare for either side.
Googling “free agent nation”, I found an article published on December 31, 1997 titled “Free Agent Nation” by Daniel Pink, author of Drive and To Sell Is Human. Daniel interviewed a number of folks who left the corporate world to be independents/ contractors. This was all fascinating given my foray into independent consulting and entrepreneurship coupled with known colleagues striking out on their own.
Daniel pointed out driving free agents were ideals in value alignment and flexibility. For many independents Daniel interviewed, they cited not feeling tied to the company. Work was satisfactory, but values in personal and professional lives were not aligned. They didn’t feel tied to the purpose of companies. By going independent, professionals selected projects and clients that fit into what their own beliefs.
Many free agents cited, too, they found greater security being an independent vs. being employed at a large corporation. In one particular story, a woman explained how her bank viewed her as risky without a steady W2. She rebuked that she was far more secure in her role as an independent working with six companies. If one company was to discontinue working with her, she still had five clients paying her. Thus, she could still make loan payments.
Values and flexibility are resonating strong as they did 20 years ago and is the whole of free agent nation.