The nature of work is changing, again.

The Baby Boomer generation enjoyed secure, salaried work, with a golden handshake and a company-sponsored pension to look forward to at retirement.

The Millennial generation went on to – by both choice and circumstance – embrace the gig economy.

(According to LinkedIn, by 2020, 40% of all the profiles listed on their platform will be part of the gig economy, involved in some sort of project-based, freelance or other non-salaried work. 

Now, Generation Z is facing yet another shift, this time from gig work to bounty work.

From gig work to bounty work

With bounty work, instead of submitting a CV, pitching for work, and moving through an (often subjective) tender and job application processes to win a gig or a land job, tomorrow’s hires will work on a proof of work basis.

In other-words, the first person to complete the task properly, according to the client’s specifications, gets paid for it. Simple as that.

Proof of work and the business of blockchain

The bounty worker mindset emerged from the tech industry and is being popularised and enabled by the booming global blockchain industry.

People familiar with the way blockchain-based crypto currencies work will be familiar with the concept of “proof of work”. With proof of work systems, participants are rewarded for solving complex computerised calculations before anyone else in the network does the same. The rest of the network checks and verifies the solution to confirm the “winner” deserves the reward.

Blockchain-based smart contracts, which automate agreements can then be used to automate payments for the proof of work (or bounty) winners.

Proof of work workworks in a similar way.

Clients and recruiters post a problem that needs solving, or define a task that needs completing and sets a reward, or bounty, for completing the mission. The first person to complete the work according to the brief gets the reward. There are two notable differences here with the traditional hiring process: Firstly, the client does not get to choose who gets the job. Secondly, the worker does not get to negotiate the payment, they can only accept or reject the challenge.

Job bounties are going to disrupt the job market. Workers, unions, policy makers and recruiters are not prepared for the implications of this new way of working.

Bounty’s wanted

Google’s “bug bounties”, which promise to pay anyone who can find security bugs in Google’s Android code through its Android Security Rewards Programme, is an early example of a bounty work programme.

The Bounties Network (, similarly, is just one of many emerging blockchain-based platforms for connecting prospective job hunters with job bounty offers.

However, the bounty mindset is not limited to technology companies: any task with a single solution can become bounty work. For example, an e-hailing service that stipulates that the first driver to get to a particular place gets to pick up the fare is bounty work.

From auditions to races

In essence, in the bounty work era, hopeful job applicants face a quantitative race rather than an qualitative audition.

Bounty work recruitment rewards talent and reduces subjective bias in the hiring process. As such, bounty work should be very attractive to hard-working, talented workers from minority groups who currently find themselves excluded from our current popularity-based recruitment processes. 

At the same time a bounty job market will be terrifying to people who have, to date, managed to get work and land plum promotions based on their charm, attractiveness and ability to brown-nose their way up the corporate ladder alone. 

By Bronwyn Williams,

About Bronwyn Williams:Bronwyn Williams is a trend analyst and futurist working who helps brands and business across the African continent understand and shape the future they want.


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