Ted went to work every day for years, followed orders and expected to retire from his company. He was satisfied with his existing level of skills and accepted routine, repetitive tasks as part of his job. In fact, he expected his employer to keep contracts coming in and work flowing for everyone. When “THEY” started to downsize, he was shocked.
Management ran the company with a similar mindset: plan, schedule and control, keep job classifications narrow, provide detailed work descriptions, give annual reviews (up and down), and convey a universal theme: “do what the boss wants”. Ted lost his job and so did many other employees as his employer downsized-on a regular basis. This company represents an “Old Jobs” work place. Ted, who hopes that his skills will be needed “somewhere”, is still wading through the Sunday classifieds in hopes of finding a new job quickly.
Henry, by contrast, is part of a different organization. Its employees and managers are in self-managed autonomous teams … driven by global competition and a shared vision… made possible by the computer age. Each team is a small business unit that chooses its own equipment, processes and team members. The team’s goals equal corporate, customer and quality. Innovation, daily improvement and total quality management are practiced company-wide. Henry and other business unit members continue to upgrade their skills and cross train. As a result, Henry’s responsibilities are continually evolving. This is an example of a “New Work” place. It’s prosperous and growing-an upsizing company that creates new jobs.
The reality is that volatility exists in most work places in most countries of the world, and few employees have a lifetime job with only one organization. Here are some notable trends reported in the Career Planning and Adult Development Journal:
- The U.S. workplace has been upsizing for the past 25 years, is currently upsizing and is projected to upsize for the next 15 years at the rate of 2 million additional jobs created annually.
- Businesses with less than 500 employees (representing 75% of the workforce) are the only employers projected to have a net gain in employment.
- The other 25% of the workforce-large businesses, federal/state/local government and public education are projected to shrink.
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 18% (25 million people) leave their occupations every year because of layoffs, retirements and quitting. The average lifespan of all U.S. jobs is 5 to 6 years. This creates a large percentage of openings for people seeking employment.
- Jobs are being created in “New Work” organizations that keep abreast of global changes in technology, economics, politics and demographics. “Old Jobs” environments are not likely to survive long term. They will continue to lay off and take employees on an employment roller coaster.
According to the Journal, the average life of a typical project is two years. Therefore, employee “upskilling” for the next project is necessary because each project will be significantly different than the prior one. Unlike “New Work” environments, “Old Jobs” organizations either ignore global technology trends or are behind them. So, what are the implications for the workforce in the new millennium?
Following are some of the strategies that will enable you to exercise some control over your employment destiny:
- Maintain your professional competence, be at the leading edge or close to it. Do you share your employer’s vision, mission and goals? If not, it is likely to present difficulties because you are expected to bring value to your employer, to do your job a little better daily and to help make your employer’s products and services better.
- Employers today hire for attitude and train for job skills. Help other colleagues succeed and cross train in their skills so you can fill in as needed. Be open to various work place activities and needs. For instance, become computer literate if you are not. Get acquainted with a foreign language. Identify what may be appropriate and take a step.
- Work smarter; think creatively. Can you perform your job more efficiently? Your highest accomplishment should be to eliminate your current job so that you can take on more needed functions.
- Communicate openly and directly. Minor mistakes admitted and corrected early prevent major catastrophes later. Think safety and reliability. Create “what if……..” scenarios.
- Commit to lifelong learning and embrace inevitable change. Add new skills to your “career portfolio;” this will benefit both you and your work place directly and indirectly. Always be “looking” for a new job; have an updated resume featuring your new skills.
- Be flexible in salary and geography. Think like a self-employed person or external consultant out to solve a vexing problem. Temp-to-hire is practiced widely by employers. Be open to it-at least initially. Once inside, you have an opportunity to demonstrate your value to an organization.
- Periodically, update your personal mission. Be loyal, but be prepared to advance inside or outside of your current work place. Don’t burn bridges in the process.
- Build a data bank of contacts from all walks of life. Does everyone in your network have a similar background you? If they do, you’re greatly limiting yourself. As a rule of thumb remember-your stock portfolio isn’t the only thing you should diversify. Building a diverse network of contacts can benefit your career.
- Take charge of your personal life. If you’re working 70 hours a week, there may be something wrong with this picture. Taking charge of your personal life leads to a healthy life/work balance. That’s when you will be most productive.