Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Future of Getting, Doing and Losing Jobs

What do you the futurists have to say about trends in the workplace? This post was written by Erica Orange of the leading futurist consulting firm. Weiner Edrich Brown Consulting

One big take-away for us is the idea that virtual work will continue to become more commonplace from the big corporations to the smaller companies. We already know that growing businesses are comfortable in the virtual world, and see approximately 1/3 of you turn to Urban Interns to find virtual help. As discussed in the Wall Street Journal and CNN World Business, building a virtual team is a great way to keep overhead costs down, tap into top talent beyond your local area and depending on the time zones, keep the wheels moving 24 hours a day.

Keep reading to see what Erica has to say about the future of virtual work and the changing nature of jobs. Thanks Erica!

Locally and globally, we continue to see that the nature of jobs is profoundly changing, and what we do in order to earn our incomes, and how we do it, will never be the same. Importantly, none of this will ever again conform to what were the norms or rules or expectations across companies or through the years. The business of getting, keeping, being rewarded for and losing jobs has become a virtual free-for-all.

In the evolving world of work, everything is in motion. Almost half of IBM’s employees rarely come into a physical office. Like Accenture, Crayon and Best Buy, work gets done wherever you are. Even headquarters can be in cyberspace, and telepresence is gaining in quality and popularity. The processes, protocols and cultures of organizations are divergent as never before. Some companies are even encouraging the use of Facebook as a way to recruit for the company and collaborate with their colleagues and clients. Getting and keeping talent is taking on all kinds of new dimensions.

More workers are moving around the world to live, work and retire. There is increasing demand for high-end and low-end (personal services) jobs, leading to a sagging middle in the job market. Alan Blinder, Princeton University, has made a point of distinguishing between personal services and impersonal services – if it can be digitized (like much of medicine and finance), it doesn’t have to be done in geographic proximity. If it requires direct contact, like plumbing and building, it is more difficult to outsource. Now we are seeing the offshoring of even more personal service providers, such as tutors and concierges.

The workplace itself, where it continues to exist, will be a patchwork of new opportunities and challenges. In many buildings, it is coming to resemble more of a design studio than an industrial center. Emerging core values are collaboration and innovation. So, while many employers are increasingly observing and tracking employees to reduce slacking and absenteeism, others are doing away with the clock altogether and evaluating output rather than input.

While there is a great deal of emphasis being placed on managing younger generations of employees, the older generations are lost in the sea of turbulent job surfing, too. Many younger people have grown up with uncertainty, and they are cynical and wary of employer communications and expectations of loyalty. They make their demands up front, and communicate more informally up, down and across the organization. It comes as no surprise to them that in each place they land, the culture is different, the levels of integrity are uneven, the social networks are in play, and the measurement parameters are not consistent. But those who are older are the ones who are befuddled by the virtual office, the breaking down of silos, the differing expectations from one organization to the next, and the short-lived tenure of the jobs they hold.

While people are being accorded more flexibility in the workplace, the competition for many jobs is intense, and there are no “career paths” any more in one place or one industry. Plus, there is no longer any guarantee that the job will even be there as long as a year later. There are no longer any rules, there are no longer any promises, and there is no longer much trust. That means there will have to be evolutionary change, if not revolutionary change, in the way people are prepared for work, for life, and for life between jobs and after work.

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