ITB 2023 Special Reporting
World of Work Changing Dramatically.
By Roger E. Herman, CSP, CMC, FIMC
Friday, 13th March 2009
Are you having fun in your business life? Do you like all the challenges you wrestle with each day?

Well, hang on! The "fun" is just beginning! The way we run our businesses is about to change--dramatically. Some say the changes have already begun. These changes affect our employees and the way we manage them. Adapt and work along with the changes, you can be quite successful. Resist the changes and insist on doing business the same way you always have, and you may be in serious trouble before you know it!

No matter how strong your market is, if you don't have competent employees--in all positions--you won't be able to service the business. Your customers, future and current, will switch to your competitors with hardly a second thought. What happens when your cash flow becomes a trickle?

Does that sound dramatic? Threateningly serious? Good! Paul Revere didn't ride through the countryside shouting, "there may be this little skirmish." His message was clear and filled with conviction. So, I'm your modern-day Paul Revere. Listen carefully, then take whatever actions you feel are appropriate.

Watch the Trends!

How much do you know about the trends that affect you? Do you track vital information to observe and analyze trends in your own business? Let's take a look at some of the trends that influence the way you do business--now and in the years ahead.

Economy Heating Up. Yes, it's starting to pick up. We've weathered a downturn--a slower economy--for about two years now. Let it go! Start acting as if you were in a stronger economy. If you don't make this shift, you'll still be hedging while your competitors eat your market share. We're seeing a number of positive leading-edge indicators now; during the first half of 2003, barring unforeseen circumstances, our economy will be significantly stronger than it is now.

What are the implications of a stronger economy? More business will be coming your way. Good news? Careful, now. Can you handle an increase in business? How about a two-or three-fold increase in business? What challenges will you face to cope with a surge in new business? Do you have the capital you'll need? The space? The systems? The trained, dedicated people?

If you don't have what you'll need, now is the time to do some contingency planning. What can you do? When? How will you manage all this? "No problem," you say? Your people can handle it? Suppose your people aren't there? Or suppose they do stay with you, but don't know how to manage the enhanced systems and technology you'll need? Is now the time for some employee training and a careful re-design of the way you do business?

Changes in the Workforce. Young people entering the workforce have much different attitudes about work. They want life-work balance (note that "life" comes first). They want to be led, not managed--and certainly not micro-managed. The new mode is flexibility and informality. A large proportion of our managers have been trained in relatively autocratic and directive methods that don't sit well with today's younger--or older--employees.

Today's employees will have lots of opportunities for good jobs as the economy heats up. Why should they work for you? Can you answer that question convincingly? Practice your response, because applicants will be asking you soon. They'll be asking about the history and stability of your company, about your culture and corporate citizenship. Applicants will want to know how you take care of your employees--benefits, relationships, growth opportunities. They're looking for meaning in their work; can you offer that?

A lot of people in today's workforce are under considerable stress as a result of pressure and carrying a heavy load at work. They want relief. The choices to relieve the pressure are simple: share the work with other employees or new hires, change the work (just don't do all those things we've been doing), or change jobs. You can make the choices . . . or wait and see what they do on their own. It may not make sense to try to accomplish tomorrow's objectives with yesterday's methods.

A Labor Shortage. There's a very serious labor shortage right around the corner. As the economy becomes stronger, employers of all types will be aggressively recruiting. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2010 we will have 10,033,000 more jobs than people to fill them. Imagine what that will do to the employment market. Warning: it won't happen suddenly; the shortage will evolve. We're seeing early evidence already.

Flexibility. Rigidity in the employment environment is waning. Instead, we're seeing more flexibility in work hours, work sites, and work styles. How much flexibility do you give your employees about when they will work? Do any of your employees work from home? Can they? What would that mean for them, and for your business? How much discretion do you give employees to make their own decisions and plan their own work?

Informality. The move away from formality at work started with "casual Fridays" and has moved to the acceptance of "corporate casual dress" every day. Relationships have become more informal: "Mr. Davis" is now "Bill." Workspaces are being "de-formalized" with couches, chairs, and throw pillows. Cubicle walls are giving way to plant walls. Research shows that the informality removes status barriers, improving productivity measurable.

Some Forecasts

In my work as a Business Futurist, I watch trends and how they interact with each other. On the basis of my study, I am comfortable in offering some forecasts that will affect your business.

Unprecedented Churning in the Labor Market. A handful of trends suggest that we'll experience a considerable amount of job changing during the balance of the decade. Workers have felt trapped for a long time. They've been waiting for just the right opportunity to jump the fence. Conditions are right for that change process to start now. Many people in the audiences I address at conventions believe the job-jumping has already begun.

Older Workers. Those folks in their sixties, seventies, even eighties, will not retire as expected. They may slow down, but most of them will keep working. They need the money, they want to feel like productive members of society, and they still have a lot to give. Employers will treasure their loyalty and stability, reliability, wisdom, maturity, and willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Changing Work Relationships. Management will cease to function as it is today. Leaders will be more facilitators of high performance, than directors of activities. People at all levels will concentrate on results, results that management and employees agree on at the initiation of projects. Managers will accomplish more through persuasion than force.

There's More!

What we've discussed in this article is just the beginning. There are many more aspects of your business to explore. As it begins, change will be gradual. Then, almost without warning, the velocity of change will increase rapidly. Don't be one of those people who gets smashed by the waves of change. Build your surfboard now, so you can ride the waves of change into our exciting future.


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