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The End Of Work As We Know It

Last week I gave a presentation at the national conference of an industry association. I was charged with giving a presentation on younger generations and future trends.

Last week I gave a presentation at the national conference of an industry association. I was charged with giving a presentation on younger generations and future trends.

This is a difficult feat when the industry’s average employee age is 60-years-old.

Imagine the blank stares I received when I spoke about space travel and holograms and a world with a majority population under 30-years-old.

The fact is, for an industry with an average age of 60, the chances of reversing the aging trend at this point borders on the impossible; they are too far gone. These industry leaders didn’t need a presentation on the future – they needed a presentation on how to survive the next year!

What I can’t help wondering is, what has this industry been doing for the last 10 years? How did it get to this point? Didn’t they ever stop to ponder the concept of change or to consider that they desperately needed to build a bench of young talent?

Just think about the rapidity of change in the global economy, global politics and consumer technology in the past five years. Five years ago, most major economic trend lines were up and to the right. There were more entrenched autocrats in power in the Middle East. The iPad hadn’t been invented yet. A Harvard dropout named Mark Zuckerberg had started Facebook, and tweeting was emerging as something other than what birds do.

If change continues at its current rate, let alone accelerates, it’s going to completely redefine the concept of work and leadership. For the industries and companies that have struggled to make change and adapt, this means inevitable failure. We can’t get stuck in the past. Change is the only certainty.

Here are a few changes to anticipate — now:

  1. LeadershipLeadership is going to get a lot more complex. It’s going to be less and less about authority and more and more about influence. Collaboration will rule because younger generations have been groomed to do it, cycle times will demand it, and technology will continue to enable it.

  2. TechnologyThe workforce of the future will be innovation-centered, highly productive, and a magnet for global talent. New technologies will be developed and globalization will continue to drive the utilization of advanced mobile technologies. Expect increased telecommuting, virtual teams, and more work flexibility overall. (Plus, the arrival of robots, space travel, and holograms will certainly change the concept of work as we know it!)

  3. SkillsKnowledge won’t be the competitive advantage anymore. With technology, knowledge is quickly outdated and accessible to all in real-time. The critical skills needed to be successful in the new working environment are vision and foresight to anticipate or respond to change very quickly, make wise decisions, and take action to create a better future.

  4. Customization by GenerationWith three distinct generations in the workforce — Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y — employers will need to develop highly individualized solutions to accommodate the career needs of each generation. Savvy business owners and chief executives will take advantage of the skills, attitudes and unique characteristics of each group. Create career paths for all three generations so that they see how they have a future with your firm.

  5. DiversityIn addition to the generational shift, our nation will witness gender and racial shifts, as well. For the first time in history, more women are attending college than men and 40% of working-women are out-earning their husbands. Gradual racial and ethnic shifts in the population are more concentrated in younger generations because most immigrants are young adults and because Hispanic families in the U.S. tend to have more than the average number of children.

  6. MobilizationBy 2015, Generation Y will become the majority workforce. This generation is highly entrepreneurial, so we’re likely to see more start-ups and small businesses, which will spur corporate downsizing. We will not see long careers of 10 or more years in one company, but maybe 6 years with employees making either functional or geographic changes every 2 years.

  7. LoyaltyGen Yers find jobs through friends and want to work with friends. Loyalty is to a person — the boss — not the company. And time is more valued than money. Millennials want flexible schedules and may prefer additional vacation days to cash bonuses.

Fast-paced change in our society has affected all industries and will continue to change the nature of work for the next 10 to 15 years. Chances are if your organization isn’t thinking about the future, it’s already irrelevant.


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