Not Your Parent’s Workplace

In this day and age, if you’re not confused, you’re not thinking clearly – Burt Mannis

In a weightless, right brained, knowledge economy, people will make their livings from thin air. From their bedroom. On the internet. In their slippers. They will not have traditional “jobs”. They will retire in stages.

They will produce nothing that can be weighed, touched or easily measured. Knowledge, Peopleness and Focused Value are the critical assets in a post industrial economic society.

In the knowledge economy, service, judgment, information, analysis are key. Today this kind of talent is the fundamental factor of production. Before, when space and time were more significant, it was geography, land and raw materials that were the main critical factors. Then labour and capital. Now knowledge and the ability to detect emerging needs and pieces of value as solutions.

Also, today, we see the increase of tacit interactions. Tacit interactions are complex interactions which require a high level of judgment as we work. These jobs now make up 40% of the American labour market and account for 70% of the jobs created since 1998. The trend where tacit interactions are the main component of new positions will increase. Survey of Talent, Economist, October 7th 2006.

No more job security.

Actually, no one even talks about traditional job security anymore. Job security today in globalization comes from inside us and not from a company. Very few people will have continuous careers anymore. The reality is that many will have two or three careers and up to 10 jobs over their working lifetime. The new realities call for far greater flexibility. Careers are a web to be managed not a ladder to climb.

The work landscape is now:

  • dynamic
  • turbulent
  • offshoring
  • outsourcing (now called worldsourcing)
  • downsizing
  • delayering

No, the coal miners are not getting their old jobs back. You better not believe this.

The real effects of this new normal are increased angst, floating anxiety, pessimism and an overall feeling of being a beleaguered misfit in today’s workplace.

Speaking of jobs, as we all know, they are be more:

  • contractual
  • short-term
  • part-time
  • temporary
  • knowledge-based. Knowledge work moves with the worker rather than the organization
  • project-based (project here, project there) project focused, cobbled together. Think multiple income streams, not salary
  • virtually integrated as opposed to vertically integrated (all done in house). More partnering, pooling, cooperating in areas that each does best. Networked by virtual teaming, virtual offices
  • freelancing (resourcefulness is essential)
  • flexible (work will be done anywhere and anytime)
  • entrepreneurial, intrapreneurial

“Jobs” are mortal by their very nature. Jobs as we have known them over the past 200 years were a social construction. Just think of “jobs” in pre-modern societies.

In 2002, in the US, around 5% of jobs are destroyed every three months, with a similar number of new jobs created. William Easterly, The Elusive Quest for Growth.

Inevitably, new roles demand new skills. Thirty years ago, we had to learn one new skill per year. Now, it is one new skill per day. Tomorrow, it may be one new skill per hour – Jonas Ridderstrale and Kjell Nordstrom, Funky Business

But wait! If we understand the new normal, there is hope!

More than ever, knowledge as a factor of production must have caring and sharing qualities. The individual is seen as more critical to the organization than previously thought (strange but true) and having a personality matters more today in the workplace. It is more important than ever to be interactive, creative and communicative.

In other words, to be human.

Now, let’s consider the top skills in demand today.