This is the first installment in a series focused on helping workers adjust their attitude about the changing relationship between employers and employees and the important implications for you and your career. Above all, workers must change their self-perception from “company employee” to “free agent.” But before we explore the difference between those two concepts, let’s look more closely at the changing trends and their impact on the average worker and why this even matters.
Changing Workforce Trends
Among the more significant trends is the declining level of commitment of employees to their employers. That loyalty will continue to drop as workers give much less emphasis to working for companies that provide a long-term career and pension, and far more emphasis to working for an organization that allows them to be challenged, to learn and to broaden their career experience.
Employer loyalty will continue to drop as well. Corporations will rely less on full-time, long-term employees and further develop an employment model that gives them the best talent for a specific function for a specific time frame (often pre-determined-perhaps to build a new capability or complete a project, for example). This workforce model allows corporations to maximize the flexibility in their cost structure, minimize hiring and severance costs, and minimize “fixed” costs – which Wall Street always appreciates and rewards.
Surviving in Today’s Changing Workforce
I’ve spent much of the last seven years coaching and supporting many unemployed workers and others in career transition for a variety of reasons (fired, laid off or just deciding to quit). While the traditional, full-time/permanent option is always a possibility, workers are wise to consider less-traditional alternatives. That could mean becoming an independent contractor or a temp, or even changing career paths entirely. It also means being aware of the job marketplace dynamics – and adjusting their career strategy accordingly.
In order to do that, it will be necessary to dispense with some stereotypes. Contrary to popular opinion, for example, temp workers are not limited to clerical and industrial job positions. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that technical and professional jobs (including computer programmers, managers, executives and financial-services professionals) are two of the fastest-growing occupational categories in the temporary staffing industry.
Human resource professionals are one example that reflects this change in the market. This job function has been caught in the “perfect storm”; it has been among the toughest job categories in recent years. Corporations have continued to find creative ways to automate previously labor-intensive HR functions (payroll, health care benefits, pensions plans, etc.) via web-based enrollment and management tools. As a result, thousands of HR professionals have been victims of the corporate downsizing that tends to follow these productivity improvements. There simply are not as many HR positions available as there once were, particularly at the same level and pay. These workers have at least four options:
- Patiently wait for an opportunity to replace the job they left; but that could take too long.
- Take a lower-level (and lower-paying) position in HR-perhaps even entry-level.
- Look for an entirely new career path that leverages their skills and interests.
- Look for alternative employment arrangements (part time, job sharing, project based, etc.).
It’s time to deal with the reality of this trend – and not “hope” that you’ll be able to find the same job in the future that you had previously – it may not exist any longer (or at least not as commonly). And stay tuned, our next installment will explore the growing trend of free agent workers.
How about you? Have you already started to change your self-perception? I welcome your comments!