May 3, 2009
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Posted by Dr. Sean Harry
Who is to blame for the recession? Who will bring us out of it? Back in February Mike Neiss wrote a blog post for TomPeters.com in which he blamed my generation (the Baby Boomers) for the recession. That got me thinking…
Then there is this post about a man who turned his job loss into a new life. Very inspiring, and I must admit a bit scary for some of us!
For me, these two posts raise a deeper question about the recession, massive job losses, and the future of work in America. Every economic shift creates change in the way we live and work, but I believe this one is going to fundamentally shift work-life balance. We are seeing a major shift in the tektonic plates deep within the core of the fabric of our work lives. I don’t know what will come of this shift. No one does. However, it will behoove us all to think about permanent changes may take place because of what we are currently experiencing. Here are some of my predictions:
- The impending retirement of millions of Baby Boomers will accelerated. With it comes a whole list of concerns – knowledge transfer, loss of experienced labor, succession planning (and lack thereof), and additional burden on the Social Security system. Companies have been thinking about this for awhile, but this economy is going to make it happen much faster. I am seeing clients in their 50s who are making the decision to begin early retirement now. I watched the interviews about Captain Sully (the pilot who safely landed the plane on the Hudson River in January) and thought, “wow, what would have happened if someone with less experience had tried that stunt?” Unfortunately, today many companies are laying off their “Captain Sullys” in this economy. Chances are that many of these people will opt for retirement. What happens then?
- Many people getting laid off are going to opt for lower paying jobs with fewer responsibilities. Not everyone will leave their corporate job for a $10/hr job at Starbucks, but some will. When they do, these people will enjoy their life more. They will have more time for things that are important to them — family, friends, spirituality, and travel. I’m not naive enough to think that the mountains of corporate greediness will disappear, but I AM hopeful that more people will choose to focus on life goals that are not completely driven by the desire to increase their own personal wealth.
- “Green” and “sustainability” will become mainstream. It has to! This is where the federal government (incidentally the ONLY sector still growing in this economy) will be dumping loads of money. How are you (and your company) preparing to take advantage of this opportunity?
- Recruiting and HR practices will change. I’m not sure in what way, but I believe they will change dramatically. The current focus of many Human Resource departments is on being the watchdog for company lawyers. Too often HR says, “we can’t do that, or we’ll get sued.” They are concerned about “allowing our managers to ‘be human’ by getting ‘too close’ to their workers.” The generations after mine put a ton of emphasis on relationships. They will not tolerate working for a company where they are a faceless, nameless commodity. Our recruiting practices are already seeing a shift in this direction. HR practices will soon follow. Companies that don’t focus on the personal side of their employees will find it difficult to attract and retain good talent. We all know that the number one asset of ANY company is the people who work there!
- Free-Agency will become the normative approach for job seekers. This phenomenon has been on the the horizon for awhile. I believe that this current economic crisis is going to change the way people define themselves in relation to their work. My father held the same position for 40 years. His father worked for the state until the day he died. My father’s grandfather, however, did whatever he needed to in order to put food on the family table. He was a farmer, a logger, built roads, ran a store. . . he was a free agent. With people changing careers in 3-5 year cycles, I believe that my children will live more like my great-grandfather than my dad. They will do whatever is necessary to make a living. They won’t define themselves by their company affiliation. To me, these are good things!
This recession is bringing about some major changes in the way we (and our children) will approach work in the coming years. As with any major change, there is both opportunity and danger involved. What are YOU doing to prepare to capitalize on the opportunities and mitigate the dangers of our current times?
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Dr. Sean Harry has more than 20 years of experience in training and motivating people to achieve their goals and reach their highest potential. He has helped accomplish this as a Career Coach, as a University professor, as a Pastor, and as a Motivational Speaker.
You can find him on twitter: @sharrypdx, and @careers20