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The Perfect Storm
January 1st, 2008 came and went as any typical new year’s day. People celebrated the New Year in a vast array of traditions around the world. The hope of a brand new year brought promise of great things to come. Organizational leaders, captains of industry, managers and entrepreneurs all joined the celebration as they have in past years. There were no headlines of concern, no alarms in the corporate conference room and no big fuss about the pending storm of change that would besiege most organizations for years to come. People simply did not notice or even acknowledge the magnitude of change that day would bring to most organizations in the United States.

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Surviving the Talent Eodus

Early 2011

The Learning Spotlight


The Workplace 2020

By John Grubbs

I cannot believe that I am writing anything about the year 2020.  It almost sounds like a science fiction movie title and yet it is only ten short years away.  I say “short” because this past decade flew by at an inconceivable pace in my own mind.  The reality of the present is that 2020 is just around the corner and the corner is getting closer as we speak.

The workplace is changing so fast and we cannot see (or in some cases deal with) the rate of change we are experiencing.  Most companies are still stuck in the models of the past and are not preparing for the enormity the future holds for us all.  In fact, most leaders (that I interview) are still clueless when it comes to the significance of January 1st, 2011.  This lack of knowledge represents a view that has been obscured by the current recession.  Imagine the upcoming demand for quality workers and the pressure companies will have finding talent.  Some even predict that in ten years companies will have more difficulty finding employees than customers.

The workplace in 2020 will be very different from what we see today.  Research indicates a major shift that is both intrinsic and extrinsic to most companies.  In other words, change will be driven both by the employee and the employment market.  Human resources will become more similar to the talent scouts we see in professional sports.  Proven talent will cost a premium while the promise of talent will be held in suspicion.  Your resume and credentials alone will not get you in the door.  Social networks and other media will the most likely source of the next job.

Highly educated and skilled workers will be represented by “agents” that will sell their capability to the highest bidder.  Employment packages will be pre-negotiated and contracts will lean heavily in the favor of the worker.  These proven employees will be in control and the companies that seek their talent will either pay or settle for the next level down based upon budget and other tangiblelimitations.  Employees will be available, however the best employee(s) is very difficult to attain.

The workplace in 2020 will also become an incubator of talent.  In an environment where top performers are rare, companies will attempt to “grow their own” so to speak.  Emphasis on learning and information will be the competitive advantage for the best organizations.  Corporate universities and educational partnerships will be a huge part of the annual budget.  No more will companies cut training budgets first as is common today.  Executives will understand that the collection of talent and its capability will define the winning organization.

Many baby boomers and their vast knowledge and experience will be a distant memory as they will be approaching seventy five years old.  The workplace will be dominated by the Generation Y and sprinkled with the small group representing Generation X.  A huge paradigm shift has changed attitudes toward work and work schedules. 

The beginning of the end of the forty hour work week has appeared.  The old-fashioned preoccupation with time as a measure of work has lost favor and given way to flexible schedules that pay for output rather than “sitput”**.  Single parents are the norm and work has been adjusted to accommodate the needs of the newer and smaller family unit.  Many people are in jobs that allow a cross-pollination of work-home office concepts while others simply work around the demands of life, traffic and other issues.  Most of these new managers will have come to realize that inflexibility will drive away the very same talent that is so hard to find.

Loyalty to work will be long gone and companies will not expect twenty years of service from any employee.  More likely is the idea that talented individual contributors will be constantly moving from one opportunity to the next in a concept similar to free agency in professional sports.  Employment models and contracts will be based on an eighteen to twenty-four month duration that can be renewed by the agreement of both parties if desired.

The workplace itself will be designed (like high end department stores and casinos to get you in and keep you in as long as possible) to attract and keep the best talent inside the facility.  Resources that make life easier for the employee will become more common.  Daycare and medical services may even be expected in order to attract the best from the talent pool.  Workout facilities and nap pods(don’t laugh) are available to keep the workforce energized and refreshed.  Restaurants and cafeteria services in the workplace are norm rather than the exception.

The older models of work will still remain.  However, they will become the repository of the worker with the minimal amount of talent or flexibility.  A huge divide will occur and a sharp contrast in the design of the typical workplace will become evident.  Struggling organizations that are not financially capable of providing the high-demand workplace will settle for those employees that cannot attain the best jobs.  These dying companies will live on (for a while) with significant struggle that mirrors a self-fulfilling prophecy of poor workers and a lack of individual capability.  These companies may even survive on the temporary lack of expectations from immigrant workers that are simply happy to be in the United States and have a job.  The cream of the crop in this population will also rise and have higher expectations.  What will your organization look like in ten years?

**Sitput – the tendency of organizations to pay employees to sit or stand for time rather than productive output.


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