Understanding The Past, Building The Future: Career Evolution

As we continue to celebrate our 100th anniversary, we went to our consulting practice leaders and asked them three questions:

  • How have things changed in their fields in the past 100 years?
  • What are the biggest challenges they – and their clients – are about to face?
  • What’s the most exciting thing they speculate is coming along?

This post looks at those questions through the eyes of our U.S. Career practice leader, Tom Burke. Here’s what he told us.

Analytics: Manage what you measure

Employers have become increasingly sophisticated at planning their workforce needs and managing employee performance. This is an excellent example of the business idiom, “If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.” While we can debate the merits of that saying, it’s clear that companies are getting much better at measuring just about everything these days, especially when it comes to their workforces.

"Exempt or nonexempt status is based on what an employee does, not what the job title, job description, or pay structure says." Thomas V. Burke, Principal and Global Career Practice Leader
““Challenge and Change” will be the workforce mantra for the next 20 years.” Thomas V. Burke, Principal and Global Career Practice Leader

And no wonder, since payroll costs are usually one of the biggest ticket items for most organizations. This is particularly true in the service sector of our economy, where labor costs can easily account for more than half of an organization expenses. Likewise, effectively managing compensation is a major concern for all employers. Add to that about another 25% for benefits and it’s clear why labor costs are subject to increased scrutiny. Employers are rapidly looking for tools and relying more on analytics to make work force management decisions related to hiring and firing as well as developing and rewarding their employees. Look for analytics to take off as a widely used discipline for workforce planning and managing employee performance.

Challenge and change

“Challenge and Change” will be the workforce mantra for the next 20 years. We’re seeing signs of it already with lots of discussions about Baby Boomers retiring and the Millennial generation rising to become the largest workforce segment in history.

Given this transition, two major priorities will emerge: 1) employers will need to mitigate the brain drain that occurs when employees leave or retire, and 2) employers will need to adapt and appeal to a workforce that has a different style and set of expectations from their parents. That’s not to say there are no common workforce characteristics between Baby Boomers and Millennials. Indeed there are many. Since they share many things in common, much of the change will be due to a shift in priorities, which is important for employers to recognize. Just because an employer may experience an influx of twenty or thirty-somethings over the next few years, it doesn’t mean everything from workspaces to benefits need to change at once.

Employers can do three things to manage this change: 1) simply ask new employees what they like and don’t like about their jobs, 2) tap into the minds and hearts of retiring employees to transfer knowledge before they leave, and 3) take the time and make the effort to implement a comprehensive and meaningful change management process to follow over the next five years. Doing so will make it much easier for everyone to adapt.

Purpose driven

Look for career management to become much more employee-driven in the coming years.

Employees have always been responsible for managing their careers, although most haven’t realized it.  However, employers can’t just sit back and tell employees to figure things out for themselves. Employees will demand more information, greater transparency and more purpose-driven opportunities that align with their personal values and expectations.

Employers will need to shift their paternalistic cultures to ones that enable and empower employees to achieve their personal goals and fulfill their expectations. Employers will have to change the way the measure career success from years of service to degrees of accomplishment. Single-employer careers will become extinct when the last Baby Boomers retire. That trend is crystal clear. The traditional employer objectives of attracting, retaining and motivating employees will shift to engaging, deploying, and replenishing them. Those employers who recognize how employees want to manage their careers will be the winners in the ongoing war for talent. 

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