Thankful for Your Employees? Show It This Thanksgiving

Family, friends, and health would likely top many personal lists of gratitude given around the dinner table at Thanksgiving. For most people work is probably low down on the “count my blessings” list.  That wouldn’t be surprising since fewer than 3 out of 10 workers in the U.S. are “engaged” in the workplace. One out of 5 is actually actively disengaged according to Gallup.

The only association between the holiday and the workplace it seems is that it provides a day off.  For a fortunate few it might even mean a long weekend away from the office. For others Thanksgiving has become just another work day due to earlier starts to Black Friday sales.

Despite this disassociation between work and Thanksgiving, the origins of this holiday are rooted in work. At first, Thanksgiving was a day to celebrate the hard-earned bounty of the harvest. The very first Thanksgiving feast in America came about when the Pilgrims wanted to express their gratitude to the Wampanoag Native Americans who had helped them survive their first year in their new home. In a sense, the tradition of Thanksgiving began as a way of celebrating the workplace values of hard work and cooperation.

Since work plays such a vital part of many people’s lives, the American Management Association posed a question to readers of one of its publications. It asked them what made them most thankful at work.

First on the list was “the professional satisfaction it provides me.” The Pilgrims would be beaming with pride since the satisfaction of a job well done was an emotion shared several hundred years earlier.  Pride and fulfillment produce natural highs for employees. As Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” The joy people get from pride in their work is priceless. It’s a simple management principle mostly ignored but when embraced is the gift that just keeps giving.

It should come as no surprise that “my co-workers” came in second. Personal relationships play an important role in our happiness at work. For many workers, co-workers is family. Many of us spend more time at work and with co-workers than with our own families during a typical week. The workplace is where we form some of our closest and most enduring friendships. Friends at work help us deal with stress at work and provide a support network for problems at home.

Work friendships are beneficial from the organization’s perspective as well. Tom Rath in his book Vital Friends reveals that people who have a best friend in their workplace are seven times more likely to be engaged in their work. As a result, these companies have more satisfied customers and tend to innovate and share more new ideas.

Based on years of research by Gallup, Vital Friends also reports that when asked if they would rather have a 10 percent pay raise or a close friend at work, respondents overwhelmingly chose the close friend. That’s a powerful testimonial to the priority that we place on friendship in the workplace.

“My boss” ranked third on the list of things that workers were thankful for. Almost as important as feeling good about the kind of work we do is feeling good about the person we do it for. Contrary to popular opinion that all that employees care about is money, it doesn’t take much to earn the thanks of the people who report to you—show them that you’re grateful for their efforts, and they’ll repay the gratitude.

Not unlike many other surveys, “my salary” ranked lowest on the list.  That’s challenging to management because salary is the easiest tool to use when companies are trying to increase their employee engagement and earn their gratitude.

As we think about what we’re thankful this Thanksgiving, we might want to consider something that many of us take for granted – be thankful for your employees.

Here’s a few very simple, inexpensive but very rewarding things you can do this Thanksgiving to show your gratitude to your employees.

Say Thank You, Of Course!

It’s so simple but so easily forgotten. Showing your appreciation can be as simple as just saying thank you. This is a great time of year to just greet each employee face-to-face and with a handshake. Whenever possible, greet them by name!  It goes a long way.

Hand written notes work well too. By the way, appreciation notes to your customers and vendors are a great idea too.)  Email is acceptable but a poor third choice.  But anything note of appreciate is better than nothing. But even if it has to be email, make sure you address each employee personally. Don’t send out a generic message. Be as specific as possible. Thank your employees for work on a particular project or extra effort. This is the easiest and most meaningful way to let your employees know you appreciate them and are thankful for their hard work.

Food!

What is everyone’s favorite part of Thanksgiving? The food!  Bring in some Thanksgiving-themed treats for your employees to enjoy. Plan a potluck event.  Allow your employees to come together and enjoy the holiday. Nothing says thank you quite like food – except the heartfelt personal thank you.

If you want to go the extra mile, gift cards and/or certificates for free turkeys at the local grocery store work too. And if you want to get the biggest bank for your time and buck, deliver the cards personally.

Flexible Holiday Work Hours!

For many employees, Thanksgiving means family. If possible be flexible with your employees. If you can afford to give them a day off or even just a few hours to prepare dinner or extra travel time to spend time with family, do it.

Show your employees how much you appreciate them this Thanksgiving and deliver a little “thank you.”

Work Ethic: Is There An Ambition Crisis In America?

A lack of work ethic is one of the biggest complaints heard from employers about their workers and job applicants. Just ask just about any manager or business owner who is over 40 years old and the mere mention of “work ethic” into the conversation creates a wince, angst, and maybe even a few colorful words.

screening employeesThe complaints are targeted at mostly young people, the Millennials specifically. For years I’ve defended young people upon the principle that it’s not a lack of work ethic but a different work ethic. My response wasn’t academic or theoretical. It was based on interaction with 20- and 30-somethings working multiple jobs to make ends meet, pay off school loans, support a family and so on.  Just like generations before them, many of these young people I met worked hard – very hard.

***** Listen to this interview with Ira S Wolfe about “Trophy Workers” *****

But over the past few years I began to encounter more and more workers afflicted with “work-ethic-deficiency syndrome.”  Contrary to popular belief, this syndrome affects people of all ages – from the teen worker to the aging Baby Boomer.  A sense of entitlement certainly underlies much of the affliction. Many young people feel entitled to the good life promised them by parents, politicians, and educators.  Older workers feel entitled to security on the job and comfort in retirement in exchange for hard work, sacrifice, and loyalty.  Both groups feel betrayed. For some, they are justified in their disappointment and even resentment. For most people, the problem runs much deeper.

Based on our research, it seems a lack of work ethic is only the symptom. The cause is a lack of ambition.  A quick search for the definition of ambition reveals the following:

  • a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.
  • desire and determination to achieve success.
  • an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment.
  • An eager or strong desire to achieve something, such as fame or power.

Note the common thread with descriptors such as strong, determination, earnest, eager, strong.  Desire simply isn’t enough.  What is glaringly missing is the passion, purpose, and pride necessary to convert a want and desire to achievement and success.

Whether it’s the need for immediate gratification, a sense of entitlement, or lack of accountability, it’s clear many workers lack ambition – plain and simple. For sure, I’ll get the argument how hard many people have worked to find a job or remake themselves. I’ve heard in great detail, often flavored with colorful language, about the sacrifices made to secure a college degree. Others point to the number of resumes sent and how many times they were interviewed. I agree these people deserve an “A” for effort.

But effort and ambition are not the same. Ambition requires a passion, intensity, and perseverance.  It includes a sense of optimism and hope that keeps you going when everything seems to be going against you.  Ambition requires effort but making the effort does not qualify as ambition. Effort is ambition without emotion. Without purpose, pride, and passion, people just go through the motions.  They expect success to come to them rather than creating and taking accountability for their own future.

Let me explain.  You won’t produce heat in your fireplace by putting a few logs in the fireplace.  You must find the logs, and then light the fire if you want heat. You then have to add more logs to sustain the heat…and keep doing it over and over to keep the fire burning.

Like the fire, many people believe that acquiring the logs is enough.  Others expect the heat to continue in perpetuity without keeping the fire lit. Ambition is continuous. It derives from a passion to attain personal success and prosperity.

Most people go about achieving success and prosperity backwards.  They expect their purpose, pride, and passion to drive ambition when ambition (along with accountability, awareness, and agility) is what fuels purpose, pride, and passion.

Work-ethics deficiency is an epidemic.  Its root cause is a lack of ambition. The loss of ambition isn’t just a lack of emotional response but the lack of a skill.  Too many people simply have lost the ability to attain things on their own. For those people not waiting for the next handout, there are just as many looking for the safety net.

Life is about finding a purpose, pursuing challenges, taking risks, accepting accountability for mistakes, and learning how to recover from setbacks. While a technical skills gap is hurting and constraining many businesses, an ambition deficit will eventually cripple them.

***** Listen to this interview with Ira S Wolfe about “Trophy Workers” *****

Workers Get “F” for Effort

The debate rages on whether a lack of skilled workers is the reason millions of jobs are going unfilled. I’d like to suggest that it’s not the skills as much as lack of effort. In fact, I give many workers an “F” for effort.

lack of effort by workersBut that doesn’t mean it’s all their fault. That doesn’t mean they don’t try hard. It doesn’t mean that parents, educators, bureaucrats, and employers haven’t contributed to the problem. In fact, they might even have set many workers up for failure.

Graduating valedictorian, getting accepted into a prestigious college, landing a job at a reputable firm are all indications that success will come easy, right?

Not so fast. That is far from a foregone conclusion. New research reveals that the less effort it took to achieve these accomplishments, the more likely the individual will not live up to expectations.

In other words, while a quick mind, a charming personality, and a silver spoon might open up a lot of doors, potential does not always convert to performance. And when it does, a lot of the potential goes unused.

You might ask, why should I care if an employee leaves potential on the table if I’m getting what I want? If 50 percent effort gets the job done, who cares? Yes, that’s true. If the job is routine, predictable, and changes little, then there’s no problem. But what happens with the job requires the employee to adapt quickly, manage and solve unanticipated problems, recognize how one innocent decision might have widespread ramifications? What happens when the environment is in a constant state of flux and uncertainty, ambiguity, and change are the norms?

While admission to a prestigious school like Harvard or Stanford is a significant achievement, it doesn’t guarantee unfettered success. Graduating at the top of your class and being the star quarterback of a championship team means nothing when everything came easy. Natural talent opens doors but only carries you so far. It doesn’t prepare you to deal with those unfriendly and unpredictable life challenges that pop up regardless if you grew up on the streets or in the Hamptons.

It’s EFFORT that makes the difference. It is effort that differentiates those presiding over others because they have the title verses leaders who inspire people and champion change. It differentiates “high-potential” employees who exceed expectations and those whose careers plateau and disappoint. Effort is what allows people to thrive when confronted with the most challenging times in their lives.

Effort is defined as the “conscious exertion of power.” Conscious exertion implies that people have a choice – they can do it or not. We all have met, managed, or even married people who exert themselves a lot. We undoubtedly also can name quite a few people who choose not to make any effort when the road is paved with a few bumps and adversity strikes.

It is becoming painfully clear that we have educated and trained a lot of people for sunny-day success. We’ve done a horrible job at training people to deal with and manage adversity. We’ve educated an entire generation or two to think that failure, setbacks, and unforeseen events can be ignored or outsourced at will.

We’ve removed the option of losing in sports, getting an “F” for a grade, and getting a trophy for just showing up. When a student struggles in school (or an employee struggles at work), it’s rarely the individual’s fault. It’s never due to lack of presonal effort, low motivation, or poor attitude. It’s always because the job is too hard or the manager is unrealistic. We don’t hold people accountable to stretch themselves; we lower our expectations so the individual can win.

We have essentially stopped teaching our children and our workers how to deal with adversity, how to solve difficult problems, and how to achieve? Most importantly we have tied self-esteem to success. A setback or mistake implies failure and damages the psyche. We have become so obsessed with building and protecting self-esteem that we forgot to teach people how to deal with even the normal stress and pain that is part of life. We have dumbed down requirements to get an “A,” graduate from college, and even write a resume. We have prepared people to get an interview and a job, but not to work.

Ironically it is the euphoria of mastering a new skill, overcoming a challenge, or recovering from a setback that builds confidence and self-esteem. It is learning from mistakes and failures that encourage people to grow and develop. We don’t need more people who can survive only when the sun is shining. We need to teach people the skills to thrive when things don’t go their way.

Getting a job is not the destination but the beginning of a journey. Success in life requires a conscious act. Too many “talented” people expect to sleep walk through life. Personal power is what drives effort. Personal power is a skill that too many people lack. It’s time that we begin to teach, train, and develop more people who have the personal power to achieve their own success, to enjoy and appreciate that success, and to most importantly, navigate and manage adversity.

Diversity Trends Changing the Workplace

The population will be increasingly diverse. Over the next 40 years, the white population will decline by about 10% while the Hispanic population will more than double. By 2043, the nation will be majority-minority; by 2050, Hispanics will account for 28% of total population, compared with 47% for non-Hispanic whites.

diversity in the workplaceWhile women now make up nearly half of the workforce, only 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 and 5.2 percent of Fortune 1000 CEO positions are held by women.  Mary Barra at GM is the highest ranking female CEO. Currently people of color and women only represent about 14.5 percent and 18 percent, respectively, of corporate boards among the senior management of Fortune 500 companies. (Source: Catalyst)

A McKinsey & Company study found that the increase in women’s overall share of labor in the United States—women went from holding 37 percent of all jobs to nearly 50 percent over the past 40 years. That has accounted for about a quarter of current GDP.

Census data tell us that by 2050 there will be no racial or ethnic majority in our country. Further, between 2000 and 2050 new immigrants and their children will account for 83 percent of the growth in the working-age population.

According to the Census Bureau, people of color own 22.1 percent of U.S. businesses. Moreover, women own 28.8 percent of U.S. businesses, and Latina-owned businesses in particular are the fastest-growing segment of the women-owned business market. Women of color own 1.9 million firms.

According to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, gay or transgender individuals own approximately 1.4 million (or approximately 5 percent) of U.S. businesses.

Read more about Generational Diversity

Generation diversity: elephant in workplace?

The mere mention of diversity in the workplace ignites a passionate and varied reaction from … let’s say a diverse group of people.

diversity in the workplaceWhat was once a topic isolated to differences in color and gender now extends into age, ethnicity and even sexual preference.

Whatever your position, world view or personal bias, one thing is for sure: the workplace is more diverse and changing rapidly.

To remain competitive, viable and profitable, companies must continue to capitalize on the growth of women, people of color, ethnicity and gay and transgender people in the labor force.

But many discussions about diversity tend to leave out what is becoming the elephant in the workplace – generational diversity.

For the first time in history, we have five generations working side by side:

• Veterans or traditionalists – born before 1946.

• Baby boomers – 1946 to 1964.

• Generation X – 1965-1980.

• Generation Y (or millennials) – 1981-1998.

And now we have Generation Z, or the “homelanders,” – born after 1998 – coming of work age.

This diversity of age and more importantly world views is something executives and business owners have never had to deal with.

There is no precedent at managing a workforce ranging from 16 to 90 years old. There are no proven management models to follow.

Being the pioneer is risky business but ignoring the reality can be fatal. Each company needs to understand generational dynamics and devise a plan that fits marketplace reality and company culture.

Talent management is no exception.

Each generation is different from its predecessors in a number of ways that affect how employers recruit, manage and retain employees.

While all generations share similar basic needs, motivating and engaging each generation differs. While many companies got away with one-size-fits-all management for the last 50 years, that approach isn’t working anymore.

Even while baby boomers hang on to their jobs longer than expected and the oldest Gen X-ers reach 50 next year, millennials and now Generation Z will make up more than 75 percent of the workforce within the next decade. What works to retain baby boomers won’t attract or retain their replacements.

And these younger generations are the most diverse in history when it comes to color and ethnicity. This isn’t a wave that will hit the front doors of business, but a tsunami that will alter permanently the labor market.

It will be wise for every business to analyze its workforce composition by asking the following questions:

(1) What is the generational composition of your existing workforce (and customer base)?

(2) What will be the composition in five years?

(3) Does the proportion of generations in your workforce reflect the proportion in your industry, your profession and your customer base?

(4) Is there a concentration of one particular generation staff/associate vs. management positions?

(5) Is there a higher attrition rate among members of one generation?

(6) How does the present and future generational composition change the way you will do business?

(7) How will the three- to five-year employment outlook for our region affect our ability to execute your business plans?

Published in Lehigh Valley Business Journal – September 8, 2014

 

Jobs Disappearing at Accelerating Rate – Is Yours at Risk?

Nearly everyone agrees the world will look different in years to come.  For many, the future has arrived. Robots and other forms of automation are not just destroying jobs at an accelerating pace but driving many occupations into extinction.

For nearly 15 years I warned of a Perfect Labor Storm, a time when work, the workplace, and consequently the workforce would see revolutionary change at an unprecedented pace. I wasn’t the first to forecast the changes we are experiencing now. I wasn’t the loudest voice either. But I was a steady, reliable messenger of a daunting prediction that unfortunately has come true.

I did however underestimate the changes on two accounts.

First, my use of the word “storm” apparently erred on the side of conservatism. While disruptive and often devastating, storms pass. People pick up the pieces and move on. Life is disrupted but not devastated.  Most people go back to living the way it used to be.

But what we are experiencing is not a storm but a “Job Apocalypse”.

Up until now technological progress produces two competing effects: job destruction and increased production. While new technology often replaces workers, the new technology improved productivity, which tends to lower the cost of production, which creates more demand, which creates new jobs.

These new jobs for the most part require new skills. The skills are typically acquired through more advanced education. Workers who acquired the education and skills have been rewarded with good jobs and higher wages.

At least that’s the way it has worked for the past several centuries.

But now technological progress threatens to alter the course of history.

Oxford University researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne in their daunting landmark study give a taste of what’s to come. They estimate that 47 percent of U.S. jobs are at “high risk” of being taken over by robots in the next decade or two. And we’re not talking about just production jobs requiring more low-level skills.  Affected jobs include accountants, physicians, lawyers, and architects Loan officers, tax preparers, paralegals, and even roofers are at risk. Even more susceptible are low-skill-level jobs such as retail cashiers and salespeople, telemarketers, toll booth operators, and postal workers. Even professional drivers (truck, bus, taxi) are at risk. (If you are suspicious, then you are ignoring how the Google car is changing transportation.)

They wrote in their paper:

Our model predicts that most workers in transportation and logistics occupations, together with the bulk of office and administrative support workers, and labor in production occupations, are at risk… More surprisingly, we find that a substantial share of employment in service occupations, where most US job growth has occurred over the past decades (Autor and Dorn, 2013), are highly susceptible to computerization.

robots taking jobWhile the trend in recent decades has been towards a hollowing out of “middle-skill” jobs and an increase in low-paying service sector jobs and high-paying, highly educated jobs, Frey and Osborne expect that automation in the future will mainly substitute for “low-skill and low-wage” jobs.

What’s most troubling about all these changes are that advances in technology and computerization have outpaced our ability to find new uses for labor. In other words, automation has replaced people at a faster rate than demand for products and services has grown meaning the demand for skills has lagged. Since the number of workers with higher education degrees has exploded, many of these higher-skilled workers are accepting jobs traditionally performed by less educated, low-skilled workers.  The minimally-education, low-skill worker is subsequently pushed further down or out of the workforce entirely.

No one knows for sure what the careers of the future will look like. But the people at the cutting edge of workplace and workforce trends are already watching old jobs disappear at an accelerating rate.

Sources:

The Future of Jobs

Jobs That Will Be Lost to Robots

 

More about Moms Married with Children

married with childrenMoms married with children hardly fit the Peg Bundy type portrayed in the hit TV show Married with Children.  Here are more stats following a recent post about how Stay-at-Home Moms are presenting yet another challenge in employer’s quest to find skilled workers.

Almost three in 10 mothers with children under 18 living with them are stay-at-home moms.

  • 20 percent of all married mothers with children under 18 stay home — half what it was in 1970.
  • One in five children in the United States today lives with a stay-at-home mother married to a working husband. In 1970, 41 percent of children did.

Married mothers accounted for much of the increase in total labor force participation during the post-World War II period (1946-2000).

  • In 1948, only about 17 percent of married mothers were in the labor force
  • In 1985, 61 percent of married mothers were working or looking for work
  • By 1995, their labor force participation rate had reached 70 percent.

Married mothers aged 25 and older with infants are well educated, on average.

  • Nearly half (47 percent) had a college degree, compared with 35 percent of all married mothers of that age group.  
  • Another 26 percent of married mothers of infants had completed 1 to 3 years of college, compared with 29 percent of all mothers. 
  • After peaking at 71 percent in 1997, the participation rate of those women married with infants and holding a college degree had fallen by about 9 percentage points by 2000.
  • In comparison, the participation rate for mothers with less than a high school diploma fell by 8 percentage points, as did the rate for those with some college.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pew Research Center

Stay-At-Home Moms: Another Skilled Worker Hurdle?

At a time when skilled labor is scarce, stay at home moms point to yet another challenge that management faces when it comes to filling open positions, according to new research from Pew Research Center.

stay at home MomAlmost three in 10 mothers with children under 18 living with them are stay-at-home moms. In the past that would not have been such a big deal. But the education of women has risen dramatically in the post-World War II period. For example:

  • Among all women aged 25 and older, the proportion with at least 1 year of college more than tripled, rising from about 15 percent in 1960 to 53 percent in 2005.  (Among men, this proportion almost tripled, going from 18 percent to 53 percent.) 
  • The participation rate for women with a college degree rose from about 57 percent in 1962 to 73 percent in 2005, while the rate for women with some college (but not a bachelor’s degree) went from 42 percent to 67 percent.

As more jobs require advanced skills and nearly all new jobs require at least some post-secondary education, companies can ill afford to lose even a single skilled worker. But over the past few decades, a critical trend went largely unnoticed. It is now having a major impact on recruitment:

There are more women than men that have been going to and graduating from college.

Women now enroll in greater numbers than men in both undergraduate and graduate institutions. Women age 25 to 34 are now more likely than men of that same age group to have attained a college degree, reversing the norm of 40 years ago.

Among women age 25 to 64 in the labor force, 36 percent held college degrees in 2009, compared to 11 percent in 1970 – nearly 325% increase. In contrast, the share of men with a college degree increased by one-half. By 2019, women are projected to account for nearly 60 percent of total undergraduate enrollment.

Over the same period, the proportion of women workers with less than a high school diploma fell from 34 percent to 7 percent.

The trend in graduate school is similar. In 2008, women accounted for 59 percent of graduate school enrollment. As recently as 1998 more doctoral degrees were conferred to men than to women. A decade later, more doctoral degrees were conferred to women than men.

With more women than men holding the skills needed to do today’s skilled labor, stay-at-moms pose a significant threat for business. 

One industry impacted tremendously by women is healthcare. At one time, men were the doctors, women were the nurses.

In 1965, only 8 percent of medical school students were women. By 2012, nearly half of all students and graduates were women.

Companies need to figure out a way to lure these moms back to work with personalized and innovative compensation, benefits, and perk packages. Flexibility and telecommuting for many of these moms will be more important than money. 

But while those changes may be a magnet for the new mom, it creates another management problem – how do you treat these moms differently than your male workers, your young, unmarried Millennials, and your Baby Boomers who are looking to cut back but still keep working?

Enticing these married with children women back to work will not be that easy.  Married women with college degrees typically have husbands with similar levels of education. These husbands are likely to be earning good paychecks, providing their wives with options about whether to work after the birth of children. So while these college-educated mothers invested heavily in their careers, they are often more able to be leave the work force, at least temporarily.

Unemployed Workers – Unlucky Victims or Just Not Ready for Jobs?

Last week I wrote an article titled Why Many Unemployed Workers Will Never Get Jobs .It was published on the Huffington Post. It kicked up quite a firestorm with over 4,600 Likes on Facebook, nearly 1200 emails, and as of this writing, almost 500 comments.

paradigmaIn the article I wrote that “we have a huge problem on our hands that runs much deeper than the unemployment figures reveal.” Based on the passionate, angry, and sometimes profanity-laced comments I received, I touched a nerve. I underestimated the problem – it’s much bigger than huge! 

Comments ranged from “Ira Wolfe is a stupid motherf—-r” to “best article ever published on Huff Post.” Many people – largely unemployed and under-employed workers – seem to have perfected the art of character assassination and finger pointing. They may not have work skills but they sure can write a mean letter.

More specifically and one purpose of the article, I wrote about why traditional job training programs wasn’t working. In fact, all many programs seems to do is establish false hope and promises, a situation confirmed by many of the responders,.

The problem with traditional job skill training in many cases is that you can walk a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Far too many workers — employed and unemployed — don’t seem interested in finding water on their own. They want and expect someone else to find the water, make sure the journey isn’t too arduous, and get someone to pay for it.

Hundreds of people took offense to this. Their push-back only confirmed that I was right – to a point. It wasn’t that they wouldn’t drink but many can’t find the well on their own.  

To be fair many comments opened my eyes to circumstances I had not considered. There is old saying that goes something like this – when you listen, two people learn.

Here is one thing I learned – some unemployed workers simply got the short end of the stick. They shared personal stories how they went back to school to get a certificate or degree at their own expense. That took the initiative and made the investment of time and money to better themselves.

Unfortunately they were victims twice-over. Someone changed the rules mid-stream and didn’t tell them. 

First they were either laid off, terminated, outsourced, downsized, or stuck in a stagnant wage job. They did the right thing or at least thought they were doing it by going back to school. But many unemployed were sold a bill of goods. Despite personal investment and hardship, nothing changed for them except many are deeper in debt, thanks to receiving training or education for jobs that are headed to the low-wage dumper or toward extinction.

The only beneficiaries in many job training programs are the schools, organizations, and the trainers.

Many unemployed were duped to believe that a certification or degree guaranteed a good paying job…or any job for that matter. With slow job creation, an overabundance of “overqualified” workers, and a lack of skills required for more competitive wage jobs, these workers feel like they have “sucker” written across their foreheads. The problem is that the current labor and job market is anything but traditional and many programs still teach like nothing has changed.

Aside from these workers and many with similar bad luck stories, I’m sticking to the premise of the article:

Thanks to years of economic prosperity, government entitlements, union contracts and most recently a generation of helicopter parents, many workers from aging Baby Boomers to the young adults known as Millennials don’t have the motivational skills to achieve their own success, to keep themselves safe, to avoid a personal crisis, and to get themselves out of a jam.

Many readers took what I wrote and inferred that I called them lazy and unmotivated. That’s just not true. I never wrote that many of the unemployed were lazy and unmotivated. I did write that many lacked the skills to get a job or switch careers in today’s world and I don’t mean just the technical skills and experience.

When I refer to motivational skills, I mean basic life skills. The skills we used to learn as children that carried us through the trials and tribulations of adulthood. Children learned to entertain themselves. When we fell, we were told to get up, dust ourselves off, and try again. We learned there was a difference between winning and losing. Just playing the game was an opportunity, not a guarantee.

Joblessness is a very complex problem. Many people are caught between the proverbial rock and hard place. With outdated skills, homes “under-water,” aging parents, rising tuition, and a host of other factors, jobs may be available but the workers are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s an incredibly tough cycle to break when you’re poor and/or homeless, too.

Despite popular belief, I wasn’t blaming the unemployed and under-employed for their predicament. I was merely stating the fact that many workers -both employed and unemployed – lack the basic skills to create their own success and future. The lack of skills doesn’t make them bad, lazy or unmotivated people. They are just dependent on other people to create their future and rescue them. Ironically that’s a motivational skill too which has worked well for decades, if not longer.

The solution offered by many people is run faster and harder, juggle multiple jobs, and make an honest effort to get ahead. Unfortunately more activity and intensity does necessarily translate to a good paying “permanent” full time job in this hyper-competitive, dynamic, fast paced, complex workforce.

It comes down to this. Knowing where, when, and how to find a job opportunity these days and competing successfully for it is a skill many workers lack. Job search is no longer as simple as applying and interviewing these days. You don’t get paid for submitting a hundred resumes and performing well in interviews. There is only viable metric of success when it comes to getting offered a good paying job these days – you’re hired! Joblessness and unemployment is not always due to a lack of initiative or effort or motivation. It’s the person’s inability to escape a bad situation and build a new future.

(Companies aren’t blameless either. Many managers lack the skill required to find, identify, and retain talent when they see it or have it. Even when the right person with the right skills shows up on their doorstop, they often times don’t see recognize it until it’s too late.)

Read the full article Why Many Unemployed Workers Will Never Get Jobs here. 

Free PDF – What Job Won’t Return

Meet Generation Flux: Change Agents Extraordinare

Are you a member of Generation Flux?  This isn’t just another name for the generation to follow the Millennials (although it could be.) Unlike all the others generation descriptions, Generation Flux has no age requirement.

leadership change managementGen Flux is less a demographic designation than a psychographic one, focused solely on interests, attitudes, and opinions. What defines Gen Flux is a mind-set that embraces uncertainty and ambiguity. It tolerates, if not embraces, recalibrating careers, continuous innovation, fluid business models, and vulnerable assumptions.

Up until recently, change progressed at such a steady, almost rhythmic pace that it allowed the innovator and entrepreneur to co-exist in a world of moving forward while retaining its hold on the past. Whether he created a new product, strategy, service, or developed a specialized skill, he created an asset that could sustain itself for decades. Often times, the innovation survived multiple generations, allowing the creator to pass the business or royalties from a product or service on to his children and their children.

But within the past few decades and especially since the turn of the century, this paradigm shifted.

The life expectancy of a typical business or product model has shrunk from decades to years. In many industries and businesses, the life of a model is now measured in terms of an Internet year, approximately 90 days. That means while delivering this year’s model to customers, you need to simultaneously prepare for its extinction while creating and preparing a newer, improved model for next year. That shifts the entire course of strategic planning

This unprecedented confluence of innovations has compressed the time between creation to extinction. Change is not only constant, but constantly accelerating. Nostalgia is dead. Status quo is eventually lethal. What we perceive as normal is subject to the blinders we’ve grown accustomed to – inherited from and grown in the past. For any business so in love with its past that it can’t imagine a future without it, its own demise is set in motion. Management feels the ship moving but ignores signs it is sinking.

Change itself isn’t the only cause of self-induced extinction because change is something that has existed since the beginning of time. What is different this time is the almost exponential increase in the velocity of change. For example, it took 38 years for 50 million people to adopt the radio but only 13 years for 50 million people to own a television.  It took Facebook less than 5 years to acquire 50 million users and by 2013, nearly a billion people signed on.

Years have no move to days.  When the Palm introduced its Pilot hand-held device, it took 18 months to sell 1 million units.  It only took Apple 24 hours to sell its first 1 million 4S phones.

The business climate, it is turning out, is a lot like the weather. If you don’t like what you see, wait a few hours.  But once a storm passes, it doesn’t mean things go back to the way they were. Just like the earth around us, every weather event changes the environment and landscape. The same goes for business.

The problem is that our ability to see and predict the future accurately is declining, fueled by all the complex interactions set in place by the intersection and interaction of technology and globalization. Predicting what will happen next has gotten exponentially harder. Ambiguity and complexity has invaded management’s boardroom and worker’s cubicles.

Any business that ignores these transformations does so at its own peril. Despite recession, currency crises, and tremors of financial instability, the pace of disruption is roaring ahead. The frictionless spread of information and the expansion of personal, corporate, and global networks have plenty of room to run. And here’s the conundrum: When businesspeople search for the right forecast–the road map and model that will define the next era–no credible long-term picture emerges. There is one certainty, however. The next decade or two will be defined more by fluidity than by any new, settled paradigm; if there is a pattern to all this, it is that there is no pattern. The most valuable insight is that we are, in a critical sense, in a time of chaos. (Fast Company)

To thrive in this new normal requires a whole new approach.  Not everyone will join Generation Flux, but to be successful, businesses and individuals will have to work at it. Unfortunate for many, the vast bulk of business, institutions, and organizations are not built for flux. Few traditional career  tracks or educational curriculum train us for an era where the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills.

Future-focus is a signature trait of Generation Flux. Trying to replicate what worked yesterday only leaves you and your business vulnerable. There is no question that we are in a new world. Therefore only some people and some businesses will thrive.

Will you be among them? Do you have the right management and workforce to steer your ship through the uncharted and unpredictable future?