There’s a revolution in the workplace.
The ways we interact, work, learn and advance professionally are rapidly changing.
Technology is advancing at a dramatic pace, and what is being used daily in the workplace was seen as cutting edge or innovative just a decade ago.
The largest generation in the workplace, the baby boomers, is quickly retiring and being replaced by millennials, who are rapidly filling positions across all industries. Their viewpoints and collective way of looking at the world are changing how we do business.
We should be aware of trends that will guide the millennial generation into the workforce.
The next 10 years will totally transform the workplace. Many companies may see a decrease of up to 50 percent in staffing as workers retire or leave.
Many companies will look differently than they do now. This influx of new talent and new personalities will make where we work look very different.
Businesses will continue to employ new ways of working that foster collaboration between teams and across organizations.
Some examples include open offices and shared workspaces to increase collaboration and interaction. Fostering strong skills related to teamwork and recruiting people who work well in teams will be a priority.
But be warned. Not all people do their best work in teams.
Acknowledge and work with introverted employees who gain strength and inspiration in times of solitude and a quiet work environment.
Even when you promote teamwork, be aware of employees who thrive when given a place that is quiet and reflective.
NEW WAYS OF LEARNING
For years, we have heard that to be successful, a four-year degree is required.
This may be true in some cases, but, increasingly, a four-year degree does not automatically mean a path to a solid career.
Manufacturing is on the rise, as is the demand to employ skilled workers who do not need a degree but may need additional post high-school credentials.
Community colleges, for example, promote stackable credentials that can be combined as part of a noncredit, skill-based qualification that also can transfer to a credit program if the student decides to move on.
This offers increased flexibility for the learner and employer.
NEW WAYS TO LEARN
In addition, new modes of learning, from online, hybrid to a flipped classroom, will offer more opportunity to a larger population of students.
Businesses would be wise to focus on what potential employees can do rather than the degree they earned.
They also should look to hire people with a proven history of continuous learning in various environments.
Replacing boomers will not be easy. More businesses will be unable to find outside candidates with the required skills for many positions.
Since most of the employees who will be retiring are the knowledge experts and leaders of an organization, it will be vital to develop highly skilled employees who already work for your organization and have the talent and desire to advance.
Work on a talent development pipeline now rather than later to identify skill gaps, find candidates with the capacity to learn and advance, and to begin a training/mentoring program to fill those needs.
FOCUSING ON MENTAL HEALTH
It’s often joked that sometimes you need a mental health day. It may be a humorous meme, but in reality we must be aware of the impact that mental health has on our lives and how it affects your business performance.
About three-quarters of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Stress can cause people to lose about a week of productivity annually.
Companies that address this will be better suited to thrive in the changing economy.
In the coming years, understanding and responding to the mental health of employees will be a big focus for companies.
AI TAKES OVER
One of the biggest selling items during the holidays was the smart speaker, including Amazon’s Echo, and Google’s Home Mini. Though advanced, their true abilities are yet to be seen.
Much like our reliance on email was seen as a novelty in the early to mid-1990s (and in some cases initially shunned by companies), artificial intelligence is poised to be a major breakthrough in how we work.
Look for ways that AI can be used to increase productivity and identify employees who have the skill and comfort necessary for the job.
For those who love change and forging a new future, it’s a great time in workforce development.
There are many things to struggle with, but with chaos there is opportunity, and there is opportunity to do truly amazing things with your organizational talent.
You just have to identify where to focus and how to get there.
Tom Bux is director of the Center for Leadership and Workforce Development (workforce.lccc.edu) at Lehigh Carbon Community College, Schnecksville. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.