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A Publication of WTVP

The workplace has changed tremendously over the past few generations—at a rate that is unfamiliar to most of us. As the days go by, the workplace continues to evolve. So, the better we understand it, the better equipped we’ll be to handle it. The main forces I see driving these changes include: technology, globalization, industrial and occupational structures, demographic changes, and the wants and needs of those in the workforce. These changes are all significant and sometimes interrelated.

Think about your grandparents. They were usually employed by one company for 30 to 40 years, staying long enough to get the “gold watch.” They had one job at one place and stayed in one office for their entire careers. The job description didn’t change much over the years.

Move forward to our parents’ generation. They may have changed jobs once or twice, but usually stayed in the same industry and rarely ventured very far from what they were familiar with.

Both of these generations were looked upon as hard workers who thought of their jobs as a gift. They worked their entire lives and rarely chose early retirement. They typically lived in one community their entire lives, so changing jobs wasn’t necessary. They worked so they could pay the bills and provide a pleasant lifestyle for their families. They didn’t complain about working nine-to-five—or overtime, if asked—and working in a cubicle wasn’t a big deal.

Fast forward to the next generation…our children. Research predicts that today’s third graders will move five to seven times in their lives and have seven to 10 careers in four different industries. One or more of these industries hasn’t even been invented yet. (Think of jobs like data mining, social networking and digitalization—these are brand-new fields of the past few years.)

The next generation needs action and stimulus, so a nine-to-five workday in a cubicle isn’t very attractive. They want to be mobile, and technology has made it easy to work from anywhere…like the coffee shop, home or even the park. Just last month, NPR reported on how flexibility in the workplace creates better working environments and happier, more productive employees. Because we are a global community, it’s also easier for this generation to live anywhere in the world. They will not be tied down by any one job; if a better opportunity comes along, they will grab it.

These generational changes have created significant changes in the workforce, from the way we view our jobs to the way we do our jobs. Change in the workplace is evident and ongoing. As employers, we have to embrace the changes. Whether it’s because of technology, globalization or a general change in the mentality of our workers, if we want to retain the best and brightest, we have to change with them. The better we understand these changes, the better we’ll be able to adapt with them. iBi

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