I was asked for an opinion on the difference between today’s workforce and the workforce of 10 & 20 years ago. While it would be easy to roll my eyes and pigeon hole groups as gen x-y-z, I don’t think that’s overly helpful or accurate. From experience, I think there are five major differences which are largely the product of social shifts and trends.
- confidence. I believe more people in today’s workforce are less confident than workforces past. From the inability to make eye contact to the reaction to receiving constructive feedback to being generally risk aversive. I attribute this characteristic to the over protective / over parenting / no kid left behind mentality. Unfortunately, in the workforce people are & do get left behind & it’s difficult to develop confidence if you’re not exposing yourself to, and overcoming adversity early & often.
- competence. I could / should use a word that’s not as harsh, but it would mean the same thing. It stands to reason the inability to think independently (combined with a lack of confidence) affects competence. I attribute this to a system where everything has been laid out for young people, many of whom haven’t been predisposed to problem solving. This stifles the need to think & do things on ones own and when we see them in the workforce (on their own), there’s a reprogramming that has to happen to put their own pieces in order to achieve success.
- communication. I’m not a fan of the new style of communication for the following reasons; it’s depersonalized, largely ineffective & it does not afford the skill building traits needed to be confident or competent in face to face environments (which is the essence of human interaction / business). I attribute this to a social need to continue to make things quick & easy. Some things, are not meant to be quick & easy and successful careers / business are two of those things. New style communication is very effective for follow up and broad spamming, but lacks the intimacy and intricacy required from the foundations of service based business.
- consumers. There can be little doubt that today’s workforce are consumers. VERY EASILY INFLUENCED by the latest & greatest gadgets, they will trust brand names more than they will trust accomplished business mentors with common sense advice. I attribute this to wickedly smart marketing companies who have figured out consumers will buy anything that provides a forum to promote self & make self's life better/cooler or easier. Intuitively, this would satisfy the deficits left by 1-2 & 3 above. The challenge comes when the workforce consumes beyond their investment capabilities.... And then turns to their employers to narrow their debt-ficit. This would not be something done 10 or 20 years ago with the frequency with which it is today.
- commitment. Today’s buzzword (a product of #4), is work/life balance. This social pendulum that has swung so far to the right, we’re now reforming sick days because people have abused the system accordingly. Where there seemed to be an adequate amount of pride in the notion of working smart & hard now... for later, this workforce seems to want big pay now at entry levels followed by more pay for less productivity later. I attribute this again wickedly smart marketing companies telling people what they want to hear... to buy their products & our insatiable appetite to be instantly gratified at every turn. It’s like our sole purpose in life is to be entertained. And we love it, until we find ourselves broke or under a mountain of debt later on... And then hate it.
Wait a minute.... it already is?