Digital is changing not just the way we socialize both online and offline but it’s having a tremendous impact on how and what we work, regardless if our job has an online component or not. Employers are struggling to swift through hundreds of applications, while applicants are increasingly evaluating the companies they decide to work at.
In spite of the effort put into matching employers with employees, most people aren’t happy with the positions they hold. According to the Towers Watson 2014 Global Workforce Study, only 4 in 10 employees are highly-engaged. That’s less than half! Is it any wonder then that there’s large and constant migrating workforce?
Recently, I’ve noticed an avalanche of articles and blog posts offering tips on how to learn to love the job you hate. Today, I want to look at how much of this is aimed at securing a more complacent employee for the company and how much of these tips are intended to help people rediscover the positive aspects of their current jobs.
Evolving Job Market
The notion of an evolving job market is nothing new. In fact, we’ve seen it throughout history, from the hunter passing down his skills to his children, to apprenticeships, formalized education and even to self-directed learning. What’s new about today’s job market is the incredible pace at which jobs are changing and positions are being defined and redefined.
One of the biggest changes is in terms of position and overall job descriptions. Our parents and grandparents were engineers, pilots, teachers, doctors, plumbers, etc and, when you were told Anne was a nurse, you knew off-the-bat what she did. We’re things called Scrum Masters, Digital Communications Specialists, Interaction Designers, Product Owners and the list could easily continue. Positions have become so highly-specialized even those of us working in the industry might have trouble understanding what a position actually entails. That’s because companies are trying to weed out unqualified applicants and the jobs themselves are becoming more and more focused.
The truth is that people will both apply and take jobs just for the income and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make a living. However, once they’ve dealt with the issue of having a source of income, they will inevitably look at all the aspects of their job, at which point the less-than-ideal aspects of their current position will creep out of the woodwork and start bugging them.
Should someone in this position say “yay” or “nay” to the job? Both. Yay so long as it’s satisfactory from an economical standpoint and nay once they’re skilled and financially-secure enough to quit and/ or seek employment elsewhere. No matter how much employers might dislike it, it’s an essential component of an evolving job market and if we’re to keep both employers and employees competitive, we need people to promote and take jobs for reasons other than having an income they can survive on.
Training the right way
Not unlike employees, employers hire less-than ideal candidates because they urgently need the manpower and can’t find the perfect match. Once hired, the employee might discover there’s quite a bit more to his job than expected. The practice itself isn’t bad, so long as you’re trying to train people within parameters relevant to their experience and are respectful of their career paths. That’s to say, it’s fine to try to turn a nag horse into a stunning stallion but it’s not OK to try to get an elephant to lay eggs.
Working in the digital industry, a lot of what we know is a result of autodidacticism, experience and a combination thereof. In this context, employees might expect you to learn on your own, and to some extent it’s reasonable, self-improvement being essential if you want to keep working in any industry. Having people learn new technologies or acquiring completely new skills in their own time, however is not.
There are two major issues here. On the one hand, research clearly shows that employees are actively seeking training opportunities that will allow them to stay competitive in their respective industries, however, they expect at least some of this to be provided by their employer.
Bottom line – an employer who asks and expects you to improve your skills and/ or acquire new ones but does not offer any support towards that end is indicative of a very one-sided workplace where you’ll have trouble following your career path and achieving your goals.
The modern workplace takes a rather liberal approach to people’s positions, in that you might start by doing one thing and end up doing another, with very little to say about it. This might become a valuable learning opportunity, a completely different career or the mother of all hassles that an employee can’t wait to get rid of.
Whether or not you should become cozy with your brand-new responsibilities is entirely dependent on how how well they fit in with what you want to do. I’ve mentioned career paths a few times already, because I see them as an essential component of professional evolution.
While they’re definitely not set in stone, developing and keeping up with one, will give both the employer and employee a very good idea of what someone is planning for their future. Keeping an employee focused and challenged within the parameters of what they plan to do professionally, keeps them challenged and happy, while allowing the employer to shift adequate responsibilities their way and fill in gaps within the organization.
The saddest thing is that not only have a big chunk of employers not implemented this concept within their companies, but some have never even bothered to ask their employees what they plan to do for the future. I don’t know about you, but I’d find it difficult to try and persuade someone to suck it up and stick with a company that’s not willing to help you achieve at least some of your professional goals.
Empowering the work force
As companies evolve and define new roles within their structures, they outline increasingly focused combinations of skills. If in the 90s you’d see a job ad for a Computer Programmer, today we’re seeing hundreds of ads for everything from Senior Backend Developer, Application Systems Analyst, Associate Software Engineer, Interactive Web Producer and the list goes on.
Naturally, these jobs come with a very in-depth, highly-specialized set of skills and competencies that respond not just to the needs of the company posting the ad but integrate within its structure and existing teams. Keeping this in mind, we can assume an almost implicit testing component within this work environment. Most people who could adequately perform the job will have most of the skills required and will have to work on perfecting the rest within a specific time-frame.
In other words, you may be a wiz at programming but odds are you’ve never worked in the specific set of circumstances a company launching a brand new product finds itself. Therefore, an employee coming into this environment will judge not just how well he can perform the job he’s been given, the company he’s working for but whether or not he actually likes working with weather data and user behavior statistics to generate a custom app.
And he or she might find that they don’t like it. So what should they do? Stay for as long as they need to determine whether or not they have the willingness and skills required to function within and contribute to a niche market.
A big part of our attitude towards the workplace is reminiscent of the early 80s, into the late 90s when the employers dominated the job market and held all the cards of our professional futures. Our decade is fundamentally different, not only because of a self-empowered workforce presented with a slew of career options and work opportunities but because the workforce itself is becoming a major driver in the evolution of the working environment defining and redefining what a valuable position means and forging their own career paths.
Do we really want to stop this progress by teaching people to love something that’s only “good enough” or do we want to empower them even further and develop an ever more competitive working environment for the benefit of both employee and employer?