Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Archive for the ‘innovation’ Category

Unemployment: Why Won’t Congress Talk About It!?

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Change to WinAn interesting look at the unemployment rate. “What is currently a temporary long-term unemployment problem runs the risk of morphing into a permanent and costly increase in the unemployment rate” unless Congress takes action to create jobs. 

Why the Unemployment Rate Is So High – New York Times

Unemployment claims have increased slightly. “The Labor Department says applications rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 371,000, the most in five weeks.”

Unemployment claims rise slightly in latest week – USA Today

“We need to avoid a lost generation of young people who will be playing economic catch-up their whole lives. We cannot stop pressing our leaders to help struggling poor and middle-class Americans.”

Crowdsourcing our economic recovery – CNN 

Even though the economy is improving, we need to do more to ensure the long term unemployed get back on their feet. Long term unemployment makes it harder and harder to provide for one’s family, and causes dramatic increases in mental illness. It’s time Washington gets busy putting people back to work. 

Long-Term Unemployed Winning Jobs Or Giving Up? – Huffington Post

This article was originally posted by ChangeToWin on January 11, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Change to Win is an organization created by over 5.5 million workers – if corporations can join together to hire an army of lobbyists, working and middle class Americans must also band together and restore balance by making sure we have a strong voice and a seat at the table again.

(Colleen Gartner is an intern at Workplace Fairness.)

The 4.0 Career Is Coming... Are You Ready?

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Douglas LaBierEven in the midst of our economic disaster that’s hitting all but the wealthiest Americans, a transformation is continuing within people’s orientation to work. I call it the rise of the 4.0 career.

This growing shift concerns how men and women think about and pursue their careers. It also defines the features of organizations that they want to work for and commit to. This shift that I describe below transcends its most visible form: Generation X’s and, especially, Generation Y’s attitudes and behavior in the workplace. Those are part of a broader shift whose origins are within men and women at the younger end of the baby boomer spectrum.

I first encountered this while interviewing yuppies (remember them?) in the 1980s for my book “Modern Madness, about the emotional downside of career success. I often found that people would want to talk about a gnawing feeling of wanting something more “meaningful” from their work. They didn’t have quite the right language back then to express what that would look like other than feeling a gap between their personal values and the trade-offs they had to make to keep moving up in their careers and companies. The positive ideals of the 60s seemed to have trickled down into their yearnings, where they remained a kind of irritant.

Flashing forward 25 years, those people are now today’s midlife baby boomers. Their earlier irritation has bloomed into consciously expressed attitudes and behavior that have filtered down into the younger generations, where they’ve continued to evolve. Today, they’re reshaping how people think about and pursue their careers within today’s era of interconnection, constant networking and unpredictable change.

I’ll oversimplify for the sake of highlighting an evolution of people’s career orientations:

Career Versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.0… And The Emerging 4.0

The 1.0 career describes doing whatever kind of work enables you to survive. It’s what people do when they’re in situations of extreme hardship, political upheaval, or within socioeconomic conditions that limit their opportunity and choices. That probably describes the situation for the masses of people throughout most of history. And of course it exists today, especially among those who have been hardest hit by the current recession. In these situations, your criterion for “success” is being able to earn enough of a living to survive — pay your bills and support your family. The conflicts that people experience within the 1.0 career often include the impact of working conditions, discrimination and limited opportunities for getting onto a career path that can lead to something better.

Version 2.0 emerged with the political and economic environments that supported the emergence of the modern “career.” That is, work within increasingly large, bureaucratic organizations that developed from about the late 1800s into the early 20th century. Those organizations required layers of management and administration — white-collar jobs, within bureaucracies. Your career could advance along a defined path, and it was available to people who were able to gain a foothold within it. That path was often facilitated by educational opportunities and/or social class advantages people brought with them.

The 2.0 career is what most people define as “careerism:” Pursuing more power, authority, money and position within an organization. It’s all about performing — doing whatever gets you those external rewards. Our career culture begins conditioning many of us that way in childhood, as Madeline Levine described in her book, “The Price of Privilege.” It probably even contributes to the widespread experience of ADD.

Over time, you become set up for conflicts between performing to get those rewards on the one hand, and your internal desire to achieve something of deeper value, on the other. The 2.0 career still predominates within today’s career culture. It’s where you find the conditions that generate, for example, work-life conflict, boredom, workplace bullying, hostile management practices, and subtle racial and gender barriers to moving up.

The TV show “Madmen” highlights much of the experiences of the 2.0 career, and it predominated until harbingers of the 3.0 career began to appear during the last 20 years. The 3.0 career reflects a desire to find more personal meaning and sense of purpose through work. That’s what I began to find among members of the baby boomer generation when I interviewed them in their younger years.

The 3.0 careerist struggles for more balance between work and personal life, and is less willing than the 2.0 careerist to stick with an unfulfilling job, or settle for one when job-hunting. Conflicts within the 3.0 orientation are visible, for example, in the pushback against the longer hours companies increasingly pressure people into. Or, in rebellion against being available 24/7, even while on a vacation. Also, an increasing number of people say that moving up is a downer for them. For example, a Families and Work Institute report found that promotions are being turned down by workers in the thick of their careers. Workers used to be eager to take on more responsibility, and now they aren’t as much.

A woman in her 40s expressed that theme, saying, “Simply put, I want more fun in my life.” She added that there was “too much disconnect” between her duties as Chief Operation Officer — including managing her staff and dealing with the other people on the senior management team — and what she described as the “neglected me, this person hiding inside the roles I have to perform every day.” She said, “I’m going to do something different at this point, no matter what kind of adjustments I have to make.”

The 3.0 careerists do not want their professional lives to be the enemy of their talents or interests outside work. They want less fragmentation and more integration among the different parts of their lives. More than just having a successful career, they want their careers to serve and support a successful personal life.

That latter point distinguishes the 3.0 from the emerging 4.0 career. The former is more self-development-focused. In contrast, the 4.0 careerist wants more than sufficient work-life balance and personal meaning. To be sure, those remain important. But the 4.0 career is more focused on having impact on something larger than oneself.

In essence, the 4.0 careerist is motivated by a sense of service to and connection with the larger human community through the product or service he or she contributes to. The vehicle for this is the opportunity for continuous new learning and creative growth, through which you use your talents and capacities for having a positive impact on human lives, through your work.

This is the future. You’re likely to be feeling the pull towards the 4.0 career. And even if you’re not, you need to know how to work with those who are. For example, the most savvy men and women already know that today’s workplace requires a high level of collaboration with very diverse people. You need to align your talents and skills with common objectives, whether a product or service. That means diminishing your ego, learning to “forget yourself” in the service of teamwork towards that larger purpose, while also constantly looking for opportunities for learning, growth and having impact.

From the 4.0 perspective, you move through self-interest, not into it. You’re tuned in to the larger picture, in which you’re one player, while finding ways to make a positive contribution to the service or product. It includes being aware of how you’re perceived by others, and scanning for ways to be collaborative rather than self-promoting at others’ expense. As a CEO recently commented, “the definition of success is the company, not an individual.”

Consistent with the above themes, the 4.0 careerist wants to work for a company that practices and values positive leadership, transparency, informality, collaboration, high ethical standards, innovation… and is also a fun place to work. They want companies that promote and value diversity and an equitable reward system for achievement. Within them, people work hard but also have fun.

The 4.0 career is visible in the pull men and women report towards wanting to contribute to the common good — whether it’s through the value and usefulness of a product or service. That theme links the 4.0 career with the emerging new business model focused on creating sustainable enterprises and the “triple bottom line” — financial, social and environmental measures of success. It combines financial success with contributing to social needs and problems. This is “social entrepreneurialism” — the movement towards creating successful businesses that also contribute to the solution of social problems. In effect, the 4.0 careerist thinks of work as a vehicle for change and influence upon the larger human community.

A Broad Movement

I mentioned above that Generations X and Y embody many of the characteristics of the 4.0 career. I’ll describe their contributions to this evolution in a future post. But it’s clearly a broad movement transcending generations.

For example, a survey of 8,000 workers across all age groups and occupations by Concours Group found that the most productive, energized workers gravitate towards companies that provide opportunities for ongoing learning, growth and creative challenge. They want their work to have a positive impact on something more meaningful than just the narrower rewards of money, position, or power. And, they want the service or product they work on to have a positive impact on people’s lives. Regarding older workers, the New Face of Work Survey conducted by the MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures found similar trends among older baby boomers. It reports that half of that group say they’re looking to shift their careers in a direction that would provide more service to others.

And, a 2007 survey by MonsterTRAK found that 80 percent of those surveyed said they want a job that has a positive impact on the environment. And 92 percent said they would choose working for a “green” company. Other research shows employees working at companies with corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs are the most satisfied. They stay at their jobs longer and are more content with senior management then their peers at companies with lackluster CSR programs, according to a survey conducted by Kenexa Research Institute.

How The 4.0 Careerist Thinks And Behaves

Here are some ways to assess yourself and your work environment in relation to the 4.0 careerist. Do you find:

  • Ways to contribute something positive to people’s lives, whether through the product or service, regardless of your status within the company.
  • Opportunities for new learning, continued growth and expanding your skills and competencies.
  • A positive, fun work environment that makes you look forward to going to work.
  • A safe and nontoxic office environment and building, including sufficient natural light, and green equipment and furniture.
  • Open communication and feedback, up and down.
  • A team-oriented, innovative and challenging work culture.
  • Employee recognition and reward programs that are fairly applied.
  • Positive, supportive leadership and management practices, including corporate citizenship, ethics, transparency and corporate responsibility practices.
  • Commitment to diversity in hiring and promotion of employees, including differences of gender, racial/ethnic group, and sexual orientation.
  • Support for workers’ well-being, through wellness programs, exercise, stress management, flextime and other programs, not surface gestures like free coffee and soda.

This article was originally posted on The Huffington Post.

About The Author: Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., a business psychologist and psychotherapist, is Director of the Center for Progressive Development, in Washington, D.C. You may contact him at dlabier@CenterProgressive.org

Outsourcing Jobs...that Can't be Outsourced

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Martin FordPeople who work in knowledge-based fields like information technology, accounting, graphic design or legal research are probably well aware that their jobs are susceptible to being outsourced to a low wage country. In fact, I suspect that economists underestimate the impact that this practice will have on the job market as improving technology makes offshoring cheaper and more accessible to smaller businesses. That may be especially true if weak consumer demand continues to push businesses to focus on cost-cutting rather than revenue growth.

But what about people who have jobs that involve physically interacting with their environment? Those jobs can’t be offshored, right? Well…

There’s an article in the San Jose Mercury News today on the emerging remote-controlled robot industry:

Remote-controlled robots are entering the workforce

The declining prices for telepresence robots will encourage experimentation among companies and entrepreneurs, who will find new uses for them, analysts say.”These robots will have a network effect,” said Hyoun Park, an analyst at the Aberdeen Group, a technology research firm. “The more robots there are, the easier it will be to work remotely in ways we haven’t thought about before.”

As as these technologies become more prevalent, I think one of the new ideas that will emerge will be offshoring the control function. So you’ll have a worker in India or Bangladesh who can do a job that requires physical proximity in a developed country. Some jobs that “can’t be outsourced” … might just get outsourced.

I have a section on this in my book The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future (get the free PDF), which focuses on how technology and globalization are likely to result in increasing structural unemployment:

Those jobs that require significant hand-eye coordination in a varied environment are currently very difficult to fully automate. But what about offshoring? Can these jobs be offshored?In fact they can, and we are likely to see this increasingly in the near future. As an example, consider a manufacturing assembly line. Suppose that the highly repetitive jobs have already been automated, but there remain jobs for skilled operators at certain key points in the production process. How could management get rid of these skilled workers?

They could simply build a remote controlled robot to perform the task, and then offshore the control function. As we have pointed out, it is the ability to recognize a complex visual image and then manipulate a robot arm based on that image that is a primary challenge preventing full robotic automation. Transmitting a real-time visual image overseas, where a low paid worker can then manipulate the machinery, is certainly already feasible. Remote controlled robots are currently used in military and police applications that would be dangerous for humans. We very likely will see such robots in factories and workplaces in the near future.

As I’ve written previously, I don’t think economists understand the extent to which technology is playing a role in the current unemployment crisis–and more importantly how things are likely to progress in the future. Technology and globalization are not going to stand still while we wait for the job market to recover. They will continue to progress and even accelerate. That will make it very difficult to drive the unemployment rate back down without some very effective policies in place.

This article was originally posted on The Huffington Post.

About The Author: Martin Ford is the founder of a Silicon Valley-based software development firm.  He holds a computer engineering degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a graduate business degree from the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future (available from Amazon or as a FREE PDF eBook) and has a blog at econfuture.wordpress.com.

Chaos 1, Order 0

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Image: Bob RosnerBefore Northwest Airlines became a memory following its merger with Delta Airlines, it offered a moment of brilliance. The company decided it would no longer board their planes by rows. You know, seating people in ten row clumps starting from the back of the plane.

Why would they end what is clearly the most orderly and effective way to board an airplane? Precisely because it wasn’t.

Instead, they decided to let first class customers, the disabled, the kids and frequent flyers board first. After that, first come, first served. Now here is the wild part. According to Northwest Airlines, letting people get on the plane randomly, instead of by row, would cut five to ten minutes from the boarding process. By boarding randomly, the airline expected to get 200 people on a plane in 20 to 25 minutes. If my math is correct (and since I’m a graduate of the New Jersey Public Schools, you should have your doubts), that could result in up to a 30% reduction in boarding time.

Think about it. Forcing people to go onto a plane section by section creates logjams in different parts of the plane. On the other hand, letting people on randomly spreads the logjams all over the plane.

Why is this important for those not in the airline industry? Because it’s my experience, reinforced by my emails for the last ten years, that the vast majority of corporations think like Northwest Airlines used to think. They like to command and they like to control. Even when involved with a creative project, organizations want to see plans, projections, reports and lots and lots of meetings.

This announcement reminds us that sometimes a little chaos can get us all where we need to go faster. Significantly faster.

So why do corporations value order so highly? Oddly enough it all comes from our experience in elementary school. A number of years ago I worked for former Army General turned Superintendent of Schools for Seattle, John Stanford. He observed that our school system was largely set up in the early part of this century to create factory workers. And it hasn’t changed from its earliest days. That’s why if you’re like me, you probably remember so much of an emphasis on discipline from your early years.

Factory workers. Obviously these days most of us are not on the line, but rather in jobs that require creativity and initiative. Yet, our brains were trained during the majority of our formative years to value order over all else.

I know what you’re thinking, that I’m taking one little example and getting totally carried away. Ironically, I’m going to accuse you—the corporate people reading this blog—of doing the very same thing. Stop embracing command and control at the expense of allowing pockets of chaos to thrive throughout your organization.

3M, widely seen as the corporation that consistently generates the most revenue from new products, allows each employee time to work on their pet projects during working hours. Sure they’ve got to finish their regular assignments, but they are given a little bit of leash to do something outside the scope of their jobs.

Which reminds me of the arch enemy of Maxwell Smart in the old TV show “Get Smart.” It was “Chaos.” All of our lives we’ve been told that chaos is the enemy. Make it your friend, like Northwest Airlines did, and you just might be surprised at how much more your organization will accomplish.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Your Rights Job Survival The Issues Features Resources About This Blog