My inbox at the office has been the recipient of several monthly newsletters from the Association for Talent Development over the last few days. These newsletters, which are organized into different themes such as management, leadership, career development, etc., feature a summary of the latest content from their blogs relevant to the topic of the newsletter. I cruise through these as time permits, taking a look at the different articles and latest insights from the field. Since it’s Friday, and my goal for Friday posts is to talk about something that I find fascinating, I thought I’d share one article in particular that I found to be rather thought-provoking.
The article by Brad Federman, COO of F&H Solutions Group, is titled Take Cover: Careers Are Under Attack. The article postulates that it’s not just careers that are changing more frequently…it is also companies itself. Brad points out that according to the Yale School of Management, one company on the S&P Index is replaced with another every two weeks. Richard Foster, emeritus director of the school, states that by the year 2027 he estimates 75% of the companies currently on the S&P will have been replaced. That represents a lot of disruption and change.
The author points out that this disruption cycle has been getting shorter and shorter as time has progressed. From the perspective of organizations, the author postulates that the current modus operndi of modern business practices is exactly backwards. Companies who are focused on fortifying what they have already accomplished and building on past successes suffer another subtle shift. Their goal becomes oriented in the past as they seek only to protect what they have built. This inevitably leads to companies being caught flat-footed in an environment where change is becoming more frequent, an environment where flexibility is a company’s best insurance against failure.
The second shift this represents to organizations ties into this environment’s effect on individual employees. The author states that in most companies
…people rarely move through the organizational ranks in the traditional manner, and organization structures generally change too fast. Instead, organization should help employees become better at embracing and managing change, specifically personal and career change.
The rest of the article goes on to emphasize that for employees, all of this change means that employees can no longer rest on their laurels. Because of the frequency of disruptions and changes, as an employee you need to keep your skills sharp because you never know when you will be in a situation where you are going to be forced to make adjustments or to change career paths. This means thinking about how your KSA’s (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) will make or keep you relevant in the next five years, the next 10 years, and beyond. It also means staying flexible about career choices, and being willing to make changes when the time comes.
This article is something that anyone who is a member of the Millennial generation knows all to well, although it does seem to strike Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers as something of a shock. The days of spending your life at single place or even within a single field are long behind us. As the author points out, the idea of working your way up through the ranks as a sure-fire way towards advancement is also long gone. Since the earliest of the Millennials graduated from university just as the Great Recession hit, we were long forced to come to terms with the fact that our working lives were going to be in a near constant state of flux, and we needed to prepare ourselves accordingly.
Occupying either the very end of Generation X or the very beginning of the Millennial generation, depending on which set of dates you are using to define them, I have already shifted careers once in my career path, and I am still at the beginning of it. Several of my friends and school mates have been forced to do the same, and even those who haven’t have been forced to think about their skills and educational attainments in new ways. To us, it is simply a reality that needs to be addressed in order to advance in our working lives. It does represent a fundamental shift of the way you view yourself and the world, but it is a shift that must be made.
I found this article fascinating because I agree with the author. It is not just a fundamental reality that employees must face; their employers must face it as well. It does mean shifting your focus towards the future, and away from protecting what has been valued in the past. Some companies have started to acknowledge this changing environment already, and there are the whispers of major shifts in standard operating protocol, including a new emphasis away from Annual Budgeting and towards Quarterly Rolling Forecasts, which have the advantage of allowing faster response to changing business environments. More changes will surely be coming and it cannot be ignored. As Heraclitus once wrote, “Everything changes and nothing stands still.”