As so many of us know, work isn’t working.
Employees are disenchanted with their jobs. Employers can’t find people to fill their requirements. The problem really stems from something simple. Work has changed — and many of us have not caught up. It’s a problem that’s easy to fix, and it begins with blowing up yesterday’s employment pact.
I learned this lesson firsthand. For the first decade of my career, I followed the path of the corporate hierarchy. I was rewarded for my loyalty and tenure with promotions, picnics, and silver spoons when my children were born. I was also taught to measure success in other ways such as the size of one’s office (we actually counted ceiling tiles) and whether or not it had a wooden desk.
Then, 11 years into my tenure, the company decided to shut down the manufacturing plant where I was working. They offered anyone willing to leave two years’ salary, two years of benefits, and $25,000. My wife also worked there and she thought the package was too compelling to pass up. If she was going to leave, I decided I would too.
With that move I also left behind my belief in the paternalistic company. I recognized that no corporation could take care of me forever. At first this was a scary realization. But as time wore on, I realized how empowering it was to view myself as the CEO of my own destiny. This didn’t mean that I could never work for anyone else again. In fact, I would spend the next several decades working for other companies — but I was the one in charge of my fate. This was perhaps the most influential epiphany of my career.
My experience — from the loyalty-based rewards to the excessive exit package seems utterly unfathomable today. Many of today’s workers don’t even have a desktop, let alone a wood desk. And jobs for life? Ha! The number of people who put in more than 10 years at a company has decreased significantly, while people leaving jobs after less than one year is rapidly increasing. Statistics show that the Generation Y employee will have 10 jobs by the age of 38. Kids in high school say they never want to work for “the man.”
Companies themselves have changed and can’t offer jobs for life. The average life expectancy of a company in the S&P 500 has dropped from 75 years (in 1937) to 15 years today, according to John Hagel III at Deloitte Center for the Edge.
We are now in the Age of Entrepreneurship, where the only one in charge of your career is you. This should not be intimidating, but liberating for both employees and employers. Here are the changes needed to fix work.
5 Things Employees Must Do to Succeed in the Age of Entrepreneurship:
1. It’s all about integrity: Do what you say. Say what you do. Always act in a way that makes people remember you positively.
2. Have a great attitude: You might be brilliant, but if you are hard to manage, it’s easy to find someone else. Be fun and easy to work with.
3. Be brutally honest with yourself: Be harder on yourself than anyone else will be. Know your strengths and weaknesses.
4. Don’t confuse action for traction: Focus on outcomes, not face time.
5. Build your network: Find role models and mentors outside of your organization.
5 Things Companies Must Do to Succeed in the Age of Entrepreneurship:
In the Age of Paternalism, the age in which I started my career, employers thought of their employees as something they “owned.” And, as long as employees were loyal, companies took care of them. Tenure was prioritized over talent and employers did their best to keep their shining stars under wraps so that they wouldn’t be “poached.”
Now, in the Age of Entrepreneurship, when companies don’t last as long and employees want to work for themselves, we have to contend with new attitudes and new technologies. The openness of the web means that everybody has insight about and access to all of your talent.
If you find that scary you are focusing on the wrong thing. We must evolve from Company First to People First as companies don’t have all of the talent they need and employees will have (and want) many jobs, not just the one they are in. These are the top 5 management practices every employer should be doing:
1. Get voted onto the team every day. Employees have more options than ever. You must believe it’s a luxury to have them today and work hard to keep them tomorrow.
2. Promote employees to become CEOs of their own destinies. People do better work when they have more flexibility and control over what they do. We must give people encouragement to do their best work while they are with us and understand that achieving their destiny might mean pursing different opportunities.
3. Provide coaching. You have an obligation to grow and coach employees to be as successful as they can be. Provide them access to executives and others inside and outside the organization who can serve as mentors to keep them challenged and help them reach their potential.
4. Celebrate contributions along the way. So many people don’t feel valued and appreciated. Thank you goes a long way.
5. Rethink the send-off. Too many employers are angry when their best talent leaves. They feel as if they are being deserted and they shun them. Sometimes great performers leave and don’t like the new job as much as they had hoped they would. Why not welcome them back?
Ultimately, the shift of power to individual employees is not something that should be feared. When everyone opts in and employees are happier, companies are more successful. This will fix the way work works.