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June 23, 2014

Getting Ready For The New Workforce

Posted by Kumar Paramasivam (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:45 AM

Business Insider Interview on Workplace Flexibility [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KCXJ3BpBf4]

I recently came across a fascinating movie from the late 1950s that deals with some of the same issues the corporate world is struggling with today. It turns out that very little has changed in the last half-century when it comes to how enterprises cope with an ever-evolving workforce.

The movie is called Desk Set. It stars Spencer Tracy as an efficiency expert who is hired by a large media company to find ways to streamline operations and save money. He stumbles upon the reference department headed by Katherine Hepburn; her headstrong character futilely resists the installation of a computer that Tracy claims would do the work of six librarians. The computer, which takes up an entire room, is fed punch cards. It performs extremely well until it accidentally prints out dismissal notices on pink slips to everyone in the company, including the CEO!

Humorous elements aside, it's stunning how closely connected are a 1950s organization and the global enterprises of today. I still see enterprises that have the urge to implement or retain one-size-fits-all employment processes and expect all their employees to fall into place. The misguided idea is that they will settle in for careers that last two or three decades and then retire with a small office party and a gold wristwatch.

Well, guess what? These organizations are going to be left behind if they think they can win the war for top-notch talent with such outdated processes. These companies might as well be building computers with punch cards! Today's professional services firms are in a market that is all about cutthroat competition and tight profit margins. Talent is key to winning lucrative contracts, building brand recognition, driving innovation and remaining relevant as an enterprise. It's about accessing the appropriate talent for the right job, at the right time and place.

Adding to the challenges is the fact that millennials are making up the majority of the workforce with each passing year. They're the ones who dominate social media, are digitally savvy, and are constantly looking for their next big career challenge. They see the world through the lens of flexibility. Instead of buying a car, they'll hire one for a weekend (ZipCar) or for their next 10-minute jaunt (Uber). Instead of buying an album, they'll troll music apps like Spotify or i-tunes that let them listen to one song at a time. Instead of cable they watch Netflix, Hulu and the likes. This generation is all about how best to use a product and service ... until better products and services come along.

Why shouldn't they think about their careers as anything different? Millenials are looking for employment opportunities that offer them flexibility, opportunity to work on cutting-edge solutions, ability to continuously learn in different spheres and at the same time seek and provide feedback. Companies that don't respond to these expectations and aspirations will miss out on an entire generation of talent that will walk out the door. Doing so is risky for services firms that rely heavily on their workforce for delivering on client commitments. In the United States alone, companies are staring down a shortage of certified public accountants, computer programmers, health professionals, and engineers. In this scenario, enterprises should recognize these shifting trends and must have the right processes and systems in place to attract and retain their human capital. Leading enterprises are evaluating their processes and systems that support recruitment, onboarding, coaching, learning, development and performance measurement and are making changes to suit the current trends. These enterprises recognize that the best and brightest talent have the urge to move around under the assumption that it' best for their careers and will be picky about what company they join and stay back at. It's your job to show them that your enterprise is a place where they can grow their talents - all while growing your company as well.

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