Predictions 2022: The Great Economic Reordering: The Role of Work Changes Dramatically
Prediction: By 2030, management will be considered a skill and not a job description.
Prediction: By 2025, 50% of people who can work remotely will, rising to 85% by 2030.
There’s more to life than work
COVID changed us in many ways. One of the salient shifts is that work no longer holds the central place in people’s lives as it once did. Since the late 70s, the social contract of work has been breaking. The rise of shareholder primacy and the associated political environment made it clear to workers that they had little loyalty from their employers. Because of this, people are rethinking their priorities which drives questions about where to work, how much to work, and what type of work fits with their view of how they want to live their lives. The backlash against treating people as fungible assets has been long in coming, but it is happening now and causing a great economic restructuring.
The “Great Resignation”
COVID forced employers to offer flexible work options and employees do not want to give that flexibility up. Many are choosing not to return to a thankless job that doesn’t satisfy the desire for meaning and purpose. From April 2021 to the end of July, nearly 16 million Americans quit their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is confirmed by other research. The “Great Resignation” is paired with a boom in monthly new business formations as people decide to take risks and bet on their entrepreneurial skills.
This change goes beyond the mistaken perception that people are not returning to work because of government handouts. It is about people not wanting to work for employers who do not treat them humanely. Research on American workers indicates that they are revolting by quitting their jobs, retiring earlier, or trying something new.
Former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich commented on Twitter that there is not a labor shortage in the US but there is “a shortage of good-paying jobs, a shortage of safe jobs, and a shortage of jobs with decent hours.”
Employers do not understand what employees want
Few employers understand why employees are leaving. According to a McKinsey survey, the most important reasons employees leave have to do with relational issues: feeling valued by the organization, their manager, and having a sense of belonging. Other important issues are the potential for advancement, having a flexible work schedule, and trusted teammates. In contrast, employers tend to focus more on transactional issues such as compensation and development that are just table stakes. One topic is perceived as a challenge for employees and employers alike: work-life balance.
The problem of work-life balance is not new. A study conducted in 2019 i.e. pre-COVID found that people take 26% of their work home with them and 40% routinely use their computers after 10 PM. Is burnout and job dissatisfaction any surprise?
The implications of these trends are far-reaching and will impact the size and structure of multiple industries. The change is real and will not happen to all organizations at the same pace, but all will be affected.
What actions do employers need to take?
- Provide meaningful work and a living wage. A paycheck alone will not do.
- Re-educate managers whose bad habits have demoralized workers for years. Turn mindless managers into mentor managers who are focused on people’s well-being and professional development. Eliminate bullying and disrespectful behavior from the workplace. Give employees a voice.
- Create workplace environments where people can connect, collaborate and form friendships. The factory-floor office mentality is not yet dead but it should be.
- Rework product and service offerings mindful that the days of conspicuous consumption are waning. People who are reevaluating the role of work in their lives are willing to make do with less in exchange for a better quality of life.
- Rethink the organization’s business model to acknowledge and capitalize on the evolving economic reordering that will result as career progression takes a back seat to job satisfaction.
Some 13 million Americans were laid off in March 2020, which led to more widespread rethinking, research shows. A Pew Research survey this year found that 66 percent of unemployed adults say they have seriously considered changing careers.
Home businesses nearly DOUBLED during the pandemic, seeing a 72% increase inside hustles worldwide!
Workers want change.