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Job Survival During An Economic Downturn

Dramatic changes are taking place in the workforce. People who embrace new technology are discovering new opportunity while those who fight it are not fully aware of the fundamental changes taking place in our society. During an economic slowdown, the fighters of change will be the first to go out the door or companies that fight change will be the first to shut down. In the following article, I will compare opposing attitudes, fighting change versus embracing change.

  1. Fighting Change - People who fight changing technology want to maintain their comfort zone with familiar surroundings. (Status quo) As pressure for change grows, they depend on others to protect their comfort zone through politicians, unions or other bureaucratic organizations. During their youth, they learned a professional skill and plan to ride it till retirement, like their parents did. In the meantime, they do repetitive tasks (hourly, daily, weekly or monthly) waiting for their turn to be promoted. As fighters resist change, their efficiency falls further behind and in time their professional skill has no value to anyone.
  2. Embracing Change - People who embrace changing technology thrive on challenges. They are independent thinkers who seek new opportunity, which is found in change. They are leaders of efficiency and they are the leaders of blunders. Trial and error produces blunders and this is the only way to find what works. The casual observer does not recognize increased efficiency of these people, they remember their blunders. The person who depends on proven methods can’t understand how blunder’s get promoted ahead of those who maintain the status quo.

Technology is eliminating mid-level leadership. Decision making and responsibility is moving to the front-line by people who carry computers and communication equipment on their belt while providing the physical service. This trend not only cuts overhead cost, it speeds up service, corrects problems while still minor and allows speedy recognition and implementation of efficient procedures. Competing organizations with layers of bureaucratic management can’t compete.

This trend requires new attitudes in our education system and work place. The assembly line replaced skilled craftsmen of the twentieth century, today, the computer is removing dependency on many academic skills. The new front-line worker is a technician with analytical skills who is in a continuous learning mode. This is achieved with challenges and a habit of solving them through self-education.

Off the job, self-educated people engage in self-motivated projects, which expand the learning environment. The learning phase is failure. With every failure, they learn what does not work, then analyze and develop new ideas of what might work. They also learn to accept failure and bounce back from it. With persistence, they find what works. One of the by-products is learning how to finish what they start.

In the typical personnel office, job applicants are asked how many years they spent in school. In worker responsibility organizations, employers want to know what motivates applicants and their ability to manage challenges. Class grades have no value if there is no vision or motivation behind them. Today’s education system does not prepare students for workplace responsibilities, yet, this is the future.

During an economic slowdown, businesses are forced to cut overhead cost. During the twentieth century, front-line people were first out the door. During the recession of 1992 and 2003, middle management, people who fought change, were first out the door. Today, technology is available to replace the middleman. During the 1990s, companies have been slow to take action because of the morale factor in a tight labor market. In an open labor market there is no hesitation. The person who survives, maybe advances, will be an independent analytical thinker who seeks challenges and willing to support change that will get the job done efficiently.

Life span of professional skills during the last hundred years.


Life span of professional skills during the last hundred years. (Click on image.)

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