By Lisa Mininni
July 16, 2009
For generations, Industrial Age thinking was at work. It’s the age when rules and boundaries were power based and dependence on the leader was commonplace. Corporations set up their systems with Industrial Age assumptions requiring employees to “fit in” and “follow the chain of command” while tasks and assignments didn’t vary much. People bought into a mindset of “jobs for life,” where they worked for one company their entire career, which has now ended.
The Industrial Age motivators at work stressed uniformity, sameness and stability that infused the workforce mindset. This mindset led to extensive benefit programs and other incentives to keep employees working in the same workplace. It built legacy costs and debt that is now crippling industries in a rapidly changing world.
The automotive industry evolved into big complex infrastructures employing generations of dependents. Mom and Pop entrepreneurs competed for talent with the growth of big box stores and complex infrastructures grew even bigger. Now generations of employees have lost their jobs and are thinking of business ownership since new employment hiring has slowed. The entrepreneurs, if former large-corporate types, need to rethink their Industrial Age upbringing to create success in the Information Age. So, too, their former leadership will need to shed some of their layers and mindsets to move more nimbly.
Are the bankruptcies of the largest industrial age-related conglomerates marking the end of an era and an emergence of a new workplace mindset? We shall see as the Information Age continues to mark a turning point in society. Almost every aspect of daily life is influenced in some way, including the way we communicate, how we network, diversity of people and the economy. Large organizations will need to redefine how they get work done to prevent the repeat of soaring legacy costs.
Mindsets influence behavior and daily decision making. As an example, many Industrial Age leaders may look at a resume of a candidate who has averaged 1-3 years at each employer, labeling them a job hopper. Yet, these same job hoppers (or, as they have now been dubbed employment consumers) saw their parents lose jobs and will tell you that they are just managing their careers. This Information Age workforce wants more flexibility, choices and personal control. Leaders need to continuously change their mindsets as well as infrastructures, like vesting and training programs, knowing these employees will not have the jobs-for-life mindset. They also believe in collaboration not traditional hierarchical infrastructures that many Industrial Age workers have come to know.
How Do You Move Beyond This Cloud of Ambiguity?
Think about these tips to move through these transitional times:
-¢ Consider the Present Workplace and Proactively Prepare for the Future. It will be important to examine how current events are shaping the future workforce, examine outdated assumption systems, and adopt new mindsets. Encourage employees to manage their careers and provide opportunities for growth. It may mean creating career paths outside of the organization, keeping in touch with the employee through social online networks, and inviting them to return when they have acquired other experiences.
-¢ Rethink the Workplace Model. Traditional bricks-and-mortar headquarters created overhead costs and commuting created daily stresses and energy consumption. Recruitment of talent to these headquarters brought with it large moving expenses and heavy fringe benefit incentives. With Web-based access, employers can expand their talent pool, increase productivity, reduce costs, or develop multi-purpose meeting spaces or hubs.
-¢ Expand Diversity. Uniformity, assimilation and stability were motivators of the past. Technology exposed the workforce to other cultures, ethnicities and ways to get work done. It broadened the definition of diversity beyond just people and cultures to diversity of business lines, revenue streams and employment choices. Many state governments now see their dependency on automotive and realize the advantages of economic and business diversity. The workforce of the future wants to work with variety and choices in mind and will expand the definition of diversity further and their employment history will reflect it.
-¢ Focus on Agility. Leaders will see a more collaborative role and develop workplaces that provide employees growth and options rather than outdated layers of management, unnecessary redundancy and complicated infrastructures.
This is the time for radically new mindset changes for rapidly changing times. Everyone needs to be invested in becoming personal leaders, change to variable demands, and establish creative, flexible, and adaptive work environments. No matter one’s role, everyone needs to be invested in being personal leaders each taking a challenging look at their own mindsets for the greater success of the U.S. and all of its stakeholders.
Lisa Mininni is president of Excellerate Associates, an organizational development and coaching company and host of BlogTalkRadio.com’s Navigating Change Show. She is the author of Me, Myself, and Why? The Secrets to Navigating Change. You can reach her at [email protected].