Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) paraphrased an ancient Persian proverb in his Conduct of Life: Behavior, when he wrote, “The world possesses three types of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who know not that things are happening or have happened.” This is so true with regard to today’s work world.
The cutting edge for workers in the modern workplace most likely will belong to the ones who make things happen. Two key characteristics describe workers who should be able to thrive in the rapidly changing work world: focus and versatility.
1. The first key characteristic that thriving workers must possess is focus. They must have the ability to focus their work efforts in the area of their God-given natural abilities, strengths, and talents. This will require a thorough knowledge of these God-given attributes. Workers who are not sure of their talents or who do not know where their strengths lie most likely will flounder in the ever-changing workplace.
2. The second key characteristic is versatility. In today’s workplace it’s usually not enough for workers simply to know their talents, abilities, and strengths. They also must be able to discern quickly how to use those attributes in the workplace with assurance and confidence, knowing that God has not given anyone else their particular strengths and abilities; in those they are unique.
As the work world changes, workers must be able to recognize and respond positively as they react to changes around them. This means workers must take the initiative and the responsibility for personal improvement, career development, and enhancement. There are generally 10 trends that are currently influencing and reshaping the work world. Workers must recognize these trends and do what is necessary to ensure that they conform and are not excluded from the changing workplace.
1. The work world is becoming more global. The work world no longer is operating exclusively within independent and nationalistic cultures. Industrialized nations with 350 million workers, whose pay scale averages $18 per hour, are now in competition with the 1.2 billion workers of Third World nations who average less than $2 per hour. For this reason workers need to consider becoming proficient in second or third languages and in high tech communications.
2. Corporate downsizing. As global networking and labor cost competition from the Third World increase, market prices must remain steady to remain competitive. Therefore, industrial nation corporations must institute cost-cutting measures—layoffs and forced early retirement—in order to maintain corporate profits.
3. More work for fewer workers. When downsizing occurs, it’s more than likely that fewer laid-off workers will be recalled or replaced. Instead, remaining staff will be expected to take up the slack, which will result in a heavier workload for the same amount of pay.
4. Talent and ability are becoming the focus to ensure job security. Job security in the future belongs to workers who develop track records of being excellent at the skill demanded from them. Quality productivity makes workers necessary to the economic success of businesses and organizations. In essence, security rests in the clear knowledge of God-given talents and compatible work settings where they can be used to their maximum potential.
5. Rapid increase in technology. Ten years ago, 25 percent of American workers used a computer on the job. Today that number exceeds 50 percent. Time is money and access to information is money. Increasingly sophisticated technology delivers needed information quicker.
6. The growth of home-based businesses. In the 1990s more than 20 percent of workers who had been laid off or forced into early retirement chose to start their own home-based businesses. The fastest growing sector of our economy is home-based businesses. With the increase in day trading and home-based software development, this trend likely will continue.
7. Telecommuting from home. As workers continue to become empowered to make decisions and work independently on projects, the feasibility of working from home offices increases. All that is needed is a PC and a modem. Currently at least one-third of America’s workforce is working at least part time from home.
8. Higher education standards. Generally speaking, the growing demand for generalists who have specialist capabilities is forcing the workforce to be qualified to meet this demand. Therefore college education or skilled vocational/technical school training is becoming more and more mandatory in order for workers to be competitive in the job market.
9. The increase of temporaries and part-timers. Twenty or 30 years ago temporaries and part-timers were regarded as second-class job positions. Now they are emerging not only as respectable but also as desirable career opportunities. Because businesses and corporations are paying upward to $4,000 or more in benefits for each full-time employee—not including vacation time, holidays, sick time, military leave, personal leave, or retirement— temporaries and part-timers are increasingly becoming attractive alternatives to full-time workers.
10. Need for occupational upgrading and continued education. In our new, ever-changing work world, workers must constantly upgrade and refine their skills and talents. God blesses His children who invest their talents and use them in such a way that He is glorified by their work ethics and professionalism. “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away” (Matthew 25:29). In other words, use it or lose it.
Christian workers need to anticipate changes in the workplace with faith and courage. Although it is impossible to predict specific details regarding the future direction of our work world, we can observe and respond to the “signs of the times,” with respect to the direction our work world is heading. Regardless of the direction, if our faith is in our Lord we cannot be led astray. “He will not allow your foot to slip; he who keeps you will not slumber” (Psalm 121:3).
Originally posted 4/12/2013.
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