A recent chat among Reddit users exposed, “overworked and underpaid” is the mantra repeated by IT workers who feel their situation is unbearable and hopeless. An article in the Wall Street Journal From Deloite Touche described how the low morale and overall discontentment of these workers points to a widespread phenomenon across industries. It’s estimated 5 million jobs will be eliminated within the US by 2020, and it’s rightly so, creating a climate of fear among workers.
It’s more than IT, most tech workers live in a climate of fear of losing their job, being outsourced, becoming redundant or automated out of a job. While, generally speaking, tech workers are a step ahead of the rest of the labor force when it comes to job security, during the 4th industrial revolution, many people work knowing their positions are vulnerable. This job insecurity creates a widespread malaise. For those of you reading this article, yes, your jobs are under threat. It’s time to start proactively managing your professional brand to keep moving forward. This is not an age for coasting, but continually pivoting and learning. The curious and entrepreneurial types can thrive under these conditions.
Your survival boils down to your ability to maintain a positive attitude. While it may feel a bit cliché, individuals who maintain a good frame of mind are able to maneuver and adapt easier than those who slip into depression, fear and victim mode. If you want to take control of your career, you have to take control of your attitude and inner self first. When you are in a good state of mind, you can see opportunity more clearly and move toward it. People who are proactive succeed in ways that complainers fail. We live in a turbulent time. With technology and globalization advancing at warp speed, it will consistently disrupt work. Succeeding in such an environment requires constant adaptation.
When work is not going well, it can create challenges for just about anyone. Learning how to maneuver through difficult situations is a critical leadership skill. The impulse can be to retreat, become defensive, or run, but none of these responses will serve you in moving forward. In fact, they will lead to self-sabotage. Talent today works under precarious positions. Taking the lead, being proactive and actively managing your personal brand are critical to not only survival but also thriving in today’s environment. While work is fragile, talent is expected to “job hop” in order to continue a forward momentum, this means you must be actively promoting what you know and what differentiates you from your peers as well as actively engage in a continual process of learning and updating skills. In the 20th Century work was stable and change was slow, in the 21st Century work is unstable and change is fast. It’s a dynamic environment. With every loss, however, there is also an opportunity if you are able to identify and move toward it.
Collaboration has really become critical and it requires being proactive. The irony is that in this climate which is very much generating a fear based reality for many workers, breeds competition making collaboration very difficult to achieve. Yet, corporations must create create collaborative environments among co-workers, teams, departments and even competing companies, if they are going to thrive in this age. It goes against much of human instinct. Collaboration is easy for people when they don’t feel threatened, but it becomes incredibly challenging when they feel endangered.
At this point, coaching becomes a critical tool both on the individual as well as organizational level. In order to create an effective workplace, leadership must build collaborative work environments. This dynamic requires a new breed of leadership. Leaders must be able to form cohesive teams among opposing and conflicting parties, which requires special ability and skill. When departments or co-workers are at war or disengaged, it’s a bad sign because it negatively impacts the organization’s ability to achieve its goals.
In today’s climate, successfully navigating the turbulent workplace requires being proactive. Talent must actively manage their brand, continually learn and understand their unique value add to a company or industry. They must have a handle on their own competencies and strengths both in terms of technical skills as well as “soft skills.” Organizations must become agile and adept at managing workers and mitigating conflict and competition giving more than lip service to the concept of team building or having a non-toxic workplace in seminars when the reality is different in the organization.
This requires truly investing in leadership development for your top talent to empower them to effectively lead a 21st Century workforce where collaborative abilities are critical. This means retraining boomers, GenX and yes, even millennials in the needed skills. It probably won’t be till Generation Z takes the leadership reigns that we see a workforce for whom collaboration is second nature.
The widespread state of uncertainty that IT workers experience today is reflective of a broad cultural dynamic affecting the majority of the workforce. Re-skilling and teaching adaption is critical. For organizations, finding ways to mitigate the fear is really critical or else change management and goal delivery will be vulnerable to failing on multiple levels. Here is where coaching becomes a critical piece in your talent development. Workers facing outsourcing must remain proactive too. Resilience is critical to succeed in this environment. In the end, it will require talent taking responsibility and investing in themselves to keep moving FORWARD.
PS: We have a technology specialist MBA and certified coach to support company and talent initiatives.
Caroline Stokes is founder of FORWARD Human Capital Solutions. FORWARD does things differently for people in digital organisations who demand inspiring talent solutions for transformative results. You can follow Caroline on Twitter @theFORWARDco.