We've discussed two strategies for pulling ourselves out of our business and employment pit -- education and work product. Let us continue with a look at other issues affecting getting to up times for 2003.
Entrepreneurial and Leadership Skills
There will be an emphasis on thinking like an entrepreneur. Each and every worker will need to realize that their part in the workplace is to create a consumable good that will bring about a profit that fuels the livelihood of the business. Line or staff, they will need to take into their considerations about workplace issues how they affect the bottom line and profitability. Time away from work, time spent on extraneous projects, is time and profits lost. Managers will begin to speak of profit centers again and the words "team player" and "team work" will resume their importance in the workplace vocabulary. Expect these types of issues to come up during hiring interviews.
Collaborations and Combinations to Maximize Specialization
People are going to need to work smart. That means focus on what they do best and specialize in that. The next prudent step in this formula will be to either outsource what cannot be done internally a a reasonable cost. People are also going to realize that it is imperative that they collaborate by forming consortiums where possible. These will keep overhead low while still maintaining productivity and employment. These combinations with others who do have the expertise to do the work quickly, accurately, and with a fast turn-around time will lead to better product and greater reach for more.
There's going to be a lot more small- and medium-sized businesses that whittle down to core in-house staff as they outsource the bulk of their work and allow telecommuting in order to reach the Internet marketplace. This will also reduce costs, in addition to relocation expenses.
Team Work and Flexibility
As companies keep reducing their numbers, importance on team work will be emphasized, as said earlier. There will also be an increased need for knowledge sharing so that many (or all) of the team members can step in to help with a project in short order and keep it going to completion or else step in to run the project if necessary. The "that's not in my job description" attitude of the early 1980s needs to be buried. It just doesn't work, especially now.
Accountability, Ethics and Sarbanes-Oxley
Sarbanes-Oxley Act accountability and reporting is a buzz concept now. It will be vogue to talk and theorize about it. For the last five months, it's been exploited for its commercial value in creating classes that purport to teach how to comply in regard to reporting issues.
What still remains is to develop a concept of the heart of the Act -- creating reports with fiduciary accountability. What also needs to occur is the establishment of ethical pracitces that are supported through every part of the organization and no negative repercussions for reporting questionable practices. Until that awareness is manifested, and the practices necessary to support it are put in place, Sarbanes-Oxley will go the way of other initiatives that become paper checklists without an appreciation for their purpose and essence.
In regard to Sarbane-Oxley, we will have a lot of superficial activity in its name throughout the year. But the pressures that are brought to bear on those who report malfeasance or errors will continue to be borne on their shoulders. Those who wantonly engage in the improper conduct will continue to thrive but under a new version of the same old game. The underground practices that discourage the Act's purpose are still very much entrenched in business conduct. Retraining in not only how to report to government agencies but also business ethics and social responsibility will become part of the lesson plans of universities, worksites, human resource departments and the rest of our business landscape.
There will be a lot of pointing of fingers at those who have the appearance of impropriety. Education about recognizing actual signs of wrong doing will become part of the workplace training, most likely initiated by each company's Human Resources department. Recruiters will be held up to as much scrutiny as lawyers and (now) accountants. Ethics will be in the fore for all of 2003 and much of 2004. Whether people actually practice what they pontificate will be interesting to see.
Work will increase in global emphasis. Diversity will no longer be a desirable but a necessity. The fallout from the September 11 attacks -- racial panic and distrust -- that was just a few years after similar reactions from the Oklahoma City bombing, shows us that we cannot judge the entire group by the actions of a suspect few. Individuals will need to be judged on their own merits. Baby steps are being made in this area. Giant strides should have been the pace. At least there is some progress. Momentum will rise.
Also in the diversity arena, Middle Eastern races are going to have a lot more attention and opportunity. Blacks are going to continue to be spoken of in public as a population that needs to be included. Retention and promotion issues will continue to plague that population in the negative. Blacks are traditionally viewed as inherently inferior and passed over. Only an elite cadre are the exceptions who stand now as examples to the masses. But it is understood that they are the exceptions. It would be good for this cadre to be seen as the norm but that is, like breaking the glass ceiling, still on its way.
Hispanic and Asian populations are making comparatively significant inroads in acceptance and advancement in the workplace. That progress will continue. It will take proving oneself to be a professional, well learned and skillful, to create the open ground for not just these diverse populations but also for women, the disabled, older workers and the others who fall into this category.
When we focus on the specific that is peripheral to the real need, it predominates and should not. The correct perspective in diversity issues is not what a person is but on what they are able to do to create opportunity and profit for the organization. This is starting to happen. Little by little, 2003 will show us that the craftsperson creating the results is what we want and need. When that thought process is accomplished, acceptance will follow. I continue to be a strong believer that the Internet is forcing us to be color-gender-ability-age blind so that we accept the one who delivers the quality product or service rather than questioning the non-business related personal characteristics.
The Internet is also placing great importance on how well one can communicate with others of different cultures. Not only will communication but negotiation skills will increase in importance.
The Great Economic Strata Divide
The issues I spoke of in "A Clash of Interests" will become even more pronounced as the economic landscape struggles to heal. The gorge being forged between low income and high income social classes will become wider. The middle class will continue to become transparently thin.
Domestic and Workplace Violence; Abuse
Because of the social stresses impacting us are so great, because people are working more hours for less return on investment of time and energy, and there are so few meaningful rewards, coupled with tensions regarding potential foreign attacks and a generally heightened state of uncertainty, tempers flare easily. Overlooked qualifications, forgotten return phone calls, lack of response because of the glut of applications will take their toll on the workplace and in the home. There is now more awareness of how these can spark out of the ordinary responses.
And these situations act as agar for already festering situations that bring violence and abuse to the workplace. Fortunately, businesses are taking cognizance of how abuse affects them physically, fiscally and financially and are taking steps to become aware, proactive. More training will be provided regarding how to recognize and handle the potentially violent situations. More importantly, greater emphasis will be placed on using communication and good managerial skills to prevent workplace violence and abuse.
A Big Kettle of Fish
This is a broad view of 2003. The work and employment scene isn't isolated to wage and hours any more. It encompasses a much broader scale.
But there are keys to success. Sharpen skills. Use knowledge to strength company and professional growth. Communication skills and diplomacy are imperative. It doesn't matter who the communicator-diplomat is. What is important is that they are excellent at what they do -- they are leadership material.
Combinations, not working solo, will be critical to survival.