This time round, change is being driven by both technology and the changing attitudes of marketplaces and the organisations that supply them.
Individuals who fail to recognise what’s coming their way and to embrace the changes that must follow, may be heading for an unpleasant surprise.
One of the first notable impacts will be on job security, or rather lack of it.
For our parents’ generation, the prospect of joining a company for life wasn’t a dream, but the reality for many. They knew that if they performed well, they had the opportunity to rise through the ranks, and by staying loyal, to be rewarded with a good pension and perks. But not anymore.
With the recent financial crisis fresh in their minds, many corporate organisations will decide that it pays not to have too much ‘sticky’ human capital on board that they can't easily shake off when things get tough. Consequently, they will be looking for ways to make the whole process of offloading staff as ‘frictionless’ as possible, should the need arise. The resulting employment arrangements will increasingly favour them, not their staff.
And this is already happening of course. It’s most in evidence on our high streets, where the ‘zero hours contract’ has well and truly taken hold. That may be great for employers, who can pick up and put down staff at will, but it leaves employees with an uncertain monthly income.
There may be more certainty in the ‘professional world’, but issues such as how to manage bonus payments, for instance, could lead to a wholesale reworking of the financial sector’s relationship with its employees. And that could lead banks and other organisations to opt for looser ‘contractor style’ working, rather than taking on fully salaried staff.
With fewer and fewer employers willing to commit long-term, that in turn will leave employees having to redefine their vision of work and what it means to them. If salaried positions simply aren’t available, for many this could mean having to work for themselves by going freelance or becoming a ‘solopreneur’.
And this will require a significant shift in mindset.
Suddenly, they will need to feel comfortable about going out to find work for themselves and managing their self-employed tax status. They may also have to start seeing themselves as ‘project workers’, part of a ‘swarm’ of talent that comes together temporarily before splitting apart once the work is done, to begin the process all over again somewhere else.
As a result, a growing percentage of us will have to take a far more proactive approach to looking for work. The emergence and growth of freelancing job sites points one way forward. The market leader Elance already has over a million registered contractors across the world and we can expect many more similar providers to emerge, geared to specific niches.
But this fragmentation of the business landscape into smaller markets makes it easier for one niche to be overtaken by another, potentially making what we know almost worthless overnight.
So, if we are to take advantage of new opportunities as they come along, we may end up having to reinvent ourselves and what we do several times over in the course of our working lives.
If our skills and knowledge base are to remain relevant to market requirement, we will need to self manage our education and training, so that we don’t become out of date, whether that means taking a periodic sabbatical, or investing in training on a regular, ongoing basis, in parallel with the work that we do.
And while many of us will be happy to be employed as freelancers or contractors on this more flexible basis, others will want to seize the opportunity to build their own business, something that’s already become a significant trend.
Last year for example, 500,000 new businesses were set up, an indication that the UK as a whole is becoming a far more entrepreneurial society.
While redundancy and lack of jobs may have been the catalyst for a large number of these start-ups, technology has provided the opportunity for many of them to set up at low cost to serve global markets, whatever their location.
Freed from the constraints of standard employment, those who in the past would have been condemned to imprisonment within a corporate organisation, now have unprecedented levels of personal freedom and the ability to generate financial rewards for themselves, while making a difference to the wider world.
As the benefits of becoming what I call ‘new entrepreneurs’ are increasingly recognised, I envisage the emergence of a growing number of businesses driven by their owners’ desire to create satisfying, rewarding and above all pleasurable lifestyles for themselves and their families.
These new entrepreneurs will be able to set up wherever they want in the world, doing what they want, in the way that they want – in charge of their destiny, and making ‘work’, at least for them, meaningful and no longer just a ‘four letter word’.
At The Corporate Escape™ we help prepare professionals for success in the future world as New Entrepreneurs. You can start gaining control of your professional life right now by downloading a digital version of my book ‘Corporate Escape: the Rise of the New Entrepreneur’ here.