Unhappiness in changing workplace environments.

The kind of information that I want to find in any news source allows me to learn about the world that I live in.  Today, I found an article in Forbes that discussed the workplace in 2018.  The article was written by Dan Schawbel, on Nov 1st, 2017 and the title is “10 Workplace Trends You’ll See In 2018.” (1)  The author makes predictions every year, based on conversations that he has with people in the workforce and also based on surveys conducted by other researchers.  You can read this year’s predictions and probably even go back to look at past years.

In the first paragraph, Schawbel states that he is writing to benefit organizations (instead of individuals) with this analysis.  His article has the Forbes optimism about business but it isn’t only optimistic.  Some workplace problems are cautiously noted in the piece.  I’m using his article to summarize some of his main points that I think you will be interested in.  I’m also going to add some points of my own.  I’ll tell you “Schawbel says or notes or writes,” when it’s his point of view.

In his first numbered trend, Schawbel notes the importance of human conversations and contrasts them with e-mail interactions.  He says that one in-person conversation carries as much weight as 34 e-mails.  One of the changes in our work-world has involved computer mediated and networked communities.  Schawbel cited research conducted by Mahdi Roghanizad and Vanessa K. Bohns. that shows that people prefer the face-to-face interaction instead of computer e-mail back-and-forth.  Instead of e-mail improving productivity, it has now become clear that face to face conversations are more productive.  Some companies have brought their telecommuters back to the work-site to facilitate the face-to-face interaction.

Another trend is a new recognition in the corporate environment that in-company training and retraining to adapt employees to a changing workplace matters more.  In fact it’s now needed because new employees can’t always be found quickly to do what a company needs doing.  It is costing companies money when they can’t fill an open position with a qualified candidate.  Workplace environments are changing so fast that old skills are quickly outdated.  That means that new skills training has to become an ongoing company investment.

Also new skills are coming onto the workplace all the time.  No one’s ready for that new skill and universities can’t keep up with new skills training.  That makes constant training an essential ingredient to a functioning workplace, so that workplace openings to do new things can be filled quickly– even if it is with long-established but retrained workers.  In a later point, Schawbel notes disruption in education.  Inflation has been one problem in education but so has lackluster and unavailable employment opportunities to degree holders.  Without a good return on a university investment, fewer young people are motivated to pay for one.  Many young workers are seeking training off-campus now.  Some students seeking an untraditional road to an education for in-demand skills go on-line or buy training materials to study at home.  An in-house education of in-house personnel will help educate workers for exactly the job that is needed by the corporation–one that is tailored to suit the corporation’s needs.  It was once expected that people would pay for their training and that an employer could hire a fully qualified worker.  But if the workforce shortage of qualified applicants continues, I think that it may become necessary for corporations to train people after they hire them.

Many people are eager to see what happens in the workplace as algorithms come closer to simulating human interactions.  Schawbel wrote about chatbots which are computer programs that gather and report on certain kinds of data that can help managers to be more informed in the workplace.  He gave an example where a chatbot could report to a manager when an employee calls in sick.  Of course, a chatbot interaction won’t be the same as a human interaction, though the ability of such a program will probably continue to grow and the availability of programing that can do trend reporting may put some people out of a job.  In his last point, Schawbel mentioned workplace stress.

With shifting workplace environments, educational debt, financial insecurity, uncertain changes constantly washing over them in their job role, workers according to Schawbel, are stressed-out and unhappy.  Some companies are providing assistance to pay off tuition debt and others are becoming more proactive about supporting employee mental health.  Will this make a difference and will the changes washing over everyone in the workplace lead to successful companies in the future?  Are these changes worth it?  Will people continue to choose to work in these environments and for how long will their careers last?  Will AI algorithms achieve more automation and will people want that in the workplace or will it become less effective over time as e-mail has proven to be?

James Tobin (1918-2002), the Nobel prize-winning economist, once noted that Information Technologies make money only for people and companies that manufacture the technology.  The companies that use IT in the work environment constantly must invest money in order to buy it,  and then continue to invest to retrain people to use it and replace it as it continues to evolve.  With the stock market being so highly valued at this time in history, IT companies have gotten a huge financial boost and IT has really taken a leadership position in trends that affect companies across America.  But can IT earn a continued hegemony at the end of QE, when the stock market changes back to more authentic market conditions?  Only time will tell.  If you want to learn more about the history of political ideologies and their impact on technological changes that have happened across America, buy a copy of Political Catsup with Economy Fries at Amazon.com.  

(1) Schawbel, Dan, “10 Workplace Trends You’ll See In 2018,” Forbes, Nov 1, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2017,11/01/10-workplace-trends-youll-see-in-2018/#4aa494604bf2, accessed 9 Jan 2018.

another resource for learning more about information technologies and the history of Silicon Valley is:

(2) Jaron Lanier, Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2017.

 

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