Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Some thoughts on the emerging workplace and employability Great Restructuring 1

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on October 18, 2013

The workplace, and the fundamental meanings of employment and employability have been undergoing tremendous change and both in the United States and globally over the past few years. I write this posting on that emerging development with a range of earlier postings and series in mind that I have been offering through this blog over the past few years.

The workplace and employability shift that I write of here has been given a number of names but one that I see as particularly appropriate is the Great Restructuring. And at least in retrospect this really began to take off with the start of our recent Great Recession. We have been witnessing a significant recovery for business performance and a significant economic recovery with a full bounce-back in valuations and overall wealth for the stock and bond markets. But while these and other conventional metrics of economic recovery from a recession have shown very significant and positive shifts, the unemployment rate and jobs recovery have lagged far behind.

The Great Restructuring refers to this phenomenon, where business and economic recovery have become significantly decoupled from employment recovery, at least as the relationship between them has been traditionally observed and measured.

On the jobs market side to this I have written a range of postings and series with much of that going into my supplemental posting sections at the bottom of page 1 and its page 2 continuation to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development directory. I specifically site, as background for this discussion:

• The series: Discerning the 21st Century Workforce (see my Guide, page 1, supplemental postings 22-25 for Parts 1-4,
Mapping and Understanding Unemployment and the Jobs Market – the US Dept of Labor JOLTS report 2011,
Bucking the Trend in Workforce Commoditization,
• And my ongoing if occasional series of open letters, as included in my Guide’s supplemental postings on both if its directory pages.

On the employment and employability side to this I specifically cite one series that I have been offering here out of several possibilities: one that I have in fact interrupted writing to, so I could add in this related discussion:

• The series: Offering a Unique Value Proposition as an Employee (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 311 and following.)

I have been writing about the Great Restructuring for several years now and from before it had anything like a formal name as a business and economic development and a disruptively significant turning-point phenomenon. My goal for this posting is to at least begin a more detailed discussion of this series of still unfolding events, and with a goal of offering possible best practices for getting and staying employed through this, and with a meaningful career as well as current employment. After concluding at least this foundation discussion, I will turn back to adding further installments to my Offering a Unique Value Proposition series, as noted above. And I begin this discussion with the obvious:

• New jobs and new types of jobs continue to arise and enter the marketplace and job market.
• But overall, fewer new jobs are being created of all types than have been lost, and both as an ongoing result of employment reduction, initially stemming from the Great Recession itself that made jobs disappear,
• And from a failure of businesses to create new jobs to replace them as the economy has recovered.
• And this holds when total numbers of people seeking work are considered as adjusted for those permanently leaving the workforce and those seeking to enter it for the first time (e.g. retirement, forced or planned, and younger potential workers seeking their first jobs.)

And the most important point here is that this jobs loss is not simply following a cyclical trend. I write here of permanent changes in the labor market and in what types and levels of work can be expected to be available and even at the best of times for job seekers.

• I have noted in previous postings how businesses can and do seek to limit their operational and payroll expenses by outsourcing work that has to be performed but that does not necessarily have to be done in-house. And a great many jobs have been moved this way, and both in-country to specialist businesses, and to other countries where labor costs are lower. But this is self-limiting as only some work at any business offers savings potential through outsourcing. And when a business and the local economy it functions in performs outsourcing work as its business model and as more and more competing businesses in its locale begin to do the same, this raises the overall level of the economy in these low cost labor market areas, and it raises the expectations of workers there. Success in low labor cost outsourcing can and does drive up the costs that these businesses need to change for this work done, and their client businesses in their race to the expenses bottom end up having to move this work to new, still less expensive outsourcing venues. That is not easy now, and especially as the workers who participate in this form of labor become more and more skilled from performing this work and from training in order to be able to do it well. Ultimately, outsourcing is self-limiting as low labor cost markets become more skilled and more expensive, and as lowest cost labor pools become rarer and more limited in scale.
• I have written of specific jobs disappearing or at the very least reducing in competitive importance, as specific skills become obsolete except perhaps for maintaining legacy systems. This is also self-limiting and old jobs lost in this way tend to be replaced at an at least equal pace by new job types as new skills and new technologies that they would develop and maintain arise and go main-stream.
• This leaves me with automation. And much of the Great Restructuring revolves around explosive new developments in artificial intelligence and from our increasing capacity to automate. This trend is not cyclical or self-limiting; it will not trend up and down as a part of a usual and even traditional cyclic pattern and it will not drop off in significance or fade away. And that presents us all with the most important issues to be discussed here, and both at the individual employee level as we seek to find and keep jobs and build careers and personal futures, and for entire businesses, industries and even entire economies.

I am going to conclude this posting here and continue its discussion in a second, follow-up piece where I will focus specifically on artificial intelligence and automation as they are jointly redefining employability and the nature of work, and in progressively more and work industries and jobs market sectors. After I write and post that, I will switch back to my series: Offering a Unique Value Proposition as an Employee as cited above, where I will discuss how people can specifically address these challenges in their own professional lives.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at its first Guide directory page.

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