The canceled contract
News flash: The world has changed!
That’s not earth-shaking news. Still, we all feel a little quiver beneath our feet as accelerating change ripples through all our lives and leaves us in a new place. Those same quivers are causing the business world to move to a new place — one that’s not as stable as in the past. It takes a new approach in order to survive and thrive in this environment.
In the past, the traditional employment contract was clear. Show up, work hard, and keep your nose clean. In exchange, you received a family-supporting wage, the opportunity to take a vacation every so often, and the ability to retire at a reasonable age. It was a simple formula — seldom broken — that generations used to build a good life and a great society.
Accelerating change and a global economy canceled that contract. Markets, companies, and even individual jobs change all the time. Most employment now takes a transactional form and is more short-term in nature. We’re now in competition with a global market and changes anywhere can affect operations everywhere. It’s a much more complex situation than our predecessors faced and we need to make the most of it. Still, these conditions canceled the traditional employment contract for most of us.
Today’s economy requires new skills and greater flexibility. Modern manufacturing requires advanced skills. The era of a strong back and a good alarm clock being able to support a family is dead. Today’s economy requires ongoing learning to match the evolving market requirements. It also requires most individuals to take personal responsibility for their development — a very different requirement in the post-contract era. No longer will a company make it their task to secure your future.
In this new world it’s very easy to feel left behind. The old contract developed over centuries and was canceled in a little over a decade. Changes in the market are often very hard to see because we’re way too busy to study trends and their implications. If we can’t see the trends, then it’s also tough to build the new skills necessary to thrive. Traditional education systems don’t help much either. They aren’t designed to quickly acquire incremental skills while accommodating our lifestyles. The best opportunities often involve significant change, which means sometimes it’s easier just to give up.
Don’t do it! The future looks brighter than ever — especially in manufacturing. The U.S. is trending to be the most competitive manufacturing country in the world. In addition, we’re entering a HUGE sellers’ market for labor. There just aren’t enough people to fill all the jobs being created. It’s a great time to be in Wisconsin and in manufacturing.
So what works in this new era of opportunity? Zero in on two words: move and learn. One of my favorite sayings is that even God can’t steer a parked car. Get moving! If you’re in motion, you will see trends in action and more opportunities. That puts you in position to act in the way that’s best for you. Use that motion to build personal momentum, connecting with people and ideas that will drive you to new places. All of this momentum creates energy to accomplish great things in new ways. You want to be in that position.
All of this momentum and energy should encourage you to become a lifelong learner. Leaders in the future will leave their dogma at the door in order to explore how the world changes and evolves. Very few people are able to experience the world with an open mind and an approach that embraces radical engagement with diverse people from all walks of life. It takes courage to explore new ideas and put them to work in creative ways. Still, that may be the only way to thrive in the hyperconnected world of tomorrow.
The traditional employment contract is dead. Let others mourn its demise. Instead, radically engage the ideas and people that put you on a path to lifetime learning. Use that energy to create the personal momentum that can change the world. Be one of those people who thrive on the excitement of accelerating change and show others how to make the same energy work for them.
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