It was Sunday morning and I got up around 6:00 as I do most mornings, and picked up the Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition over a cup of coffee. I was moved by a story about middle-aged professionals struggling to find work for 3 years or more, and it got me thinking about how the role of I&O professionals is changing right now, who is at risk, and what skills will offer the best chances of staying employed (and hopefully happy) for years to come. Many of us are approaching or well into our 40s and beyond, and the older we get, the more difficult it can be to find new jobs.
How you are perceived by others matters most
I'm a strong believer that our employability (true for everyone - analysts included) is directly proportional to the perceived value that we provide to the people around us and those in the hierarchy that we are directly accountable to. Customer value that we create is a factor as are formal metrics, but let's face it, peer feedback often matters more than anything else in many organizations, and there is inevitably an invisible org chart in addition to the one drawn by HR. Few of us are lucky enough to work for companies where the measures of performance are clear and include a strong customer-focus component (I work for such a company, but it's not common) - let alone what behaviors and skills will give us the best shot at job security and growth. There are just so many variables.
Perception is a function of your mindset and daily conduct
Firstly, let me explain: I am not really a fan of Dolly Parton but I heard this song last night and this got me thinking further about my I&O FLB exclusive report on ‘Tomorrow’s I&O Leaders Require An Equal Blend Of Technology And Business Acumen,’ which addresses changing skills and recruitment practices. Specifically I asked myself:
“Do current I&O contracts of employment really support agile, customer centric IT operations?”
Now I know the majority of I&O professionals have never lived Dolly’s dream of ‘working 9 Till 5’ anyway but with the fast pace of technology innovation and demands by the business, will we see a time when I&O leaders ring the bell on current formal contracts of employment?
I also take into consideration that a signed employment contract is a legal requirement for a number of reasons but can I&O executives continue to state a set number of working hours, e.g., “you will work x hours per week” as a requirement? I am not advocating flexi-time contracts here but with I&O moving to customer-centric deliverables does this mean that I&O leadersneed to align contracts of employment to specific customer I&O services/deliverables and take into account the social lives of their employees?
I just read a brilliant and inspirational blog post on the Harvard Business Review site entitled, "Are All Employees Knowledge Workers?" The authors, John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison, explore the "artificial distinction" that businesses create in their workforce between the haves (so-called "high potentials," creative talent, and knowledge workers) and the have nots (everyone else). The writers suggest we need "to redefine all jobs, especially those performed at the front line (or, in an image, that reveals our prevalent management mindset, the 'bottom' of the institutional pyramid), in ways that facilitate problem solving, experimentation, and tinkering."
Early in the Web 1.0 era, companies asked what the Web could do for them. It was the wrong question, because soon the Web was doing something to them--changing consumer expectations, forcing investments in technology, altering the way companies recruit, disrupting sales channels, changing company culture and breaking old models of the employee-employer dynamic. (Remember when communicating with a boss at a certain level used to mean asking his secretary for time on his calendar rather than a real-time dialog via email or IM? I do.)