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The Transformation of Work, Workers and the Employee-employer Relationship in a Post-pandemic World

This week’s collection reflects an eclectic range of reading and listening I’ve been doing over the last month. Thematically diverse in content and sourcing, these pieces all resonated with me and with work I am doing with clients and colleagues. Of particular note, are the trends and the increasingly dynamic nature of the post-pandemic workforce, highlighted in the first three pieces in the Articles section. Taken together, they document the seismic and rapid transformation of modern work, the workforce and the fundamental restructuring (potentially) of the employee-employer relationship. Whether these shifts are sustainable, remains to be seen. Other pieces examine the implications of burnout, toxic positivity in corporate culture, relationship and career management and strategic self-promotion. And finally, Adam Grant and Malcolm Gladwell’s conversation provides a primer on the process and benefits of re-thinking previously held positions spanning an array of topics.

Articles

The ‘Great Resignation’ is here. This is how employers should prepare. “If you feel like everyone around you is giving two-weeks notice, you’re not alone.”

Workers Are Gaining Leverage Over Employers Right Before Our Eyes: ‘Employers are becoming much more cognizant that yes, it’s about money, but also about quality of life.’ “Whether it’s a bigger paycheck, more manageable hours or a training opportunity offered to a person with few formal credentials, the benefits of a tight labor market and shifting leverage can take many forms. What they have in common — no matter how long this shift toward workers lasts, or how powerful a force it turns out to be — is that it puts the employee in the position that matters most: the driver’s seat.”

What Your Future Employees Want Most. “…Businesses that want to attract and retain the talent they need to move forward must understand the top priorities of their future workforce. They must embrace new, flexible work models and cultivate a workforce that can design their own careers. In doing so, they will not only boost the motivation and engagement of their existing workers, but will gain the attention of the brightest new recruits and take their business to new heights.”

The U.S. Education System Isn’t Giving Students What Employers Need. “Misalignment between success in enrollment and career readiness at educational institutions creates a difficult dichotomy for recruiters and HR teams, who must choose between hiring an employee with a required degree versus one with the skills needed for the job. The answer should be obvious — the employer attitude toward non-traditional education paths must change to open the talent pool and build a workforce that’s ready for the future. Now is the time for employers to increase credibility for skills-based hiring, to remove stigmas around vocational education, and to move forward to create equal opportunities for all students.”

Burnout: Modern Affliction or Human Condition? “As a diagnosis, it’s too vague to be helpful—but its rise tells us a lot about the way we work.”

The Hazards of a “Nice” Company Culture. “Martin Luther King Jr. said in his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail ‘…there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.’ Don’t cover that up in your efforts to be nice. Channel and manage the tension. That’s real kindness.”

5 Relationships You Need to Build a Successful Career. “…There are five relationships that we believe are key to anyone’s professional growth. Think of them as your personal board of directors. It will take time to build meaningful relationships with each, so you better start NOW.”

Savvy Self-Promotion. “Everyone knows that success at work depends on being—and being seen as—both competent and likable. You need people to notice your growth and accomplishments while also enjoying your company. But if you draw attention to the value you’ve created, to ensure that managers and peers recognize it, you risk coming across as a shameless self-promoter. No one likes a braggart. In this article the author explains how to highlight your accomplishments at work without having it backfire.”

6 Leadership Paradoxes for the Post-Pandemic Era. “…The digital age and the magnitude of the transformation that is needed requires that leaders build on their strengths and expand their aperture to manage the complex world we’re living in. We believe those leaders who have the humility, courage and commitment to reinvent themselves will become the champions of the digital age.”

Power Causes Brain Damage. “How leaders lose mental capacities—most notably for reading other people—that were essential to their rise.”

Book

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
by Charlie Mackesy
“Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons…Here, you will find them together in this book of Charlie’s most-loved drawings, adventuring into the Wild and exploring the thoughts and feelings that unite us all.” [A slender, gem of a beautifully illustrated book that, as Charlie says, resonates whether you are eight or eighty.]

Podcasts

TEDxLondonWomen: The Best Career Path Isn’t Always a Straight Line. “Conventional wisdom frames the ideal career path as a linear one — a ladder to be climbed with a single-minded focus to get to the top. Career development consultants Sarah Ellis and Helen Tupper invite you to replace this outdated and limiting model with “squiggly” careers: dynamic, open-ended growth paths tailor-made for your individual needs, talents and ambitions. A radical rethink for anyone who feels restricted and defined by the limits of the corporate ladder.”

WorkLife with Adam Grant. Taken for Granted: Malcolm Gladwell Questions Everything. “When Adam Grant and Malcolm Gladwell sit down to challenge each other, everything is fair game. Sit ringside for this collegial cage match in which two preeminent writers rethink each other’s ideas in an insatiable quest to get closer to the truth. Is intelligence undersold or oversold? Does individual blaming and shaming obscure the pursuit of real change on racism? Could rethinking everything lead not only to a better business but a better life? In pursuit of answers, Grant and Gladwell agree on this much: you shouldn’t believe everything you think.”

Blog Posts

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Chance to Start Over. “It’s time to prepare for a new and better normal than your pre-pandemic life.”

Rich Litvin: Create the club that you would struggle to get into! “The challenge for high-performers is that these thinking flaws are just as prevalent no matter your intelligence, wealth or prior success. In Dunning’s words, ‘this is a phenomenon that visits all of us sooner or later… Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition. The problem with it is we see it in other people, and we don’t see it in ourselves.'”

Seth’s Blog: To Stay the Same. “What you do isn’t how you do it. What you do is the promise you make to the people you serve. If the people change, then the specifics of your promise have to change as well.”

Arts, Music & Culture Corner

The Pulp and Pleasure of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ 40 Years Later. “Watching the action-adventure classic today is like going on a treasure hunt for traces of the film’s original influences—the dime store novels.”

‘What’s Going On’ at 50: Marvin Gaye’s masterpiece is still so true to life. “The unresolved, discordant elements make this album truly timeless – that, and the fact that too few of its concerns have been addressed since 1971.”

Farewell, Millennial Lifestyle Subsidy. “The price for Ubers, scooters and Airbnb rentals is going up as tech companies aim for profitability.”

Reflection
The Great Confinement
By Sandy Solomon, The New Yorker, May 31, 2021

Year of sighs, year of planning ahead—
how to acquire food or meet friends
for afternoon talks in the outdoor air.
Of planning nothing. Whole days washed clean
in the round of known rooms, known chores.

I followed forecasts to calculate when
to walk down the alley, around the block,
the same dogs barking, recycling bins
bursting with cardboard. I envied people stuck
in the country amid trees, beside a lake
that took in sky. And people, I presume,
envied us, with our covered front porch
and back garden, its sloping tangle of leaves.
We’d thrown ourselves down wherever the music
stopped, in a place we planned to stay a season
at most, until a hidden hand could hit the volume.

Year of stories—of books, recorded voices
through the night, faces on screens: familiars
holding cocktail glasses, jam jars
into view to toast . . . what precisely?
happy hours? Of meetings, of classes: click
to speak, click to mute, click to leave.

Year of household tasks. Mold that grew
because we used the kitchen so hard:
the endless sponge-down—meal after meal,
day after day. Dust that gathered
like thoughts of Somewhere Else, Another Time,
Other People. When I set two plates for dinner,
I could imagine my mother on her daily walk—
careful, stiff-hipped, alone—to the mailbox,
silence at each elbow, around her throat.
When I searched for new ways to cook kale
or tried baking bread, as oven warmth
and savory smells revised the room in stews
or casseroles, I could imagine mothers
trying to stretch their kids’ milk between
food-bank trips. Year of feeling lucky.

Year of forgetting in the days’ drift. Then
abruptly remembering: sadness sensed
in a jolt, the way when I opened the kitchen bin—
just emptied, just cleaned, it seemed—
a rotten smell hit me, knocked me back.

Year of sighs, year of sighs, names
of the ones gone away, their faces appearing.
For months, as afternoon light grew long,
I thought, Must call Mom. Even after.

I thought of Hélène—years ago,
when we stood, she and I, before
a painting she’d made, its colors shifting
as the oil she’d rigged behind the canvas
face shifted inside its frame,
and I thought, I like your art, your stories:
her story’s end in plastic tubes,
white edges, machine thrums
and bleeps, room mostly bleached
of color against the blue hospital
gowns that hovered then disappeared,
Hélène, inside her great struggle,
the suffocating, persistent,
solitary smell of alcohol.

Year of distance upon distance. I thought
of candles in the Hall of Mirrors when, one night,
I’d walked its length after a concert—light
echoing as lights regressed from sconce
to mirror to mirror and back in Versailles, the flames’
flicker—presence, movement—enclosed in infinite
space, each candle point insisting, here,
here, smaller and smaller, left and right,
as I passed through, passed among them.
What is the point? Here is the point. What
is the point? Here. Thrilling, a privileged sight
as I moved down the Hall, as down the year,
toward the night air, the dear dead
ones receding, drifting further back,
in reflected, refracted, lovely multitudes,
and then, at the end, no point, no point at all.

 

A version of this article was originally published here.

Kevin Jordan

Kevin Jordan

Kevin Jordan a senior advisor for Consultants Collective. He is an International Coach Federation-certified executive coach who serves as a strategic advisor, mentor and facilitator to executive leadership teams and private clients to achieve peak performance and agility resulting in sustained engagement and value. Drawing upon a career as a leader and consultant, Kevin is able to work with clients on personal and professional development, relationship optimization and team and leader dynamics. He has deep expertise and experience developing and realizing strategic vision through a relentless focus on optimized business operations. He is also skilled at building sustainable culture and workforce engagement through the power of people and organizational partnership, as well as delivering results and value with high performing teams during periods of intense change.

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