blogger counters

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Changing Face of Jobs and the Workforce: Interview with Elaine Bontempi, Ph.D.

We are very proud to offer another very valuable interview with Dr. Elaine Bontempi.  This is one of a series, which you can find this website  For more information, please visit:

What have you observed about job changes and job transitions in today's world?

The saying, “the only thing we can count on is change,” seems to hold very true to the application of today’s job market. There are several trends I think we have all noticed, ranging from industry closures, changing demographics, and the ways in which businesses are conducted (more and more are changing to an online environment).

Industry Changes
 In spite of claims of a strong economy, several industries are still struggling to pick up the pieces of the economic downturn. In addition, over the past decade technology has had a major impact on many industries. The “retail apocalypse” can be seen as many department stores and smaller boutiques have failed to compete with the convenience of online shopping. Higher Education has also taken a hard hit over the past 6 years or so. Several colleges closed their doors permanently, and others continue to struggle due to budget cuts and lower enrollments. As the cost of tuition continues to increase more people question the benefits of earning a college degree if it means graduating with a heavy student loan. Other colleges are attempting to keep up by expanding their online programs, but as Mega Universities such as Grand Canyon, Western Governors, SNHU and Liberty increase their degree options, smaller colleges can’t keep up. The oil and gas industry is also struggling to regain its footing and many geologists, landmen, and others in the industry are still seeking work after experiencing mass layoffs, company closures and bankruptcies.

Changing Demographics
Other changes I see include increasingly multicultural and multigenerational workplaces. For perhaps the first time in history, we are seeing sometimes five generations represented in the workplace. Each generation comes with unique strengths and challenges for corporations. For example, Baby Boomers are starting to retire and so we are beginning to see an exodus as many have been forced into early retirement, others are facing health challenges, and some are staying in the workforce. One of the challenges of a multigenerational workplace is recruitment and retention. For example, compared to earlier generations who expected to work for the same company for a lifetime, this option is most likely not going to be an option in today’s industry. And, because Millennials and many of the Gen Xers are place higher value on flexibility and autonomy in the workplace, not only will lifetime jobs not be available, they may not be appealing to many people in younger generations. Therefore, it may be more difficult to recruit and retain these generations if the workplace doesn’t offer flexibility or opportunities for growth. Many corporations are clinging to the outdated factory model, with cubicle workspaces and hours of operation from 8-5. This simply doesn’t work in a technologically advanced society where more people place value in a work/life balance, prefer flexibility and opportunities to work from home.

Other changes I see include technological advancements which not only change required skills, but also the ways in which people work and communicate with one another. Cloud based technology, AI, rapidly changing software programs, and internet based businesses are just a few of the ways in which technology is influencing workplace changes.

What makes today different for people in the workforce than even 5 or 10 years ago?

This seems to be somewhat of a follow up to the first question, but in terms of general social trends, the demand for digital skills has increased considerably over the past 10 years, but the workforce is also becomingly increasingly diverse in culture, level of education, race/ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual preference and identification, and ability. For example, this is the first time we have seen up to five generations in the workplace. Traditionalists (i.e., those born before 1946) are not as likely to be in the workplace but may be the CEO’s running the company. Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964) are usually in upper management or CEO positions, or exiting the workplace as many are eyeing retirement. Gen X (1965-1976), Millennials (1977-1997) and Gen Z (born after 1997) may all be represented in a workplace. People form their values based on experiences, and because each generation, as well as every individual, has witnessed different things, you see different values emerge. Those who experienced the Great Depression craved stability, and these values were passed down in part, to Baby Boomers who often had the same career for a lifetime. War, economic crashes, technological advances, immigration and migration, etc. all impact people at both a generational and individual level. Although you don’t want to make stereotypes towards any generation, some general differences in communication preferences, work values, or familiarity with technology may emerge.

Thus, the challenges for managers and leaders will be many, including communicating with people from various generations and cultural backgrounds, but also recruiting, motivating and retaining employees. Companies will need to consider the increasing desire for autonomy and flexibility that began with Gen X and has continued with Gen Y workers. Other perks such as having workplace daycare, company gyms, the option of working from home, or even bringing emotional support pets to work are emerging trends. We are also seeing an expanding role of AI which will ultimately replace many jobs.

How can this job / career market have an effect on an individual?

Growth and Cutbacks
From my perspective the career market can impact people on several different levels, depending on one’s field, the organizational culture, and benefits offered to an individual. In terms of the career market, some fields such as IT and healthcare are growing. Aging Baby Boomers are driving up the need for healthcare workers, so you see many opportunities for home health workers, nurses, and PA’s. Other areas such as the oil and gas industry are trying to make a comeback but are fighting a political battle as attitudes about fossil fuels are changing. Thus, while there are plenty of opportunities in some fields, others continue to be very competitive.

Other ways in which the job market may impact an individual is the volatility seen in certain fields. For example, both higher education and the oil and gas industry are still feeling the ripple effect of economic down turns. Layoffs, forced retirements, fewer opportunities with higher competition, lower salaries, increasing demands for experience, education, and tech skills, and an increase in short term opportunities are common. Fewer universities, for example, are offering to pay for travel expenses or relocation. In states that are experiencing major cuts in funding, higher education is projected to experience more cutbacks, layoffs, and closures.  All of these things undermine a sense of autonomy and competence, reducing motivation and well-being.

A volatile economy often results in a reluctance to fully commit to an organization, low morale, and higher levels of stress. Employees may be “straddling the fence” so to speak, with one foot in their workplace and the other in the job market as they actively seek better employment opportunities. As a result, this makes it harder for employers to recruit and retain employees. This costs an organization money in the long run, as high employee turnover forces a corporation to invest more money in advertising and training new employees. In addition, organizations often get a bad reputation for having high turnover or failing to invest in their employees, adding to the difficulty in recruiting and retaining employees.

Increasing Diversity
Changing demographics are increasing diversity in the workplace. This means that those organizations that do not celebrate diversity and promote inclusion will see higher attrition, lower performance, and problems recruiting and retaining employees. If an individual feels discriminated against due to their race/ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, age, religion, or ability, they are much less likely to apply for a job with that particular company, or remain in workplace that is seen as hostile. And, although there are laws in place that make discrimination and sexual harassment illegal, they tend to thrive in workplace today, often disguised as subtle racism or sexism, limited opportunities for growth and advancement, or workplace bullying.

Changing times mean changing needs, therefore individuals tend to be seeking different benefits from a job today than a generation or two ago. For example, while Traditionalists and Baby Boomers sought jobs that offered lifetime stability, different values are often witnessed in younger generations.  Companies who cannot keep up with the demands of younger generations will struggle to recruit or retain employees. For example, companies offering the flexibility of working from home are going to be increasingly appealing to many people, especially those who value flexibility, make long commutes to and from work, have children at home, face health issues, or feel more productive when they are at home away from the distractions of the workplace. Over time, factors such as a long commute, or the cost of daycare can prove to be deal breakers for many individuals. A cost-benefits analysis may reveal that costs associated with either commuting or paying for daycare may make the job much less appealing. Thus, employers who provide more flexibility are likely to also see increases in employee morale, motivation and commitment to the organization. Because more jobs allow for working from home in an online environment, companies who provide opportunities to network through webinars, email, facetime, training, etc. will foster competence and satisfy the need for relatedness. However, as more people continue working remotely, many companies are failing to build social relationships in the workplace, which can lead to a sense of isolation and disconnection.

For more information please visit the following website: Elaine Bontempi, Ph.D.

Blog Archive