Workin' for a Livin'

Workin’ for a Livin’

The improving economy gives employees more workplace influence.

August 24, 2015

“Some days won’t end ever and some days pass on by/I’ll be working here forever, at least until I die.”

So sings Huey Lewis in “Workin’ for a Livin’”.

It’s a song many American workers sing as they blindly make their way through the daily grind in set routines, whether at the office or in the factory.

But other laborers seek work/life balance, follow ambition for higher wages, and respond to external factors affecting employment like innovative technology and changing business models.

Employers, too, consider new ways to more efficiently manage workers in adapting to the growing independent mindset of workers.

This week, research findings explore some facets of the current labor situation and examine some possibilities for the future of work. The set routines enjoyed by workers and employers alike face disruption.

Where are your members on the employment spectrum now, and perhaps tomorrow? And how will your organization as an employer adjust to accommodate trends?

‘Without labor, nothing prospers.’—Sophocles

Before diving into today’s realities, let’s take a glimpse at tomorrow’s work possibilities. Consider these models during our explorations—along with variables unique to you and your members.

One report provides compelling speculation. “The Future of Work: A Journey to 2022” asserts “Disruptive innovations are creating new industries and business models… New technologies, data analytics, and social networks are having a huge impact on how people communicate, collaborate, and work.”

The report poses three “worlds of work,” each assigned a color: blue, green, and orange.

  • Blue companies are those that are big and growing bigger. Capitalism rules, and “individual preferences trump beliefs about social responsibility.”
  • Orange companies break down and collaborate as “specialization dominates the world economy.”
  • Green companies focus on social responsibility, with care for climate change and demographics. Sustainability is a main business driver.

“Most organizations are likely to be a mix of all three worlds of work,” so consider tradeoffs and implications, advises PwC, as you strategize.

Survey results show factors influencing the course you will take include technology breakthroughs (53%), resource scarcity (39%), global economic power shifts (36%), changing demographics (33%), and urbanization (26%).

Perhaps some of these influences are already at work.

Do you know “Why Six Million Americans Would Rather Work Part Time”? The answer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is that these workers are “Typically young and college-educated, they’re not [working part time] because personal or economic circumstances forced them to.”

It’s because workers choose to work enough to cover the bills and leave time to follow their passions instead, and “they don’t want to commit to one job or employer.”

“Their numbers have increased 12% since 2007… a shift with broad implications for hiring practices.”

Jobs are now increasingly focused around the worker and not the employer.

A post at LinkedIn presents “The Case Against Full-Time Employees.” Here it’s suggested that “gig jobs,” or those held by independent contractors, “will continue to comprise a outsized percentage of global job growth.” The paradigm shift against full-time employment exists because “for certain types of jobs there are more efficient ways of allocating resources, leading to better services for customers, more money for contractors… and indirect benefits to consumers because of productivity boosts to economies.”

A related issue is that “Long Hours Backfire for People and for Companies,” says Harvard Business Review. Overwork does not result in more productivity, the article notes.

"Considerable evidence shows that overwork is not just neutral—it hurts us and the companies we work for.”

Stress-related health problems are impactful, with dire consequences for suffering employees and companies footing larger insurance bills.

‘One man’s wage increase is another man’s price increase.’—Harold Wilson, former British prime minister

Skills gaps exist in expectations of tech businesses and capability of college graduates, says And, millennials need help in applying skills they do have in the real world.

Although this generation is one of the best educated, they lack confidence in their judgment and “need to have a more effective combination of hard and soft skills before entering the work place.”

And, “In 20 years, millennials will be middle-aged and transforming the workplace,” notes a blog post at The Wall Street Journal.

They will have typical concerns of most workers: saving for retirement, paying off debt, and so on. But an important difference is that “there will be more single millennials than there were single Gen Xers or baby boomers.”

This will have impact as single millennials will have more discretionary time and mobility—an advantage for employers. However, this flexibility will also allow this cohort to move readily for their own advantage as well.

Also, there is expected to be a larger number of single-parent millennials, with greater parental responsibility. “Organizations that want to be talent magnets are going to have to recognize this shift and provide better options.”

Another trend to influence this group is a transition in small business operations. “Small and family owned businesses are going to look very, very different 25 years from now,” notes the post. Two explanations are demography and dysfunction.

Entrepreneurial start-ups are on the decline in an economic environment that does not inspire confidence. “Hyper-regulation” is also a factor; small businesses cannot absorb such expenses.

“Young people… are less likely candidates for entrepreneurship… They are coddled, protected, and less confident… They are not necessarily risk-averse, but they are looking to score over a much shorter time frame.”

‘Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.’—Confucius

Another environmental factor for consideration is the advent of technology.

Are We Heading Towards a Jobless Future?” asks the World Economic Forum.

Rapidly changing IT structures and communication technologies “give rise to fears of displacing more workers and potentially widening the economic gap between the rich and poor.  Technological evolution and artificial intelligence are fast redefining the conventional structure of our society.”

Computers are making some jobs obsolete. But some argue technology also creates job opportunity and point to developing countries that have become “global outsourcing hubs employing hundreds of thousands of people.”

In America, salary declines have been evident since 1973, and greater discrepancy between those holding wealth and investors in comparison to the average worker is apparent.

In explanation of the phenomenon, “the compelling role played by information technology and automation certainly cannot be ignored.”

The article concludes, “These trendlines call for urgent action by governments to match jobs with skills to ensure shared economic prosperity and equal opportunity for all.”

Many variables contribute to inevitable change in the future world of work. Demographics, technology, new business models, along with personal opinion are all impactful.

What adjustments, compromises and concessions can be made for mutual benefit of employers and workers?

Perhaps all can aspire beyond the resignation of Huey Lewis, who is “taking what they giving ‘cause I’m workin’ for a livin’.”

Evidence shows the workforce already displays growing demand for change.

 LORA BRAY is an information research analyst for CUNA’s economics and statistics department. Follow her on Twitter via @Bray_Lora and visit the CUNA blogThe Research Roundup: Economic Perspectives.