Our workplaces have permanently changed and not just because more of us are working from home. Increasingly, our employment security is connected to what we can produce from what we know. Our minds, not our muscles, pedigree or good intentions will keep us gainfully employed.
Using our knowledge to earn a living, for all types of work and across all industries and services, requires a new attitude about learning. It needs to be continuous. It, also, needs to be seen as essential by each individual, planned and then achieved as part of each person’s strategy to become and then remain employable. The new workplace will convert education from being an event that was tolerated into being a process that is welcomed.
Educational institutions must become much more pragmatic about what and how they teach. For individuals to take responsibility for their learning it must be proven to be in their self interest to do so. The connection between the learning of relevant skills and gainful employment must be made from kindergarten to graduate school. Education must produce students with the ability to contribute measurable results to a potential employer. Without that ability, there is no incentive for either the student to receive the education or an employer to employ the student.
Once employed, the worker must produce results that meet the employer’s current needs and anticipate future needs that, likely, will require more of the same or different skills to achieve. Employers may provide a “learning workplace” for some of their workers, some of the time, but, individuals cannot afford to rely on them.
Companies will face even more competition in the future and their main focus, properly, should be on developing their business. Workers who want to increase their chances of being retained when their employers’ needs change must assume responsibility, as any other “business” must, for having the ability to meet or exceed the new requirements.
More and more, that will mean continuing to learn new skills.
Computers and the internet are a great help as we continue to acquire the knowledge we need to remain viable in the marketplace. We will have access to myriads of resources to further our skills as we, literally, can now plug into continuous education.
Colleges, universities and reputable trade schools, all are accessible today via computer in our homes and workplaces. Recent developments such as “telepresence” technology, robots and competency-based learning are even being implemented in our high schools. We need to be prepared to take full advantage of these new learning resources as they continue to evolve.
MINDING YOUR OWN BUSINESS
When our education becomes as important to us as it needs to be, the concept of “unemployment” will be eliminated. Knowledge workers employ themselves. Between jobs, they will become fully engaged in acquiring additional skills. Keeping current on developments in ones chosen fields will become a functional reflex. Using your knowledge to contribute to an employer or to continue to build your “stock-in-trade” will be seamless. Knowledge workers will always have plenty to do.
In order to ensure economic stability and a steady supply of result-producing human capital, education, business and government must work together to make education a means to an end, not an end in itself. The end, of course, is productive people who are personally committed to lifelong learning, performing the work available.
Our national roots are firmly embedded in individual entrepreneurism. That spirit won the American West, and then it won the free world. Capitalism works as well for individuals as it does for businesses. At the heart of the free market system is the individual who is prepared to make a continuous contribution to their own business, someone else’s or both. Once employees fully realize that their “marketability” is their responsibility and, is, literally, “their own business,” then continuous learning will come more automatic for to all of us.
P. Anthony “Tony” Burnham, Esq., is employment counsel to GrowthPort Partners, Inc. which offers full-service human resources, “preventive”employment law and employee benefits consulting to mid-sized businesses in Nevada, California and nationally, growthportpartners.com.