Monday, August 13, 2007

Business Week: The Future of Work

The August 20 and 27th issue of Business Week cover story is titled The Future of Work and it is excellent. I’ll take a good look at some of the interesting content that is relevant to technology and academic communities over the next few blogs. I highly recommend you buy this issue and keep it close - in fact I would consider it to be a must read. Now let's get to the content.

Before we look ahead we need to get some perspective on where we have been and where we are now. Here's a few quotes from the issue:

"According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 34% of adult workers in the U.S. now have bachelor’s degrees, up 29% from 10 years ago".

"The modern workplace no longer resembles an assembly line – it now more closely resembles a design studio where the core values are collaboration and innovation".

"Talented people are still in high demand, and there is no evidence yet that work has become less interesting because of outsourcing".

"The rapid growth of broader, richer channels of communications – including virtual worlds – is transforming what is meant to be “at work”.

Good stuff so far right? Communication channels, collaboration, virtual worlds, future, doing things differently, risk, trying new things….. all the things Mike Q and I write about and have been podcasting about over the past couple of years. Here’s a few more interesting pieces:

"College tuitions have risen 60% since 2000".

"The percentage of 25-29 year-olds with at least a bachelor’s degree has fallen during the last decade".

This is disturbing – could the next generation of Americans be less educated than the previous generation at the same time employers are requiring a higher level of worker education? Have 4-year institutions priced themselves of of the mainstream market?

Perhaps there is some gold here or those of us closely involved with the 2-year schools. Is this an opportunity for community colleges to provide the first two years of a 4-year degree? Translation - many 4-year schools may have priced themselves out of the market for much of the U. S. population. Community colleges are much less expensive and provide an opportunity for a student to economically obtain the first two years of a 4-year degree. We've always done it - it may be time to ratchet transfer up.

Now a little more:

"A Conference Board survey results found 47% of workers were satisfied with their jobs in 2006, in 1995 the same job satisfaction survey indicated 59%".

"Lynn Franco, consumer research director at the Conference Board, believes technology may have something to do with these results – specifically the fact that it is much more difficult to get away from “work”.

From a survey conducted by Beta Research Corp for Business Week:
"36% of those surveyed believe they actually got more work done prior to email".

I find this last item incredible - let's think about it a bit - time warp your brain back 10-15 years if you were around then. How connected were you then? Did you have email? How dependent were you on technology to get you job done? If you are an academic - what kind of technology were you or your faculty using in your classrooms? Overhead projectors? Maybe you were one of those on the cutting edge and you had a document camera? Seriously - were you or your faculty more efficient? Personally my answer is no and I really hope yours is too. I'm guessing but believe that many of those who said they were more productive without email have not bothered to keep up with modern technology. Or perhaps they have not had sufficient support from their superiors......

Technology, globalization, communications, ubiquitous broadband, collaboration, virtualization….. exciting times for us in the academic world as we prepare our students for the new world of “work".


canadian52 said...

Communications are not always effectively taught in school. Interaction in a workplace can be challenging because of the variety of contradicting personalities, ethnic backgrounds, natural tendencies etc. Simply because someone has been educated in communications, doesn't mean that he/she won't have trouble communicating in the workplace. One way to continue learning strategic communications is hiring an executive coach to teach you skills that you sometimes don't learn in school. Irene Becker, creator of, is an excellent coach and can help with these issues. Her blog ( ) may be of interest to you.

Gordon... said...

An interesting comment and an intersting blog. Be sure you get the link correct to Irene's blog: