The Evolving Requirements of Today’s Modern Workplace

By MBO Partners | September 29, 2022

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Companies today are in need of specialized labor.

New technology is helping organizations complete tasks that were once done by employees.

The work-from-home trends has allowed companies to find specific talent because they don’t have to physically be in an office.

The US is one of the most rapidly changing labor markets – and unless you are actively hunting for a new job, you may not know much about it. Although we now live in a world where information is instantly available, we can sometimes miss the overall trends because we are constantly being informed of the details.

In this short paper, I will provide insight on how the labor market is changing and how I found firms like MBO Partners to be useful if you need resources or decide to hunt for a new position.

Some of the major issues that are impacting the labor market are:

Companies Need Specialized Labor

For many years companies have been developing new technologies and processes that improve the way that companies operate. Some companies develop these internally to achieve their growth or efficiency goals, while others contract with specialized technology or consulting firms for help. As these new technologies and processes are developed, the business world gets a bit more complex and over time as more and more of these developments occur, there is a need for very specialized labor to implement and maintain these new technologies and processes.

This trend has changed the way companies hire and promote individuals. In previous times, individual advancement was frequently achieved through the expansion of areas of expertise, thus becoming more of a generalist. Now more people are achieving that personal growth through mastery of areas of specialization. The problem this has created, even for management and technical consulting firms, is that it is hard to hire people with all the skills needed to fix every problem. Whether you are a corporation or consulting firm, you will end up needing some support from a specialist but won’t have enough work to justify hiring them permanently.

This creates an interesting opportunity for specialists to become independent consultants and work on a project basis for multiple companies. It is also the primary reason that MBO Partners is successful as they do an exemplary job of linking clients with a need for a specialized skill with individuals who possess that skill.

Fewer People Exist to do the Work that Must be Done

There has long been a belief that the world population was growing, and this growth was creating a strain on our global resources. However, in more developed countries, the population is actually decreasing.

Many factors contribute to this, including the increased cost of living in an advanced society, the fact that more people are now highly educated and want to use that capability, and the shift from a farming-based culture to a modern system where companies hire and contract help from a highly skilled and specialized workforce.

These are just a few examples, but they are some of the primary factors that are causing a shortage of workers. Elon Musk has recently discussed this as a major problem for the future, particularly for businesses. This past Spring, I was a Panelist at a Boston Graduate Business School that has a capstone program called “Future Challenge”. The “Future Challenge” addressed this very issue. The Graduate School stated that based on research, for a society to maintain a steady level of people, women needed to have an average of 2.1 children. Societies that had a rate of less than 2.1 babies per woman shrunk, while those with more grew. The purpose of the “Future Challenge” was not to address the overall problem of population shrinkage as it is too large and complex to solve, but to look for a subset of that problem that could be solved using technology. There were many interesting and viable solutions to problems that came out of that exercise.

One of the issues that were discussed in this “Future Challenge” is that the United States has been growing, not organically, but through immigration. This is because we, just like other countries around the world suffer from the same problem, our birth rate is below 2.1 children per mother. Since we are the desired location for migration, our population continues to grow for now. This fact is something we don’t often hear when we read or hear reports about immigration, nor do we hear about any robust plans on how we should be managing it. What we primarily hear about is a labor shortage in the lower-level jobs associated with cashiers, fast food restaurants, and delivery drivers. Help wanted signs are everywhere, but the labor shortage doesn’t stop there. From a corporate perspective, we also need to target and attract talent we need to support our business processes and technologies.

Another way to fill critically needed positions is to stop discriminating against older workers. There have been many workers who have been displaced through reorganizations or other events and have simply given up on pursuing employment. We must realize as the population decreases it is critical that we retain highly skilled and experienced people. This is particularly important in a shrinking workforce environment. The senior worker, when properly trained is extremely valuable at helping bridge the gap and can help mentor young workers, passing along their many years of experience.

MBO Partners, through their robust platform and extensive reach, creates an opportunity to continue to employ senior workers through avenues other than simply being an employee.

Integration with Technology

A non-labor way that companies are dealing with a shrinking workforce is by implementing robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), and new advanced information technology. This trend started years ago but is rapidly accelerating as demand for it increase while new technologies are developed to solve a greater number of business problems and conduct specific tasks from ideation through the delivery of product.

When labor is becoming increasingly scarce businesses need to turn to a reliable way of completing tasks that were once done by employees. Although scarcity of labor may initially be caused by a lack of people to fill the positions, new laws and regulations can also impact and drive the need for a technical solution. A good example of this is McDonalds, which felt both the pressure of a shrinking pool of applicants and the government’s pressure to pay the employees a higher minimum wage. They turned to kiosks to conduct needed tasks without hiring more relatively expensive employees in a tighter labor market. As companies turn to technology to solve various problems, they will need to gain access to very specialized technical talent that they may or may not need on a continuous basis.

In either case, having a partnership with MBO Partners will help them find the people who posses the needed skills for the task at hand, either for a specific task or to conduct ongoing operations.

Work from Home Trend

A topic that has been discussed since the development of enterprise information systems and the internet, but never taken very seriously, was allowing employees to work from home. Some of the primary drivers initially were the desire to reduce congestion around major urban areas, the time wasted getting employees to work, and the carbon footprint of having a large workforce commuting to a work site.

The Covid pandemic changed how employees worked out of the necessity of keeping everyone safe. Management had to learn how to both trust employees and develop methods to evaluate performance based on output versus hours sitting in an office. How this gets implemented in the long run will vary from company to company but it has certainly changed the way work is thought of and evaluated forever. One of the benefits it has provided is that it has opened the market for companies to find specific talent because they don’t have to physically be in an office and conversely, it has allowed employees to consider working for companies that are located much further away.

These are some examples of how the workforce is changing. There will be long-term implications on how we educate our future leaders and employees, what topics they study, how they will work together, how they will work seamlessly with technology, and how we will find and employ them.

Guest post by Paul MacKinnon, consultant. Paul is a senior-level management consultant with significant experience in strategy, performance improvement, supply chain management, and technology implementation. In addition to holding senior-level positions in industry and management consulting, as an intrapreneur and entrepreneur he has also started companies and operations that used advanced technology to change the competitive landscape of the markets they served.  He has worked primarily in the defense/aerospace, automotive, and government sectors. 

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