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North Central Business Journal News

(January 2000 issue)

by Sandra Kay Neal, Ph.D.

     The workforce of tomorrow is expected to continue to reflect the changes of the past 30 years.  It will continue to age because the population is aging.  That means that businesses need to continue training older workers to replace out-dated skills.  Training older workers requires a change in the training tactics to incorporate the manner in which older adults learn.  Training that focuses on transferring experience is more useful than training based on assumptions that the trainee is an "clean slate".

     Because workers are able to work for more years, there will continue to be an increase in middle-aged workers making drastic career changes.  This means that many entry-level jobs will be filled by people in their 40s and 50s, rather than in their late teens or early 20s.  This will require a changed attitude in the socialization of new employees.

     More and more workers will be responsible for aging parents, not just raising children.  Businesses will need to be more accommodating to workers' needs for leave of absences for family problems.

     Workers will continue to display a lack of company loyalty, changing jobs as easily as people change home decor.  This trend to changing jobs will reflect the desire of workers for non-tangible benefits of employment, such as flexible hours, respect from supervisors,  opportunity for professional growth and input, and cafeteria-style benefits.

     The workforce will be more prone to violence when angry.  Due to the increase in violence in the past decade, people now have well-ingrained violence scripts in their heads.  This means that when they get angry, one option that comes to mind is the possibility of physically hurting someone or damaging the company property.  This option was less likely to be considered 20 years ago because fewer violence scripts existed.  The only way to counter this violence script is to keep it from being considered, by addressing the causes of anger and training  in anger management. 

     These trends in the workforce require changes in management tactics.  The old assumption that workers were like interchangeable machine parts will not be effective anymore.  Instead, managers will need to pay attention to the specific individuals who work for them.  Managers will need several tactics available to address the motivation of each employee because what works in one instance may not work in another situation.  Managers will spend more time managing people and less time managing machines or numbers.  Knowing how to do the job will be less valuable than knowing how to get employees to do the job.

Sandra Kay Neal holds a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and has 19 years experience helping organizations solve human resource issues.  Her company, Synergistic Organizational Solutions, specializes in aiding small businesses.  Dr. Neal can be reached at sos_hr@localaccess.com.

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