Change. Challenge. Opportunity
By Eddie LeMoine
There is no doubt we are currently going through lots of changes. These changes are happening around us and to us. So why is it that so many of us seem to dislike change? After all, most good things that come our way are a result of change. It is probably not so much we do not like change; it is more we do not like when it impacts us personally. So in this newsletter I thought I would outline some of the changes coming our way, the challenges they present and the opportunities they create for all of us (Change. Challenge. Opportunity).
We do not have to look very far to see the changes. I often talk to managers and they asked me, “why are the ways we have always done things not working anymore?”. The main reason for this is everything has changed.
Here are just a few:
- Four generations in the workforce and soon to be five.
- The impact of the aging population.
- A shrinking population in Canada.
- A country that will become known as a super diverse country.
- More influence from the global economy.
- Proliferation of technology.
As you can see there are lots of things changing in our future. Buckminster Fuller created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve “and in his research he noted that until the 1900s the knowledge of the world doubled approximately every hundred years. By the end of World War II it was doubling every 25 years but currently the knowledge of the world is doubling every 12 months and with technology it will move to every 12 hours. There is a saying that goes, “you can ride the wave of change or you can find yourself beneath it” the choice is yours.
So what are the challenges we face with the above changes and how can we address them?
Let’s take a look at them:
For generations in the workplace
This is a unique challenge that until now we have not seen before. As one of Canada’s leading experts on the impact of the aging population, I find it interesting to see how this evolved over the past ten years. Ten years ago clients would hire me to deliver a presentation to their leadership team on how to motivate younger workers. Today, I get equally as many calls from companies asking me if I can help them motivate their older workers. It is safe to say we are past the point of motivating a specific generation; it is now about effectively working across all the generations. In the hundreds of company employee engagement surveys I have read one of the biggest challenges facing companies is “lack of communication”. This is not because they are not trying to communicate it is more that the methods of communication is not being heard across the generations.
Ten years ago most of the managers were baby boomers managing across the generations. Today a manager can be a twenty-five year old managing a sixty-year-old or a thirty-year-old managing an eighteen-year-old and a sixty-year-old. This creates a very unique set of challenges.
The impact of the aging population
The biggest impact of the aging population is the reduction in the Canadian workforce. In addition to the reduction of the Canadian workforce we will also be faced with a brain drain of talented baby boomers heading off to their well-deserved retirement. This will create challenges in everything from delivering healthcare, services and human resources. There are about nine million Canadian boomers and more than one thousand of them will reach official old age each and every day for almost the next fifteen years. With a current birth rate of 1.5 children per female it is easy to see we are heading for some trouble.
A country that will become known as a super diverse country
With a current birth rate of only 1.5 children per female in Canada it is safe to say our future growth will need to come from immigration. We will become a super diverse country and this poses two challenges. The first challenge is attracting great talent to permanently move to Canada to work and live in our communities. The second challenge which is similar to the age difference, is to effectively communicate and work in the diverse workplace.
More influence from the global economy
It is becoming very apparent we live in a global economy. Industries and communities will be impacted by decisions made outside of their region, country and continent. We have to learn to adapt to these changes and become agile while changing to meet the global economy. Companies need to become innovative and look at ways to take advantage of the rapidly changing landscape.
Proliferation of technology
In the mid 1960s Gordon Moore termed the phrase “Moore’s law”. This implied that processing power would double every two years. Having spent most of my career working in the computer industry I marvel at the changes I have seen, from selling computers with half a megabyte of RAM to phones with hundreds of gigabytes of storage. As I dictate this article using voice recognition software it is being simultaneously saved on my computer and somewhere in the cloud. A state-of-the-art CRM tool will deliver this article to you. Technology is like Pandora’s box once it’s opened it can never be closed. Companies are forced to stay current with technology or find themselves falling behind at a rapid pace.
You have now reached my favourite part “the opportunity”. I’ve spent my entire career finding the opportunities in change and challenges. In fact my best-selling book; “Bring About What You Think About” is based on that exact premise. I personally believe that there has never been a better time to be alive and in the workforce then at this exact moment. So let’s take a look.
The companies that have cracked the codes of working with four generations are seeing incredible benefits. The differences each generation brings in skill sets, personalities and uniqueness to problem solving will create a winning workforce. Employees and employers who understand and embrace the uniqueness of each generation will become leaders in their organizations. As more baby boomers head off to retirement the opportunities for the younger workforce will be significant. Employees will have opportunities never seen before in the Canadian workforce. What will become different is the power will shift from managers to employees. The biggest challenge for companies in the future will be the attraction and retention of human resources. Companies that attract talented human resources will be rewarded with customers. This shift will require a completely different style of leadership.
But understanding the impact of the aging demographics and the shrinking workforce it is easy to see why we need to build more diversity in our country. There is great opportunity in attracting an immigrant workforce that is very talented and eager to work. To be successful the opportunity will be embracing their uniqueness in both the business they work in and communities they live in.
The biggest opportunities with the global economy is that our market is no longer within the confines of a community, a province or for that matter a continent. Even small businesses like mine have a level playing field to conduct business around the globe. My book and online training can be delivered to anyone in the world that has a computer and Internet connection. The opportunity is in our ability to adapt to the changes that come our way as a result of the global economy. We need to build diversity in the services we offer at a micro and macro level.
This leads me to the last challenge “the proliferation of technology”. I can not tell you how many times I have been at an event and people ask, “how do I get the phones out of our employee’s hands during work hours?”. I believe the real answer is, “how do you get it in their hands to do the right things with it”. Technology really becomes the big equalizer because it allows small companies to compete effectively against large companies. It enables cottage businesses to compete on the global stage. It allowed a lady in a small community turn her hobby of quilting into a global phenomenon and the largest employer in her community. Technology will allow us, “to do more with less” and that will become a necessity as our workforce continues to shrink. One of the best opportunities companies have today is to start hiring the underutilized younger workforce. The younger technology savvy worker can become a gold mine to companies that embrace them.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s article. I always find the key to everything is to embrace change, identify the challenges and create the opportunities that the challenges present. You will never be able to stop change it comes down to discovering the opportunities in that change. I wish you great month and as I always say, “live your dreams”.