Future of Work in Corporations

Future of Work in Corporations

“The very idea of broadening one’s loyalties and affiliations beyond the narrow confines of the marketplace and nation-state to include the human species and the planet is revolutionary and portends vast changes in the structuring of society.”         Jeremy Rifkin

The future worker will be one who has been educated to base her work-life on offering a solution to a societal problem. She will have chosen her education not to acquire a Master’s or a Ph. D., but to gain the information and skills required to work on the contribution she has defined in her work purpose. Through a self-selected combination of schooling, training and work experience she will have learned to market her skills and deliver her work in a variety of ways from a number of different venues: a home office that is ‘wired’ to other offices of her various colleagues; a meeting space designed to promote creativity in her hometown; an onsite factory or laboratory; etc. She will not have set hours, or income, and will adjust her work-life in harmony with her other pursuits; family; fitness; play; etc.

You are probably thinking of a few people who are close to living this lifestyle already, they are the pioneers of the future of work and they are thriving in some of the areas mentioned and struggling in others. Their struggle is made up of: a.) Struggle being an ongoing aspect of the future of work, the heroic journey to contribute, to participate positively. b.) This is not an accepted work style in our present culture, pressure is there to get a degree, pension, position, set hours, etc. When all is well with our hero’s work situation she feels ahead of the curve, in charge of her life, a contributor. When things start to flounder, the pressure to conform mounts and the required self-esteem and self-confidence to operate at the Leader/Expert level is depleted.

Many of today’s large corporations are struggling to retain young workers and to fill the spaces left open by the retirement of the baby boomers.  Corporations are born of the industrial age and, while a few of them are trying to adapt to an information age approach they are still deeply rooted in traditional thinking. They see it as having worked for them up till now so why change? Industrial age motivation is based on:

Monetary Rewards

Luxury of life

Ease of life


It makes sense from this perspective that in order to entice and retain young workers the company will have to:

Pay them more

Provide more holiday time

Let them work at home and/or provide daycare

Offer attractive retirement incentives

Many dollars and hours are spent on generating ‘creative’ ways to market these incentives. This is simply wrapping the old mind set in new packaging and it will not have the impact hoped for.

The primary motivator to inspire the youth of this generation to work for you is the same as it has always been, it is just becoming more apparent to them than it was to previous generations, – purpose. The primary reason kids are staying at home longer, playing video games, not willing to work for minimum wage will seem financial to an industrial mindset but it is not. Kids are suffering from ‘purpose paralysis’ they are finding it tougher to motivate themselves to work solely for the money and even tougher to work for a company they see as a contributor to the downfall of the environment. 

The primary motivator to work is and always has been contribution, for individuals and companies alike. It is the background that the other motivations (money, security, legacy, etc.) are placed upon and sometimes we forget it is in the background as we focus on the immediate needs presented by those secondary ones.

Working on the assumptions that all individuals have a contribution to make and want to make that contribution is one that has served me very well in working with clients who do not always present the way you would expect a contributor to. It will also work well with corporations. A long time unemployed individual may appear to be lazy, ill mannered and manipulative to the untrained eye. When challenged to define and deliver his contribution that individual transforms into an energetic, conscientious and enthusiastic participant in the human race. A corporate entity may appear on the surface to be greedy, exploitative and callous. Once persuaded to align its company mission with the positive evolution of the planet this company will transform into a planetary leader.

It may be ironic that both the individual and the company will be persuaded to make this transformation because by working on purpose they will actually become more content with their level of income/profit, achieve sustainability, and leave a legacy they are proud of.

To begin this transition a company will view itself as ‘working on purpose.’ Like the individuals we have described earlier in this book, the company has some potential and some rough spots; some strings of development at a high altitude and some at a low; some beliefs that are helpful and some that are hindering. And, just like our individuals, it can effectively work on purpose by reviewing and adjusting its:

Decision Making (How it actually makes decisions as compared to how it wants to.)

Personal Development (To develop individuals that feel significant, competent, and likable within the company.)

Company Definition  (Does the mission statement emphasize contributing?)

Career Definition (A process to encourage staff to align their individual work purposes to the companies mission statement? This process will accommodate individual work purposes that will further develop the companies mission

Career Development (Moving the center of gravity of the culture from Craftsperson – Manager – Leader – Expert – Creator.)

Strategic Planning (Flexible and developmental.)

The Three Generational Approach

This begins by recognizing that the work purpose statement of the company (what it is actually doing rather than the mission statement which defines what it intends to do) is the collective of the, mostly unconscious, work purpose statements of the staff. The companies mission statement, up until now a much maligned, and often ridiculed declaration now has to identify the company’s intended role in the world clearly enough that prospective hires can decide if that is a company they want to align with.

All staff will be provided with an opportunity, such as The Implicit Career Search workshop, to define their personal mission, work purpose statements and personal strategic plans. They will be encouraged by the company to follow this career plan whether or not this means they stay with the company. This will result in some people leaving shortly after taking the workshop, some staying with the company for a set period of time as they develop a certain stage of their plan, and others will see that they are able to deliver their work purpose in alignment with the company’s mission. It is this final group that will become the driving force behind the company for the following two generations. Results from Max Burgers of Sweden, who are applying this approach, show significant reductions in training costs and remarkable improvements in staff retention.

This approach is counter-intuitive to most industrial mindsets:

Provide people with training that encourages them to quit their jobs?

These are people who either would have left anyway, after other training money had been spent on them, or would have hung around as disgruntled employees putting time in and affecting the morale and productivity of others.

Spend money on people who plan to leave in five years?

These staff will be extremely motivated as they are working on their purpose and working for you for a reason, or number of reasons. They are not ‘ disgruntled lifers’ and you will get great value for your investment in them. Your company will gain immeasurable, and authentic, public relations benefits, as you will be seen as helping individuals contribute to the positive evolution of our planet. They will spread the word about how you helped them on their path; they will encourage their children to work for you. You will be seen as a positive influence on the community, particularly its youth.

The people who stay, they will have a say on the company’s mission?

They already do whether you realize it or not. What this will do is to have them participate in the company’s mission, which is now a living statement of intent. They will contribute the ideas and vision that will see the company evolving in a spectrum like fashion.

As with any change, there will be resistance from some staff and company directors. Some will struggle with the concepts; some will see this as too much. “All people really want is a job after all.” The majority will, however, find this as something they have been waiting for, it will feel like a ‘missing piece’ and they will carry the momentum for change.

The second generation will consist of youth who, being the next generation, are already more hungry for, and aware of, purpose along with the children of those who have been introduced to working on purpose. This will be a powerful work force guided by the pioneers of the first generation.

The third generation will have incorporated working on purpose into their lives to the degree that we have incorporated working for money into ours. Individuals and corporations will be aligned in protecting the planet, while exploring the possibilities of expanding to other planets. Purposeful creativity will be expected from all. This, of course, will create new problems that we cannot forecast at this point but our understanding of the spectrum of development will have us better prepared for these, and crises will actually be seen as opportunities. The difference between this generation and ours is that we intellectually know a crisis is an opportunity; they will act as if it is.

What is there to lose in adopting this approach? Providing a work place that encourages staff to reach their potential, to contribute to a better world? Developing a company that intends to be environmentally conscientious, on its own terms? One small step in this direction would improve the company’s bottom line and the planet’s future. It actually is, as the old industrial leaders liked to say, a win/win!

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