Survival Tips for a New World of Work23 Jun 2022
The employment “deal”—the set of unspoken expectations between employer and employee—is constantly changing. Over the last few years, however, it’s become positively scrambled.
First came the digital revolution and the resulting wave of corporate transformations. Then came the global pandemic that overturned long-standing business operating models. Now, organizations are working through the Great Resignation, the decision of millions of workers to quit their jobs in search of new and more fulfilling job opportunities.
So, what does the new employment deal look like? And what can you do to adapt to the continually shifting landscape?
How you respond depends on what side of the employment table you’re sitting on at any given moment. Are you a project leader in hiring mode? Or are you thinking about your next career move? Perhaps you’re a little of both.
In thinking about these issues—regardless of your perspective—it’s usually helpful to understand the bigger picture. Coming into 2022, CEOs were largely bullish about growth—in the global economy, in their own businesses and in their employee head count.
While overall optimism may have cooled a bit since then (due to supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine) and the global employment outlook is more mixed, certain markets are seeing reasonably robust employment growth. For example, earlier this month the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were 11.4 million job openings at the end of April—just a modest decline since March—while new hiring and separations were largely unchanged. In the U.K., the labor market has remained resilient during the pandemic and it is anticipated that labor shortages will let up as high vaccination rates bring workers back and more graduates enter the job market. In Japan, only a few industries experienced labor shortages as of December 2021, but as the economy picks up, more may be on the horizon.
CEOs seem to have gotten the message about changing expectations and the need to prioritize attracting and retaining good people. Indeed, they now view managing talent as a key business risk—along with risks like cybersecurity, climate change and supply chain challenges.
To adapt to these new realities, 42 percent of CEOs are looking to hire people who predominantly work remotely—with 37 percent expecting that most employees will work remotely at least two days a week. And 40 percent are putting more emphasis on people investments such as skills training, up from 33 precent in earlier surveys.
This broadly aligns with worker expectations. Three-quarters of respondents in a recent PMI survey want to be able to choose whether to work in person or remotely. And one-third want opportunities to upskill—something that’s particularly important to senior-level employees.
Given this context, what can you do to adapt to the changing employment deal? If you’re in hiring mode, consider these options:
Embrace work flexibility and worker autonomy: To the extent possible given the demands of your business, offer remote or hybrid work arrangements. As noted, this is a baseline worker expectation that will give you an edge over organizations with rigid in-office requirements. Beyond flexibility, consider ways to help employees achieve greater autonomy in their jobs. Give them the creative space to find the greater purpose in what they do and maintain focus on achieving business outcomes rather than micro-managing time or attendance.
Invest in your people: This isn’t just a matter of technical skills. Research by PMI and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) points to a mix of technical and interpersonal “power” skills as most desirable in project professionals of the future. These power skills include relationship building, collaborative leadership, strategic thinking, creative problem solving and commercial awareness. The payoff: employees who think their organizations provide opportunities for learning and growth are 2.9 times more likely to be engaged than workers without such opportunities.
Focus on culture: The maxim that “culture trumps strategy” has never been more true. In today’s environment, employee feedback is essential in evolving your organization’s culture in ways that foster greater engagement and satisfaction. Invite employees to contribute ideas that will make a real difference in the quality of their work lives—whether that’s a new rewards and recognition program, enhanced mentorship or the creation of employee resource groups.
If you’re a project professional thinking about career advancement:
Feel empowered to speak up: Given the demand for qualified talent, workers in today’s job market have real power. To capitalize on this power, make sure your resume is updated with your latest accomplishments and responsibilities. Wherever you can, quantify your contributions and keep the focus on results and outcomes, rather than outputs. Then speak up unreservedly about what you want and what you can offer in a new position.
Ignore the usual job titles: With the job market in such flux, it’s important to focus on an organization’s strategic needs rather than traditional job titles. Learn what you can about those needs by studying the organization and, when possible, talking with its leaders. That will help you differentiate yourself in the marketplace and give you an edge in negotiations.
Build a bigger comfort zone: Experts often describe project professionals as being either I- or T-shaped in their skill set. I-shaped managers have deep knowledge or expertise in one domain. T-shaped managers also have deep domain knowledge but have expertise in adjacent or related domains. Cultivate a T-shaped skill set—whether your interests are in marketing or finance or in one of the risk areas that are important to the C-suite, such as cybersecurity or supply chain.
Today’s employment deal may seem more scrambled than ever. But with forethought and careful preparation, you can thrive in today’s job market, regardless of which side of the table you’re sitting on.