The New “Career Contract”: How Organizations and Individuals Will Succeed in the Changing World of Work

Why a talent management structure geared towards career development is key to nurturing the organizational and individual agility required to succeed in business.

The world of work is changing rapidly and the requirements of the working life of tomorrow are likely to be very different than the ones we’re living in today.
For example, provocative research suggests that by 2030, over 40% of existing occupations might be gone because of accelerating computerization.  Job areas particularly susceptible to automation include transportation and logistics, office and administrative support, and industrial production. Consider, for example, how many people drive buses, taxis, and trains.  The technology is already here for those vehicles to drive themselves.  Once that’s implemented on a large scale, millions of people whose profession was to move vehicles from point A to point B will have outmoded skills.  
Of course, similar cycles have occurred in the past: jobs become obsolete due to technology evolution and new jobs arise to fill the employment gap.  The particular challenge now is that the new jobs likely to emerge will require a more complex skill set than those being lost.  We are already seeing this talent mismatch in play. Despite high unemployment and job seekers flooding the market, many businesses cannot find appropriately-skilled talent.  In a 2015 global survey, 38% of employers reported difficulty in filling key job openings – the highest number since the recession began in 2008. This trend is likely to accelerate as technology continues to transform how work gets done. 
Continuous learning = agility and relevance
With the world of work changing so rapidly, the idea of a company sustaining a competitive advantage through a static business model or set of technologies is dead. Rather, the path to success lies in an organization’s ability to both cope with change and to actively pursue the opportunities that arise from it.  To stay relevant, organizations and the people they employ need to be agile.
The most critical skill for any employee will be the ability to continuously learn and develop.  Individuals can no longer expect job security because of their tenure.  When conditions change and the business needs new skill sets, having been there for 20 years will not matter.  The job security of tomorrow will come from an employee’s ability to adapt and acquire new skills – and organizations have a critical role in this regard. 
From job provider to career enabler
Organizations are no longer able to offer job security as an inducement for high-demand talent. At the same time, individuals no longer expect (or desire) to remain with one company for the duration of their working years. In fact, 47% of respondents in a recent Right Management survey said they expect to work at two to five companies during their careers, while another 20% indicated six to nine organizations. So, what is the quid pro quo or social contract that will replace the notion of job security in exchange for job performance? What will keep talented individuals interested and engaged in working for organizations?
The changing world of work requires a new type of social contract between employer and employee, one built around career development. In order to attract and retain high-value employees, we recommend organizations make the shift, both strategically and operationally, from being job providers to being career enablers. Organizations that embed career development opportunities into their culture are better able to advance their competitive capabilities as a whole while enabling individual workers to stay relevant professionally.
It’s time for organizations to acknowledge the fact that the context of employment has changed. Business requirements are not static. Workforces are not family. Loyalty is no longer a reliable medium of exchange between employer and employee. Businesses need a continuous skills refresh to stay relevant and individuals should be looking for employment security within themselves, not the organization. Creating a mutually beneficial culture of career development will enable both the individual and the organization to adapt to the changing world of work.
In my next blog, I’ll discuss key characteristics of a culture of career development.
Related Articles: 
Five Ways to Improve Career Development and Talent Planning
Leveraging Career Development to Retain Critical, Long-Tenured Employees
Developing a High Potential Talent Pipeline? Don’t be Blinded by Likeability