The New Rules of Work

by placers on April 30, 2021 in Outside Insights


In business, there are assets, things that add or increase in value, and there are liabilities, things that must be paid for or are a cost to the business.

All employees have the opportunity to be real assets – but not all employees are working to their full potential.

Be an asset. Grow yourself, be worth more, do more, produce more, and think about more than you’re paid to think about. Be an asset and your career will flourish. You’ll attract the things you’ve always wanted out of a career: more money, work that you’re passionate about, a mission that makes a real difference.

On the other end, if you’re a liability and don’t take the tough assignments, skip meetings, disengage, and just do the minimum, you won’t get more out of the role than you create in economic value.

Yes, some people just want a job to pay the bills – and that’s ok! But after 30 years of working with employers and the workforce, I have found that there is a significant gap between what people want from their career and what they’re actually getting out of their career.

Did you know that 1 in 5 workers in the US is going to change jobs this year as people continue to get vaccinated and the pandemic eases? Pre-pandemic the number was closer to 1 in 3 workers. From another study, 51% of all workers are pondering a change in scenery and wondering if the grass really is greener on the other side.

So, why is the workforce so darn dissatisfied with their status quo? Why do they feel the need to change jobs? There are many possible reasons, but I’d like to propose a different narrative as to why employees are not happy: the rules of work changed, and no one teaches the rules.

Work typically has been defined as punching in, doing the job, and then punching out. Don’t do any more or less than your boss tells you. Color within the lines, follow the rules and keep the workflow moving.

Today, more jobs than ever require an entrepreneurial spirit – no matter what the official job description says. Companies expect their employees to create more value than they’re paid and to proactively find other areas that they can make an impact. It’s the only way companies make it. An employee’s job is to make money for the company and to produce more than they cost. If this shocks you, that’s my point.

Before I go on, let me just say – I am in no way proposing you work 16-hour days and neglect all other aspects of your life. I’ve been there, and if you’ve been part of this community for a while, you know that being a workaholic wreaked havoc on my physical and mental health. To create value beyond what you’re paid, you must take risks. You must try new ideas. You must serve customers when you can’t get your boss on the line in time. This can all happen within your 40-hour work week – you don’t need to work overtime to have a bold idea.

When I talk with Presidents and CEOs of companies, they often have similar goals and challenges – almost all of them related to the changing requirements of the new rules of work.

So, if the new rules of work mean thinking outside of your job description, where do you even begin? Try these things:

1) Employers say: “My employees need to understand change, our strategic plan requires it. We are entering new markets and our positions require different skill sets than they did before.”

What employees can do: Become a change maker.

Becoming a change maker doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a skill you hone over time. Reading really helped me – my favorite book about change is “Our Iceberg is Melting”. Everything in life and business is evolving and changing. We all must be experts at change management – whether you’re the leader who brings the troops along or the teammate who proactively supports business transformation.

2) Employers say: “Today’s workforce is lacking interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. There are plenty of folks that know technical stuff. We need leaders and project managers that know how to work with different people.”

What employees can do: Work on their interpersonal skills.

I took Dale Carnegie’s Introduction to Human Relations course where I studied public speaking and learned how to navigate people and challenging conversations. This helped me develop my own values and an understanding of what I stood for. In business, the everyday study of “people” is more important than any degree. Interpersonal skills are critical.

3) Employers say: “We need everyone in our company to be a good teammate. We all need to have each other’s backs as we work towards our transformative goals.”

What employees can do: Make becoming a good teammate a priority.

Very few jobs are solo acts and great work is rarely done in a vacuum. Would you say that you’re a good teammate? Do you encourage others’ ideas? Do you help motivate and inspire? If you have a bold idea, do you bring others along for the ride or keep it to yourself? Most importantly: Can your team depend on you?

The new rules of work require businesses and employees to operate differently. Leadership, culture and work norms must change, and an entrepreneurial spirit is more important now more than ever. Hey workforce: you have what it takes to get ahead – start acting on those bold ideas and color outside of the lines.

Have you noticed a shift in the rules of work? What other ways can employees adapt to changing employer expectations? If you’re an employer, what are you looking for from your people? Please reply and let me know.

Until next time,

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