When asked about their greatest challenges and triumphs of 2014, my clients' responses are remarkably consistent: "My company is thriving financially, but I've never worked this hard or been so tired in my life."
The recession of 2009 led to massive restructuring and leaner modes of operation. Efficiencies that were meant as short-term, emergency measures took root and still persist 5 years later. From a financial standpoint, the efforts have paid off handsomely for companies. Corporations are profitable and shareholders are happy. But the actual people, from the executive level down to the line worker, are exhausted. Most are performing the jobs of 3-4 pre-recession positions and all are doing more with less. Everyone is stretched thin.
If you probe these professionals, who are predominantly Generations Xers and Baby Boomers, they will also tell you that they are performing the work that others should be doing. Their bench strength is weak, they say, and they are dealing with a new generation of "Millennial" employees that lacks the skills and initiative to pick up the slack.
These experiences and feelings are legitimate. The Millennial generation is twice the size of Generation X and reached a critical mass in organizations in 2014, placing new demands on people and practices at work. Their values, technology and communication methods contrast greatly with those of older generations and have caused confusion, frustration and duplication of work. If you overlay this phenomenon with the after effects of the Great Recession, you have a perfect storm of corporate financial success and employee exhaustion.
Corporations will not be giving up their profit margins or increasing staffing levels anytime soon. The financial gains from this new normal are too lucrative to ignore or alter. Since the "New Economy" is here to stay, something else will need to give for our situations to become sustainable again. Corporate cultures will need to adapt to include emerging communication and collaboration practices, along with new methods for motivating employees. The fix, however, will not be quick.
Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy