Over the past several months, I have had ongoing discussions with colleagues discussing how vastly different the composition of companies are today than they were for our parents, or even when we entered the job market. The changes are both positive and negative. However in almost all cases, they are significant and affect all of us in the workforce. The following is a very short list of some of the most dramatic differences I have noticed:
Geographical Focus: There was a time when major cities dominated vertical markets (e.g., Detroit/automotive, Silicon Valley/technology, Hollywood/entertainment). Certainly, to some extent this is still true. However, we can all see that the landscape is changing quickly. As Thomas Friedman describes in The World is Flat, the competitive advantages associated with geography have diminished. As an example, the talent pool in Silicon Valley is no longer able to compete with talented hardware and software engineers in India who are willing to work for a fraction of the northern California salaries.
Additionally, companies have figured out how to leverage talent regardless of where they live. As Jeff Howe describes in Crowdsourcing, emerging companies such as Threadless have tapped into the resources of the crowd. Threadless is a t-shirt manufacturer who essentially holds online contests for t-shirt designs. The winners get small awards and some notoriety within the fashion design world. Threadless uses the design in their new line of clothing. Why pay for designers when you can have thousands of talented young designers worldwide do it for free?
Time to Market: I have commented in several blogs how the time to develop and release new products (or new features) is getting shorter and shorter. In software development, applications are being released as services over the web. This is known as Software as a Service, or SaaS. Rather than releasing a new version and sending a CD out to each customer, the software runs over the web and when the new version is added, all customers have access to it immediately. This is allowing companies to release new versions monthly, weekly or even daily rather than quarterly or annually. As they say in the computer industry, “the difference between hardware and software is that eventually all hardware will fail; and eventually all software will work.” By allowing software companies the ability to release updates rapidly and as needed, the result is higher quality products.
Employer Loyalty: While the changes described above create more efficient, nimble and profitable companies, the downside is that employees are no longer long-term resources. My father, like most of yours, worked for the same company for 30 years. This was considered normal and valued on a resume. Today, I have very few friends who have worked for the same company for more than 5 years. Longevity at a company is now viewed as negative and works against you in the job market. Statistics show that most of us change jobs every 18-36 months. If you aren’t looking for your next job, you should be.
I could list 5 or 10 more items, such as greater customer intimacy or improved corporate transparency through online customer communities, but I am curious – What changes are you seeing in business today?
Update: For part II of this posting visit, “5 Steps to Prepare Yourself for the New Corporate World“.
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