grumble.jpgI often read human resources industry publications to find out what employers are thinking about hiring and the workplace in general, and yesterday I read a quote in one of these publications that blew my mind.

It was in a magazine I freelanced for many moons ago, Workforce Magazine, and it was titled, “Multiskilled Employees Sought as Versatility Becomes a Workplace Virtue.”

The disturbing quote came from David Lewis, founder and president of OperationsInc., an HR outsourcing and consulting firm in Stamford, CT, and he was talking about what companies were looking for in the people they hired.

“Who are the people who can work under pressure, work harder and earn less, who can take on new tasks, who can be OK out of their comfort zones? Companies need people like this now.”

Harder, faster, multitasker; but don’t expect to be compensated well for it. I thought you guys were already doing that.

According to a poll conducted earlier this year by Starbucks of it’s customers, 80% of consumers describe their schedule as demanding and 95% agree that they multitask at least once every day. And every economic indicator is showing many of you work more for less these days.

Well, maybe you’re not doing enough cheaply enough.

The story quotes a study by Accenture PLC that asked employers why the added new workers during the recession:

While 46 percent of the executives reported that they launched new products or entered a new market, 45 percent also said they needed workers with more or different skills for future business.

That’s all well and good. I’m all for workers learning new skills. It makes work life so much more interesting. The U.S. auto industry benefited, for a few years, from adopting the Japanese style team-building approach at many of its plants. I remember interviewing quite a few workers back in the late 1990s about the new model and the majority felt like it made their jobs better.

But is this about innovation, or squeezing every drop of blood out of employees?

The story continues:

With the new value placed on adaptable employees, hiring managers appear to be seeking workers who are willing to take on different tasks, even if employees grumble about the extra work.

“We define [adaptability] on two levels,” says Nels Wroe, partner and product director for Princeton, New Jersey-based SHL USA, a division of U.K.-based SHL Global, which provides talent assessment and HR solutions such as succession planning and recruitment for companies such as American Express Co. and Barclays PLC in 30 languages across 50 countries.

“Adaptability is thinking on your feet. It’s a tactical, short-term characteristic,” Wroe says. “Embracing change is not tactical. It’s at the root of someone’s work behavior. It’s more about being thrown curveballs and instead of just reacting, you look at the potential, see it and deal with it. It’s adapting to how the world is changing.”

Again, adaptability is a skill we all should have, and many of us do. But, it sounds like employers want you to keep smiling even when they throw a lot at you.

Did you all read Asimov’s book “I, Robot” or see the movie? Even the happy robots were secretly grumbling.


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