The Great Political Failure of Work
There has never been a more important time for the workers of America to discover the vast opportunities to make new and better livings. Today, it is easier to start a business, find the “dream job,” and to do work that is far more interesting. In fact, for many, doing so is a necessity.
Unfortunately, too many workers are not keeping up with change, which is directly linked to employee engagement and employability. The numbers speak for themselves. According to Gallup’s latest global survey, only 13% of the world’s workers are engaged. Last year, the New York Times published a survey that indicates 48% of today’s workers characterize themselves as “underemployed.” For years, unemployment figures have become a political number touted as a great success story while wages and income stagnated. Underemployment is directly linked to those of us who’ve been kicked to the curb because of change. That sentence itself indicates how many people respond to change passively. Underemployment is a problem of human nature and our politicians are pandering to a sense of victimhood that only fuels more discord.
We would have to go back to the beginning of the industrial revolution to find the kind of turmoil that is roiling through our country. 300 years ago, that revolution handed out pink slips to virtually everyone who worked. History demonstrates that work doesn’t go away, it moves. The United States has attracted the greatest talent pool on the face of the earth. But, the political machine treats workers with contempt. Focus groups tell politicians what our culture wants to hear. That message has nothing to do with what people need to hear. Our citizens need to change. They need to learn. They need to stop waiting and take action for their personal betterment. When a politician promises better jobs with no directive to practice accountability, the result is an unhealthy brand of hope, one that requires no personal action.
Is this a generational issue? My guess is that is part of the problem. The average age of senators is 62 years old. In Congress, the average drops to a youthful 57. One of them recently said in the news, “We need to take these coal miners and train them to become truckers.” Trucking is the number one job for men in this country. But, Daimler-Benz has just finished a long pilot program in Nevada where driverless trucks proved they are cheaper to run, don’t need time off, produce fewer emissions and are much safer. If we are doing a bad job with coal, what will happen when 4.8 million truck drivers need to transform?
Democrats and Republicans have politicized coal miners for years but they have done little to improve their lives. In fact, because of the overabundance of available talent, wages for coal miners have dropped to poverty levels. Coal miners will find better solutions from the business world. For example, Bit Source is a tech company in eastern Kentucky that recruits new talent from the coal mining community. They teach coding on-the-job. In essence, they are giving coal miners new lives. These are the solutions that America’s displaced talent needs to hear. They need examples of innovation, of successful personal change, and examples of new versus old forms of employment. We would have to travel all the way back to John F. Kennedy to find a politician prepared to tell our citizens that they are responsible for their lives.
The American psyche is at a tipping point. We need an intervention. Because if 48% of our brothers and sisters are out of sync with change, what will happen to them in the next ten years? We are at the beginning of a new wave from the Cybernation that brings swifter change, unlike anything we have seen before. That will be good news for those looking forward and paralyzing news for those who look to the past.
Technology offers new freedom. However, we were not conditioned, as a culture, to seek out freedom. Most of us were taught to fit in, to find our workstation, to collect our paychecks, to clock-in and clock-out. The routine worked against any notion that all of us have a unique purpose and gift. I keep finding that when people identify why they were born, they solve a problem that makes the world a better place.
Appalachia doesn’t need more miners, it needs new coders, caregivers, entrepreneurs, designers, teachers, mentors, and coaches. We are standing in the doorway of a new future. Listening to negative narratives on the news will not help. Joining the rant groups on Facebook will only prolong the problem.
I am a Los Angeles native. I love our city. I am a big booster. Many people have asked me what I most love about the City of Fallen Angels. I respond, “The talent.” Our city is a microcosm of the allure of our country. We attract the world’s greatest talent who pack their bags and move here to live out a dream.
Right now, about half of them need an intervention. From my perspective, the intervention will begin when our leaders tell the truth and develop the courage to tell us we are the problem. What can our government do to help this? We could begin by moving from a $200 million budget for apprenticeships to something along the lines of Germany, which provides $4.8 billion euros for 1/3 the population. Economists will point out that Germany’s economic strength is directly linked to its focus on training and learning. It will grow when politics and media shift from portraying victims to showing people embracing innovation. I am not talking about technical innovation, I am talking about personal reinvention.
3D printing will create an entirely new category of entrepreneurs. Robotics will free workers to become creative problem solvers. Education will be available with a stroke of the hand. The work of tomorrow will require creativity, innovation, empathy, curiosity, and interest. These are characteristics that tend to make life more interesting and fulfilling. Regardless, change will impact every single profession.
Recently, I was meeting with a client in the wealth industry. During our chat, I pointed through the window to about a hundred financial advisors. I said, “In just a few years, all of them will be curators. Are they ready?” He asked what I was getting at. I responded, “Artificial Intelligence will transform your industry. The most successful advisors will be the ones that are most artful in curating and filtering information for your clients. The rest will have a rough time of it.”
I am an eternal optimist. For over 27 years, I have watched people transform their lives by identifying the work that fits their unique career DNA. From my vantage point, the future is bright. But, this is a time to raise our voices and tell the truth. Every time that a leader gives sympathy and agreement to victims, more people become victims. There is so much to be done and yet we spend too much time blaming our troubles on people, places, and things.
The more quickly we get to the truth, the more people will find abundance and freedom.
We have entered a time when the quality of our future depends on whether we raise or lower our expectations.
That future belongs to those of us who believe in the richness of our dreams.
(C) Copyright, 2018, Inspired Work, Inc. – (All Rights Reserved)
Schedule 15-Minutes to Discuss Your Workplace or Career with David (Here)
Hear David Harder talk about The Inspired Work Program: