The Crisis About Trump & Job Growth
For decades, unemployment has been a political number that has never offered an accurate story about the state of our economy or the wellness of our people. Today, we are down to 3.6%, but that figure doesn’t include the millions of citizens who dropped out of the labor market.
More tellingly, this one-dimensional statistic doesn’t uncover what I believe is the most alarming trend of all. Two years ago, the New York Times ran a study where 48% of Manhattan’s workers characterized themselves as “underemployed.” This is a group that almost every reader will recognize. We find it in the mother holding down 2 jobs to make ends meet. We see it in the workers with graduate degrees serving coffee for rent and loan payments. It is in the vast millions of workers anxiously holding onto obsolete jobs and their employers cut costs and give them more work.
By and large, the underemployed are getting kicked to the curb by change. It is frightening for them and it ought to be of concern for all of us. We are facing a tidal wave of change and while it brings a great deal of opportunity, very few of us are prepared. Focus group-driven politics have given us leaders that make promises they cannot keep and we would have to go back five decades to find leaders that told the truth. And, what was that truth?
We are the ones that have to change.
We are the ones that need to take action, to become reeducated, to learn, and to unlearn.
Right now, the United States has the most powerful talent pool on the face of the earth and we are squandering its future. In many ways, our country is immersed in the kind of adolescent arrogance that shields us from success. For example, in Germany, underemployment is almost unheard of. This is because organizations, educational institutions, and employers work together in keeping all workers educated and current with the needs of the future. On assembly lines, Germany uses more technology and robotics but they do not lay off their workers. Instead of throwing them on the trash heap they train them to take on bigger and bigger jobs. Or, they are trained to step in growing industries. Germany’s employers and government view that investment in reeducation is a small price to pay to produce economic sustainability and a healthy culture.
Our current political leaders and the media thrive on negativity and victimhood. We are wasting time pointing our fingers at each other. The problem is that focus-group politics have produced a political generation focused on telling us what we want to believe versus what we actually need to hear. In fact, we have few politicians with the courage to define or to tell the truth about work.
For example, we spend a lot of time talking about coal miners and retail workers getting displaced. It is a blue-collar problem. But, the elimination of task work is disrupting the practice of law, wealth management, executive search and virtually every other category that involves task work. Today, a large law firm will not hire an associate without $2million in personal billings. LegalZoom took on the historic task work from associates and now many of these same individuals are working in sweatshops for $40/hour. The executive search industry used to be a great place to make a living, even if you didn’t have the best possible sales skills. Today, thousands of professionals have been shown the door because of LinkedIn.
In 1450, the Guttenberg revolution transformed world awareness by printing books. Out of that one revolution, modern science and literature emerged. We moved from a world of villages to nations, with all of the turmoil that implies. We created new categories of winners and losers.
For over 300 years, the Industrial Revolution produced a society that rigidly categorized meaning of work, typically a form of “predictability and survival.” We built an entirely political, religious, and employer infrastructure centered on fitting in and doing tasks. Now, virtually every form of task-based work is rapidly being replaced by software and technology. This revolution did much to democratize the world. But, It’s over!
We need leaders who are telling us to get reeducated and to follow the lead with countries that are succeeding in keeping their workers ahead of change. But, at the very time, we need this the most, politicians are making statements that provide nothing that could be of value. Here’s one. Last year, Mitch McConnell made a statement to the press that we, “Ought to get coal miners into trucking positions.”
Apparently, he didn’t pay attention to the fact that Daimler had completed a 4-year pilot program in Nevada where their driverless trucks proved to be more economical, cheaper to run, didn’t get in any accidents and never had to pull over to sleep. Anderson Graduate School recently released a study about trucking, which is indeed the #1 job for men in our country. Because of technology, those jobs will dwindle from 5.2 million positions to about 600,000 in just 7 years.
There is good news about the future of work. One of the common threads from our programs from the past 30 years is that our participants tend to move well beyond tasks to vision. Now, we need a country that does the same.
We don’t need a country that walls itself off. Our power has been derived from attracting the best talent in the world. At times, people will ask me what I most love about Los Angeles. I almost always respond, “The talent.” Our town attracts the best and the brightest who pack their bags and move here. We need them. We need to attract them. If we become something else, the next big world leader will happily invite them in.
We don’t need a population demonizing each other. How, on earth would we do without the 1%? While our politicians support this notion that we are being victimized by educational financing, we have not heard one politician bring up the fact that organizations like Google and many others will soon be offering 4-year and graduate degrees without charging one penny.
Virtual reality will transform education, commercial real estate, travel, entertainment, and meetings. It will also create entirely new categories of work.
3-D printing will totally disrupt distribution, assembly lines, quality control, and inventory. It will also create a radical change in many small business opportunities.
Artificial Intelligence will take out the last white-collar task-based jobs. It will also empower a new workforce that realizes by giving up our tasks we can now move on to far more interesting ways to make a difference. Underemployment isn’t a national problem. It is a world problem.
Addressing underemployment, getting our best out of the future is a consciousness and awareness issue. At the very time that millions of our workers need a new mindset, we are feeding them the same autocratic garbage, “Don’t worry, someone is going to save us.”
The clock really is ticking. We need a new nation, one that is filled with active learners, not people who know how to ace a test. We need a nation where people routinely develop the skills that make us successful, especially in the midst of change. These skills have always led to success but now that work changes so swiftly, it is urgent to learn how to draw healthy attention to ourselves, sell our ideas, influence others to help us, find the right mentors, and willingly let go of obsolete outlooks. Consider that attaining a successful outcome will require that we stop warring against each other and sign-up for mentorship.
We are in need of a huge wake-up call! Later this morning, we will walk in our neighborhood to one of the biggest Ralph’s grocery stores in the market. Well over 2/3s of their workers will not look us in the eye, and smile or ask our name. If we cannot find an item, the worker closest to us will let us know that area isn’t his responsibility. Often, we emerge from that store with the sense that customers are the liability.
We can drive across town to the new AmazonGo, pilot stores where customers walk in, pick up whatever they want, place it in their bag, and walk out the door. There are no lines and no cashiers.
If we cannot awaken so many of our workers to grow and change, who will take care of them?
Turning underemployment around, retraining America’s workers is only a beginning. We need leaders who understand that false promises make people wait in the delusion of hope. We need leaders who become partners with all citizens in adopting the courage to change our mindset and outlook about our work as well as the future of work.