Forecasts For the 2008 Workplace

Okay, forecast is too strong a word. Prediction is even more precarious. So let's speak the truth and just call them educated guesses. Here's some of the best current thinking about what's likely to happen in 2008 in regard to workforce issues:

Productivity ho! If the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) didn't think productivity would continue to be a major issue for the future, of course, we'd never have embedded it into the name of our company. Even so, there are some good reasons to think this is going to be an even higher priority in 2008.

First, with the exception of the latest quarterly data, the U.S. has seen dismal productivity growth recently. In fact, 2006 saw the lowest U.S. productivity rate increases since 1995, and the first half of 2007 was worse than the first half of 2006 (U.S. Department of Labor, 2007). In the meantime, global competition is heating up in the area of productivity. Privately owned technology firms in China, for instance, have seen large gains in productivity in recent years, managing to nearly match the levels of their foreign competitors operating in that nation. Companies are also going to worry, at least in the short term, about the possibility of economic sluggishness partly brought on by a housing downturn and the subprime mortgage mess.

This all adds to up to the idea that companies will want to improve their productivity performance as they strive to ensure that every employee is working as efficiently as possible. Companies might also become more cautious about making new hires in the current climate even as they focus more intensely on issues such as performance management. In fact, a whopping 95% of 157 HR professionals surveyed by Human Resource Executive and ERC Dataplus said that, over the next 24 months, performance management will be either very important or important ("Taking the Pulse," 2007).

A growing focus on legacies as well as retirements. When the experts talk about the Baby Boomers retiring from the workforce, they tend to discuss the skills that will be lost, the need for knowledge transfer, and methods that they can use to retain Boomers longer or lure them back into the workforce.

In 2008, future-oriented employers will think harder about these issues as part of a growing trend. For example, a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management shows that, in preparation for impending retirements, more employers than just a couple of years ago are starting to "examine internal practices and management practices" (Cadrain, 2007).

But many of those hard-working Boomers - especially the top achievers - have a more immediate issue to consider:

What will they be leaving behind?

When i4cp conducted its Leader Legacy Survey in September 2007, it found that the large majority - 86% - of the 210 respondents believe that leaving a professional legacy is a high or very high priority. In 2008, this question will loom larger as the Boomers - many of whom are in the highest corporate positions they're likely to achieve - endeavor to leave behind professional legacies of which they can be proud.

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