Master Career Counselor

Carla Hunter, President of Career Span, Inc. is a Master Career Counselor (MCC) by the National Career Development Association and a Certified Career Coach by the National Board for Certified Counselors. She is an expert in writing resumes, effective job search strategies and interviewing success. Most recently, with over 20 years of navigating the complexity of today's world of work, she published "Finding Your Place in the World of Work", a career interest inventory (2014) and CareerView, an iPad app. As a private practice career counselor and a workforce development consultant, this blog is Carla's trove of ideas, trends, forecasts, and career tips for finding meaningful work.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Emerging New Work Ethic

I've interviewed employers and asked them face-to-face, what skills do you want in your future workforce?

They're indicating a need for a plethora of critical skills to meet their business demands.  Just a few of the most important include:

1.  The ability to self-manage and work independently without excessive feedback.
2. The ability to utilize critical thinking skills when confronted with a complex problem.
3.  Exerting professionalism at all times.
4. A basic willingness to learn new skills as technology constantly shifts the business model.
5. Display a strong work ethic at work.

What exactly are these skills and how does one learn them? 

My previous post was about the skill of self-management.  This post centers on a strong work ethic.

A strong work ethic in metamorphosis

First, let's define it and then explain the phenomena of its apparent shift.

The definition of a "strong work ethic" is subjective at best due to personal influences such as age, life experience and one's family of origin.  What is determined to be a strong work ethic by one individual or family may be considered as "lazy" to another because everyone's ideology is different.   It is therefore safe to generalize the sustainability skill of "strong work ethic" by pointing to indicators that likely represent it.

The positive behaviors reflecting a strong work ethic include:

1. Coming to work everyday.
2. Being punctual everyday.
3. Not letting personal life interfere with professional responsibilities.
4. Doing the work with excellent quality.

Based on these four behaviors we can now define a strong work ethic as a worker's intent to take work seriously when actively engaged in it.
Why are employers asking for employees that possess a strong work ethic and what is the reason for its necessity today as compared to previous years?  Is there a generational difference in how a person's work ethic is defined?  Or is it simply an issue of pervasive indifference, laziness and lack of motivation in workers?

Could it be that an employee's strong work ethic is no longer linked to time spent clocking in, blind loyalty and total dedication to an employer?  Are employers asking for what is no longer available in the workforce especially given the reductions, lay-offs and down-sizing experienced over the last decade?  Are workers more savvy in determining not to let work become an all consuming bent? Is it possible many younger workers have seen tangible results of family break-down and unhealthy lifestyles of parents who were let go in spite of a "strong work ethic"?

Is the price tag for a "strong work ethic" too high for the up and coming generation of workers to pay?  Many not only want but demand flexibility as life outside the walls of work is critical to a sense of meaning while accomplishment at work is not completely entwined with a sense of self and identity.

Thus, a new work ethic is emerging from the dead skin of out-dated modes of employment: 

My employer can have my sweat but not blood.

The worker's blood belongs to family, community and life outside work.  This includes going to a child's soccer game or school musical rather than brainstorming in a boardroom. Today's work ethic must be founded on productivity and the deliverables of a person's skill-set. 

I'm not advocating for the lazy, apathetic and withdrawn individuals that are currently disengaged from the world of work drawing a check not because of a verified disability or illness. I'm advocating for the worker who wants to work but not at the cost of one's health, life, relationships and basic wellness.

I'm asking today's employer a simple question worthy of consideration:

How are you going to meet your employees in the middle? 

For many employees, a strong work ethic is about productive results.  Not about the ticking of a clock.
And the best reward? The smiles of their children when they come home for dinner.


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  2. basic willingness to learn new skills as technology constantly shifts the business writing