by David J. Bowman

If you think the past decade has brought dramatic change to the workplace, you ain't seen nothin' yet! The next ten years will bring radical change to all aspects of the workplace: it's size, age and income distribution, white and blue collar jobs, products and services, as well as to the methods for creating productivity. All of this will greatly impact association members' businesses and the jobs in associations.

First, let's look at the size and demographics of the workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates there are about 127 million Americans working today, but by 2007 this will increase to about 133 million. The 25 to 35 age group will be smaller by about 10%, but the 45 to 55 group will be about 50% larger due to the oncoming Baby-Boom generation. And, the over 50 population will be the wealthiest the world has ever seen, since it will control some $87 trillion, nearly 70% of U.S. household net worth. White collar jobs will make up more than 60% of the workforce, significantly reducing the traditional importance of blue collar jobs in the economy. Nearly half of those white collar jobs will pay over $40,000 a year.

In terms of the dynamics of the workforce, the next ten years will see the "1/2 X 2 X 3 Rule," according to Charles Handy, author of The Age of Unreason and The Age Of Paradox. This means there will be half as many people on payrolls (due to so-called contingency workers -- temps, part-timers, consultants), who will be paid twice as much, and who will be producing three times more (due to technology and ready information) than today.

U.S. manufacturing jobs will dramatically decline and those in the service sector will significantly increase (and by service, I don't mean burger flipping). Manufacturing will increasingly move off-shore due to labor cost issues. We will see a shift in focus from mass production to one of information transmission and processing. According to the World Future Society, a think-tank for the future, the next ten years will see U.S. manufacturing account for approximately 10% of the workforce, down from about 20% today. So, there will be a gigantic shift of perhaps 25 million workers into new service and information industries, and this will probably effect certain associations' membership roles.

There also will be major philosophical and management style change within American corporations. Today, the so-called Generation-X is not joining corporations. Fortune magazine reported the number of Stanford University graduates accepting corporate jobs dropped by 20% from 1990 to 1994. At Columbia, 25% of the graduating class joined corporations in 1990, but only 13% did so in 1994. Even more startling is a study by Opinion Research Corporation which found that only 1% of the 1,000 adult (Gen-Xer) respondents said they would freely choose to be corporate managers. Careers that carry a high degree of independence, such as medicine or the law, were far more popular. "The best bureaucrats, not the best performers, are more likely to get ahead." "It's too easy to get pigeonholed or stuck in a dead-end job with no way out." "It takes too long to get enough responsibility, authority and rewards." "There's not enough flexibility about where and when you work." "Top managers say they want risk takers, but they don't." These are Gen-Xer comments about corporations today.

Thus, for U.S. corporations to survive beyond the next decade, they will have to change the ways they manage people. You'll see less emphasis on educational backgrounds and degrees, and more on energy and job performance. There will be less predictability in career paths, with hotshots allowed to jump around the company. In the fast changing environments of tomorrow, there will be more fluidity in assignments, and less written job descriptions with long lists of approvals. Praise and rewards will be mandatory and immediate -- Gen-Xers want quick gratification. There will be fewer regulations that stifle individuality and/or originality (dress codes, etc.). Managers will be coaching, motivating and empowering more, and directing less. However, there will be fewer of them, which means each will have a wider span of control -- perhaps up to 70 people -- with new reporting methods and responsibilities. Managers will need considerable knowledge of computer science in order to handle their jobs.

There will be more self-directed teams, with team leaders instead of "bosses." Self-directed team leaders will need a blend of instinct, on-the-job learning and patience. They will not be afraid to share power or admit ignorance, and they will know when to intervene (and when not to).

In order to succeed in an increasingly competitive, rapidly changing global economy, companies will have to really know their businesses. They'll have to be expert at pricing, manufacturing/operations, distribution, customer demographics and population trends. They also will have to know and stick to their core competencies -- doing what the company does best -- and not get side-tracked into businesses about which they know little. This means workers will have to keep their knowledge and skills at cutting-edge, and that includes association personnel. It also means that member companies will be putting increased, as well as quite different demands on their associations.

So, radical change is happening, and will continue at an increasing speed. The demographics of the U.S. population is changing, as is the make-up of the traditional American commercial/industrial complex. The economics of global competition, as well as the needs of Generation-X are also causing impactful changes in the methods of managing corporations. All of these transitions will undoubtedly effect the relationships of associations and their member companies, as well as the jobs of the association personnel.

Perhaps the best advice for the future is to wake-up and smell the coffee. That is, become aware of what's happening in the world at large, as well as the smaller one of specific association businesses. Because it's the larger world that ultimately will change the smaller one.

David Bowman is co-author of three books and president of TTG Consultants, a human resources consulting firm. He speaks on a variety of topics involving career and corporate transition, and can be reached at TTG Consultants, 4727 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 400, Los Angeles, CA 90010, (800) 736-8840, or by e-mail:

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