A New Generation of Worker
By Mary Jacoby Hastings
It is time to incite a new revolution in the American workplace. This society has been held hostage to a doctrine of corporate greed in which the sacrifices of the American worker, the backbone of a traditionally strong economic superpower, have taken their toll. The demands of the workplace have virtually stifled opportunities for personal satisfaction and fulfillment, leaving workers to search for creative ways to be rewarded for hard work and dedication on their own.
The time has come for workers to employ companies and create a more rewarding work-life balance in the process. There are companies in the metro Denver-area that offer family-friendly benefits and there are ways to put yourself in the driver’s seat when it comes to negotiating for a work environment compatible with your lifestyle needs. This is not your granddad’s world anymore!
Oh how the times have changed. Dedication to one’s work is not what it used to be. Sixty and seventy years ago, aspiring to retirement with that gold watch for years of loyalty was the norm. Experimenting with different careers was unthinkable, practically un-American.
Baby boomers are the product of parents and grandparents instilled with a sense of loyalty to country and company. That loyalty to country still lives on…with a twist. That once highly-coveted gold watch has given way to the disappearance of pensions and retirement programs along with jobs sent overseas.
Will we ever see a time like the 1950s again? This was a decade during which unemployment rates were low and so was the inflation rate. The standard of living was high and many women who joined the workforce for the first time during World War II were choosing to continue working outside the home.
During the middle of the 20th century, what once defined the traditional family was changing, and changing quickly. Neighborhoods were transforming with much of the population moving into urban areas from rural communities then eventually to suburbia.
More people were able to buy homes because of Veterans Administration and Federal Housing Administration mortgages. As couples began to feel more confident and comfortable with a higher standard of living in place, the birthrate soared by nearly 28 million resulting in the largest population boost in the history of the United States in a single decade.
As the 1950s transitioned into the 1960s, “bedroom communities” were common as homeowner workers commuted to the cities from the suburbs where they returned home at night.
The first decade of the new century is coming to an end with a new form of “bedroom community” in the actual bedroom itself. Modern technology has made it possible to conduct business from home in pajamas. Today more and more parents are opting to find ways to work outside the home by working inside the home through work share programs, telecommuting, accepting part-time employment and inventing new careers that allow more flexibility to balance personal and professional lives.
Now even a college education can be obtained from the comforts of one’s home office. The option is gaining in popularity with the cost of a traditional college education on the rise. In the 1950s Americans began to view a college education as necessary, no longer a luxury reserved for the wealthy. The creation of the GI Bill of Rights made it possible for more U.S. citizens to attend college after serving their country.
Fast forward to the 21th century where there is a slow return to the days when higher education is once again becoming a privilege for those with more substantial financial means. As costs continue to rise and funding for education remains on the chopping block with legislators wrestling to balance Federal and state budgets, highly competitive access to college funding is the new “bill of rights” for aspiring co-eds.
A college education is once again becoming less affordable for the middle class. More students are going into debt trying to obtain an education that will help them keep up in the job market.
The vicious cycle is self-perpetuating.
Rewind the proverbial clock when there was a great sense of pride associated with being an American as the United States enjoyed the status of international super power during the 1950s. Civil rights leaders were just beginning to position themselves for another major societal transformation.
This was the decade during which the Supreme Court mandated that schools no longer be segregated, blacks and whites began to work side-by-side and a new set of tensions was on the horizon.
There was certainly no lack of innovation in the 1950s. Medical advances were extraordinary during that time. James Watson and Francis Crick decoded the molecular structure of DNA and polio was being eradicated in the U.S. thanks to a vaccine developed by Jonas Salk.
While scientists were finding ways to cure diseases and save lives, the arms race escalated as nations prepared for a means to end them.
The second decade of a new century is on the horizon and with it are increased opportunities for the American worker to make a difference and change the face of one of the strongest economies in the world.
Small businesses and major corporations must come to terms with a new generation that will not stand for working only to increase the bottom line of a company that turns its back on them.
This column will focus on helping Americans turn that tide for a more productive workplace, one in which employers can meet the bottom line while retaining the best, most highly motivated talent in the process.