Unlocking Your Market Potential


FEATURE ARTICLE - January 2004

Global Career Issues Forum
ICDC 2003
By Martha Schuster & Michelle Beese

Reprinted with permission.
Original article: www.ccda-careerdev.org/articlesjan04-1_pv.html

The Global Issues forum was moderated by Elisabeth Harney. Panelists included Ed Martin from Pixar, Randolph Scott from Lawrence Berkeley Labs, John Choate of Interliance, Margaret Steen of the San Jose Mercury News, Keith Rayner from Kemarra, Inc., and Nan Andrews Amish from Big Picture Perspective.

This Global Issues Forum had the highest evaluation of any previous year, with an 84 percent "good to excellent" rating. Moderator Elisabeth Harney began the discussion by asking panelists for a definition of globalization. The general consensus among panelists was that it means "international" and "big." John Choate remarked, "Globalization means there are no borders, we are a world community now."

Harney then asked each panelist to respond to the following questions, "What are the most challenging dynamics facing American workers, and how do you prepare workers for the challenges?" We found it interesting that there was such a broad perspective among the panelists and that they did not always agree. The one point repeated throughout the presentation and that every panelist agreed on, however, was the importance of flexibility. Flexibility was a constant theme that all speakers addressed over and over again.

In regard to preparing workers for the challenges they face and the skills they need, Ed Martin from Pixar stated that the key is keeping your curiosity alive. The direct skill is not as important as drawing relevancy with that skill. As career professionals, we all know that he is referring to transferable skills. Nan stated, "Key components of your strengths remain the same with different jobs."

Randy encouraged everyone to be lifelong learners. If you quit learning, that is where you will be stuck. He also emphasized that we need to teach the skill of prudent risk taking, how to know your skill set and know when to move with those skills. One challenge with this new economy, according to Margaret Steen, is that business formerly trained workers, and that kind of training has become a casualty of short-term employment. People need to hit the ground running and already have the necessary skills. The skills the panelists recommended all workers master are: languages, communication, science, technology, marketing, management, sales, and awareness of culture. Nan also emphasized the importance of understanding finance to justify why you are a good fit for the company and the relevancy to keeping your job here in the U.S. Nan’s comment led us into the discussion of offshore outsourcing and U.S. labor market trends.

Keith stated, "The increased economic activity worldwide has the potential for everybody to benefit. The U.S. can benefit the most. We are at a transition point right now and we need to find a way to make it work for everybody." Once again, flexibility was stressed. He emphasized that at this current time profits are not being put back in the U.S. economy. Margaret spoke about discussions she has had with economists, that from an optimistic viewpoint a "middle class" is being created in India, Asia, and Mexico. As a result, this new "middle class" will be able to buy more American products. This trend can make the transition that Keith mentioned work for everybody.

There are still some challenges. One is the question of loyalty and affinity of global companies to the U.S. There is a short-term loyalty to the stock market. Randy emphasized that what we need to build is relationships and not loyalty. He reminded us that "a loyal dog and a pound of meat will give you a whole new relationship in 30 days." Ed said that the power is not with the companies, but with the stockholders. The company will listen to the stockholders. If the stockholders speak up or protest by their vote, there will be change. Pressure can come from stockholders to create change.

Another question raised is whether there is a labor shortage or not. This is where there seemed to be the most disagreement among the panel. Some felt that there would be a labor shortage in the next 5-15 years, and others felt there would not be an overall labor shortage, just a shortage in some of the skills. One person thought the shortage would be in middle class jobs, creating a two-tier society. The new set of jobs have not been created yet to replace the ones that are gone. There were encouraging viewpoints that there are still industries that are growing and hiring employees. Specifically mentioned were hospitality, technology, all of health care with an emphasis on nursing, and retail. With the aging population, biotech will also be a hot field.

Much of the early discussion was focused on people out of work, when one member of the audience asked, "What about people who are employed, but not fulfilled?" Ed stated, "Pixar encouraged the upside-down triangle, to teach managers to be a resource for employees and find out what the employees want. People who love what they do are a "good value." Managers need to hear input, even if it is criticism. Managers need to go to employees to find out what the employees want to do. Pixar has been successful in this area by encouraging their employees to voice to management what they want to do. People with heart can help employees stay grounded.

Once again we came back to flexibility. When Ed was working with Tandem in the 1990s, Tandem hit the wall because they lacked flexibility. If we were to share but one nugget from this dynamic forum it would be the importance of flexibility – for our clients and for ourselves.