Meaningful work is important to people. Work that offers financial stability and personal satisfaction creates rewarding jobs and careers. It’s almost a year since people packed up their desks and headed home for remote work. Those are the lucky workers. Not everyone has been able to take their work online to a remote location. Not everyone has the skills to adapt to new work demands. Now is the time for workers and businesses to create working and learning conditions that will provide meaningful work and a highly skilled workforce.
The pandemic changed how we do things; some of those changes will be permanent. The work people will return to is not the same as the work before the pandemic. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell stated, “We’re recovering but to a different economy. It is one that will be more leveraged to technology, and I worry that it will make it even more difficult than it was for many workers.”
Workers will need to prepare for the different economy. They will need education and training to adapt to what Jamie Merisotis of the Lumina Foundation calls “human work.” Merisotis says we should assume that as technology moves ahead, any work that is repetitive will eventually be performed by a machine. People will do all the other work.
Machines can’t step in to do jobs involving critical thinking, ethical reasoning, personal interactions and serving others with empathy, Merisotis says. “It’s about our compassion and our empathy and our ability to be ethical. It’s about our creativity, our ability to collaborate and communicate.” People will find themselves working with machines, rather than being replaced by them, to solve problems. People will need to collaborate across teams. To accomplish this, and to have the opportunity for meaningful work, people must be able to adapt to changing technology. To make this happen, the search for meaningful work will include lifelong learning and developing skills.
Businesses and their employees will both benefit from lifelong learning and skill development plans. Having the skills for meaningful work means that employees have the opportunity to be more satisfied at work. The pandemic has created conditions that cause people to feel stress, anxiety and depression. These conditions show up at work, too: half of US workers are unhappy at work. Creating conditions that help workers find pathways to meaningful work will help relieve this. Jobs that pays a good wage, give workers a sense of purpose and dignity will help workers find job satisfaction and reward. They will be more engaged and fulfilled at work.
Creating pathways to meaningful work helps businesses create a talented agile workforce that can adapt to changing market demands and help businesses be profitable. When employers and employees develop career plans together, they can include short- and long-term goals. When the career development plans include the steps to meet the goals, employees are empowered to take on lifelong learning and work towards career advancement. Investing in employees with education benefits rewards both employers and employees. Employees that are learning and developing skills are those that are seeking meaningful work. They want to learn, to grow in their careers and accept new responsibilities. They will be able to respond to new talent demands, solve problems and find solutions for business.
Businesses that offer tuition assistance, student loan repayment or other education benefits are investing in their businesses the most direct way. They are building a talented workforce. They are creating purpose for their workers. They are developing the potential for workers to engage in meaningful work. Jamie Merisotis states, “For us, as humans, work matters. We work not only because it helps us economically, but because it gives us social mobility, personal satisfaction, meaning, and purpose.”
By Kathleen Eischeid, Edcor Business Development Coordinator
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