This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

January 10, 2001

Free Agents

"I'm in control of my career" is the battle cry of today's workers, particularly those under 30 or 35 years. The next generation to enter the workforce, the Millennium Generation, is even more adamant.

We're on the threshold of a major change in the way people look at their jobs, their relationships with employers, and the design of their careers. The old model was very clear. You go to school, then you go to work for an employer. The employer decides what kind of work you will do, where you employer will tell you what kind of training you will receive, how you will be promoted, what compensation you will earn, and even when your employment will terminate.

This model is rapidly fading, much to the chagrin of employers and their managers who feel a real need-emotional, as well as power-related-to control their crucial relationships with employees. It was difficult enough when unions emerged and gained sufficient strength to influence--and even direct-- certain aspects of that tenuous relationship. The new model, being adapted rather rapidly by workers, especially younger people, is potentially far more disruptive and practically impossible to control.

The new model, revolutionary in the historic flow of employee-employer relationships, recognizes that every worker has a degree of control over the relationship with the employer. Workers have choices. Employers need workers. Labor-at all skill levels and in practically every occupation-is a seller's market. Workers can exercise their choices. They can choose to influence the complex aspects of the relationship, or they can choose to relinquish that control to their employer(s).

Increasingly, workers will sell their talents, where and when they want to . . . and they're successfully negotiating for the rewards they want. They are free and independent agents, free to add value where and when they want to. They will set the rules of engagement, causing employers to negotiate for their productive capacity. Employers must adjust to this free agent economy or struggle without sufficient talent to survive.

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