[EAS]The Future of Work?

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Wed Aug 2 03:15:06 EDT 2000

Subject:   The Future of Work?

Dear Colleagues -

Glimpses, one of them a Gary Chapman column, of the modern
high-tech workplace.

    --Peter Kindlmann

"You've got be careful if you know where you are going, because
you might not get there." (Yogi Berra)

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and
more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage --
to move in the opposite direction." (E.F. Schumacher)

(from INNOVATION,  24 July 2000)

Back in the days when a person could reasonably expect to spend his
entire  working life with one employer, loyalty was almost a given.
But companies  today are paying the price for the mass layoffs and
cutbacks of a few years  ago. The realization that no company was
ever going to love them back sunk  in, and employees began to turn
the tables, jumping ship for even a  slightly better offer. But
even in a climate of constant movement,  companies need employees
to be loyal -- at least for the time they're  there. "The only real
advantage today is a competent, committed workforce,"  says Jim
Harris, author of "Getting Employees to Fall in Love with your 
Company." Harris says the key to loyalty is recognizing what the
company  values, and rewarding employees for upholding those
values. When rewards  are aligned with the company's core culture,
it not only increases  retention, but also boosts profits. Besides
monetary rewards, employers  need to respect employees' outside
lives by offering options like flextime,  telecommuting and onsite
daycare. Perhaps most important, companies need to  communicate.
Employees deprived of the chance to give and receive feedback  are
bound to feel disconnected, increasing the likelihood that they'll 
leave at the first good opportunity. (Employment Review Aug 2000)

(from INNOVATION,  31 July 2000)

 "When the job market is tight, life's just not fair," says one
employer, explaining the growing practice of recruiting new
employees at substantially higher salaries than those earned by
veteran employees. "It's this strange situation where loyalty isn't
rewarded, where employees who stay with their companies get paid
less than those who jump ship at the earliest opportunity," says
one recruiter. Clearly, this isn't the way to build morale. In some
cases, disgusted employees may jump ship themselves when they feel
undervalued. Worse, they may stay -- but grudgingly. Productivity
suffers, resentment grows, and they may be reluctant to help the
new recruits learn the ropes. Moreover, veteran employees aren't
the only ones in a bind. Highly paid recruits are often under
tremendous pressure to perform dazzling feats of brilliance right
out of the gate -- an expectation that almost nobody could live up
to. As one compensation consultant explains, "Companies expect
these people to come in not just running, but absolutely flying,
and that's not always possible to do." This, in turn, drives many
frustrated recruits out the door, worsening an already difficult
staffing scenario. (The Wall Street Journal 25 July 2000)


Monday, July 31, 2000


Cool Counts in Luring Hot Techies

By Gary Chapman

Copyright 2000, The Los Angeles Times, All Rights Reserved

The No. 1 problem for high-tech firms these days is the shortage of
 skilled workers, especially those with the talent to make an
entire  company succeed. And the "talent wars" -- firms raiding one
another  for top people -- are going to get even worse. What's also
 interesting is how the shortage is influencing the character of 
communities and, in turn, urban politics.

Richard Florida, a professor of public policy at Carnegie Mellon 
University in Pittsburgh, produced a fascinating report in January 
titled "Competing in the Age of Talent: Environment, Amenities and 
the New Economy" (http://www.heinz.cmu.edu/~florida/talent.pdf).

Florida's yearlong study looked at how cities and regions compete
for  technical talent in the new economy, and the role that
environmental  and "quality-of-life" factors play in this

"Knowledge workers," says the report, "essentially balance economic
 opportunity and lifestyle in selecting a place to live and work. 
Thus, lifestyle factors are as important as traditional economic 
factors such as jobs and career opportunity in attracting knowledge
 workers in high-technology fields."

Five years ago, some pundits claimed that the flexibility of the
new  economy would spell trouble for cities. George Gilder, for
example,  proclaimed that the Internet would lead to the "death of
the city."

What he didn't anticipate is that young people tend to like being 
around other young people. The result is that hip, young technology
 companies have revitalized many downtown neighborhoods, as in 
Manhattan's Silicon Alley, Seattle's Pioneer Square, San
Francisco's  China Basin, Santa Monica's downtown area and Austin,
Texas' Congress  Avenue.

Florida says that because young workers can essentially choose to 
work nearly anywhere, they gravitate to places that offer a fairly 
distinct mix of environmental quality, social life and "amenities,"
 including youth culture, sports, night life, music and "coolness"
--  in short, an urban identity that everyone knows exists but that
is  difficult to describe completely.

"Due to the long hours, fast pace and tight deadlines associated
with  work in high-technology industries, knowledge workers require
 amenities that blend seamlessly with work and can be accessed on 
demand," Florida wrote.

Austin Mayor Kirk Watson -- a young politician to watch with a 
record-breaking 82% of the vote in the city's last election -- is
one  of the few political leaders who seems to sense this
transformation.  Watson calls it "convergence." He means that, just
as city  governments are trying to figure out how to reconcile
economic growth  with environmental quality and avoid sprawl, the
dynamics of the  labor market in high tech are helping point to a

Young high-tech workers are not attracted to sprawling, remote and 
sterile suburban developments, or even to "edge city" clusters of 
campus-like high-tech companies. They want to be where the action
is  and, consequently, companies want to be there too. That
provides  growing support for so-called "smart growth" strategies,
more dense  and diverse communities, more redevelopment of
under-used real estate  and more attention to environmental quality
in protected natural  landscapes.

This is happening in Los Angeles too, although it is only just 
emerging. Jason McCabe Calacanis, editor of Digital Coast magazine,
 says Los Angeles is attracting young workers who want to put the 
Internet to use, the creative people who are more interested in 
content than in chips.

"They don't care what browser people are using. They don't care how
 fast your computer is," Calacanis said. "Everyone thought that 
technology would be the driver of the new economy, but it turns out
 it's content, it's art. That's why in L.A., you see energy and 
entrepreneurship." He says the "epicenter of the Internet in Los 
Angeles" is the Coffee Bean cafe on 4th Street in Santa Monica.

Ross C. DeVol, a senior researcher at the Milken Institute, agrees 
with Calacanis. "In the recent past, we've had earthquakes, riots, 
fires, recession, etc.," he says. "Sometimes Los Angeles can be its
 own worst enemy. But last year, we had the first positive domestic
 migration to Los Angeles in any year since 1989. That's a good
sign  for L.A. Young people come here to work with cool
technologies, like  computer games, movies, animation, special
effects and Web design."

What this all means for political leaders eager to promote economic
 growth is that they now have to pay attention to the idea of a 
"place," a concept far beyond the traditional blend of tax rates, 
labor costs and business infrastructure. The hot technology
companies  don't have time for negotiations over tax abatements and
new  highways. They just want to be where the workers are. The
workers  want to be where the fun is. And political leaders now
need to figure  out how to get all those ingredients to work

This is all good news for those few places that have the right mix
of  a high-quality environment, plentiful outdoor activities, a
robust  urban youth culture and what Florida calls a "thick labor
market" of  talented young technical workers -- in other words,
lots of them with  lots of churn, job-hopping and innovation.

Other places are unfortunately out of luck. There's a steady "brain
 drain" going on across the U.S. as communities that are less than 
"cool" lose their best and brightest and thus slowly sink into 
economic stagnation or decline.

It's also tough if you're not a good fit with a hothouse culture of
 young, type-A personalities who do everything at top intensity.
The  emerging culture of the new economy is hard on older workers,
workers  with families and on women and ethnic minorities who
haven't absorbed  the tastes and energy levels of young, affluent
techies,  entrepreneurs and new-media hipsters.

As with most other developments brought on by technology, these 
social changes tied to the new economy are Janus-faced --
encouraging  and discouraging, appealing and alienating, creating
new winners and  new losers all the time.

Gary Chapman is director of the 21st Century Project at the 
University of Texas at Austin. He can be reached at 
gary.chapman at mail.utexas.edu.


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