Amidst the development discourse that has continued since advent of modern-day corporate organizations, a strong trend has gained momentum in recent times which has profound impact on Careers, employment, and livelihood of large segment of professionals.
Classic Career model of one cycle of early education and lifetime of professional engagement is anyway under severe pressure due to changes caused by multitude of factors. To add to it, obsolescence of people into their known territories has become a prominent trend and phenomena.
Obsolescence of technology, products and concepts is well experienced by several generations. Generally, there are better and more efficient substitutes for use in lieu of previous ones. Hence, after some gap of time these methods, products and technologies are conveniently forgotten and become part of archives. Being inanimate, economic considerations take precedence over emotional or social factors in such cases.
Redundancies or obsolescence of professionals in their work has several added dimensions and hence careful understanding of its causes, indications, symptoms, implications, and prevention is helpful to both the individual and to the organizations.
Double Click on Causes
Obsolescence may come up suddenly to a skill family or to a class of avocation due to innovation or disruption. Historically, such quick occurrences are far and few. More consistent and everyday obsolescence at individual level builds up in almost all professions and work segments. It has been in existence for long at a slow & insipient pace. The rate of acceleration has been changing and becoming obvious & prominent.
For naysayers, it may appear as a common occurrence limited to a few cases restricted to their social and professional circles, not requiring any additional contemplation. Careful consideration of data related to professionals in select age groups (in mid-career stages) going out of employment net, due to lack of opportunities will convey the extent of its existence.
Favorable demographic composition of the employable population with higher ratio of younger workforce aids to its becoming commonplace & more frequent. Even though demographic push is not the primary reason, it is a major contributor, as it presents wider available choices to select from and replace the existing.
Fundamental reason in unusual growth of obsolescence and redundancies among white-collar workforce is continuously accelerating pace of change in business environment. Individuals to stay relevant in their changing context, need continuous upgrade in terms of mind-set, skills and sheer ability to deal with higher complexities.
Such continuous change is possible with extraordinary levels of learning agility and change agility. Corporate organizations exist for defined purposes to meet specific needs of society. These organizations also have a stated profit motive to live longer and meet stakeholder expectations.
In their continuous journey of existence and survival, they find solution to their needs. Else they get extinct. It is primarily for the individual to stay agile and relevant for the cause of the organization.
Imperatives for Individual
Complacency kills growth. It fosters stagnation and fixed mindset. The changing environment demands new ways, means & methods of looking at emerging requirements. It also essentially needs new ways of solutioning. Banking upon known paradigms every time severely limits the effectiveness.
It is not a case for growth of careers. To stay relevant in existing role & position, individuals are expected to continuously learn, upgrade and reinvent themselves. People who do not stay connected to the changes around them and / or do not have openness to participate in the change process, drop off the Journey. Sheer lack of consciousness of its need is another reason for individuals getting adversely affected.
Time frame and impact varies in varying contexts. In high-speed professions, obsolescence gets detected and acted upon quickly and in others, it takes comparatively longer period. For clarity, it is not limited to levels of performance of individual vs. expectations, it is about quality of wholesome offering that is made by individuals along different points of career timelines when other significant variables change.
To stay relevant and to excel, it is desirable to have acute awareness that individual is the core around which other factors are woven. Desire and responsibility to change continue to be on self which cannot be delegated to manager or to the organization. Impact, whether positive or negative, is also with the concerned individual and hence the strive must emanate from the individual.
Acting in Favour of Self-Interest
Slogans & sermons related to importance of change and learning agility have been in existence for quite long but full-blown impact of complacence, fixed mindset and anti-change attitude is being experienced now by way significant proportion of individuals involuntary getting out of professional net at mid to senior career stages.
Most of these executives remain wanted, relevant and effective in their roles in yesteryears while everyday obsolescence builds up. It remains unnoticed during build-up phase due to very slow pace of development. The apologue of Frog in the boiling water syndrome, may not be most apt simile to explain the process, mindset & outcome but it largely conveys the phenomena and why people do not act in time in their self-interest.
Most effective remedy of anti – obsolescence at individual level is a keen desire to make today better then yesterday, every day. Measures to stay relevant and excel in the environment follows a deep resolve to continuously search for the new, understand, assimilate and practice.
Also to develop a habit to repeat this virtuous cycle in every aspect of professional work & life. Good news is that in the exiting times that we are living in, the know–how and information is available to everyone equally. Democratization of information presents unlimited opportunities to search, upgrade and move up the abilities value chain.
However, when curiosity gets diminished and desires to invest in self is limited, growth & competitiveness get compromised. Case is that in people development matters, responsibility to invest, learn & grow can’t be delegated by white-collar professionals to others.
Of course, the manager is responsible to grow his or her team. Of course the organizations need best and bright talent. Hence managers & organizations invest material resource in growing people and to save their people asset devalue. But the core of endeavor remains with the individual and any slack severely works against vital interests of the individual, every time.