Executive Careers Blog

Profound Changes In Workplace, Pt 1

The American workplace, which has always been Darwinian, is becoming more so as we continue to learn more about our new, present, future. Accountability is increasing, which affects managers and executives in three profound ways:

• Answering to our employees

• Answering to our bosses & boards

• Answering to ourselves

Today, I’ll tackle accountability to employees—the first profound change in being an executive or manager in the wake of The Great Recession. Survey after survey indicates that workers go wanting when it comes to leadership, transparency and career development. It’s been a fact for some time now that the majority of our employees are less concerned about salary and benefits than they are about the quality of their work experience—and nothing affects that experience more than The Boss.

With the influx of Generation Y employees and the pending retirements of many Boomers, this employee engagement issues will only grow in importance. And with compensation and benefits under attack, workers will tend to focus more on their “professional happiness” as the difference-maker. In other words, “If my career is on track and I believe in my company, and my boss provides leadership, and my job is engaging, then I will put up with lower pay and benefits, but if I don’t have the right kind of engagement at work, I am out of here!”

Compounding the issue: bosses have never been more dependent on employees. We are in the “talent era” where human capital, not machines, make the difference between winning companies and losers. And this isn’t only true in the private sector.

A new survey from the Partnership for Public Service—which ranks the top Federal employers by agency—shows that employee engagement in the federal government trails the private sector significantly. As with the private sector, the recent survey of more than 200,000 federal workers shows they value strong leadership and straight answers from bosses more than pay and benefits.

Due to supply and demand issues, some bosses in both sectors (private and public) will be tempted to take employees for granted and deny this accountability issue. “There are so many people out of work right now that if you don’t like it here I’ll just get someone else,” goes the logic. That’s fine on the surface but doesn’t account for the cost of churn, nor does it account for the fact that superior employees will have choices, even in a double-digit unemployment world. Tomorrow, the second new accountability hurdle.


Erik Sorenson is CEO of Vault, the Web’s most comprehensive resource for career management and job search intelligence. Vault provides top talent with the insider information they need to make critical career decisions. An Emmy award-winning media industry veteran, Erik served as president of the MSNBC cable news channel through 2004. His experience spans radio, local and network broadcast television, cable and syndicated TV, and the Web.

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