• Forum ideas: Jobs & wages
  • Retraining and fluidity are vital to assuring workers' employability

    The free-market system has always overcome tech-driven economic disruptions and job losses.

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    79彩票注册网址Harry Kraemer Jr.


    Much has been written and discussed that as a result of constantly expanding technology—including the introduction of driverless cars and 100 percent robotic factories—millions of jobs will be eliminated in the next several years and the unemployment rate will skyrocket. To many, this trend results in significant pessimism for the future.

    79彩票注册网址Nonetheless, I remain very optimistic. Futurists have predicted significant increases in unemployment for the past 50 years and have consistently been proved wrong.

    History has consistently shown that while certain jobs are eliminated, new jobs are created that we never even dreamed of. One of my five children is now working for Wayfair, the e-commerce company that sells furniture and home goods. One is working at a data analysis startup. Another just moved to Australia and is selling solar paneling.

    None of these positions existed 10 years ago.

    Some are concerned that the free-market, capitalist system is the issue. While it is clear there are issues with the current system, including inequality and the need for a certain level of regulation, mankind has not discovered a better system in the past 50,000 years.

    79彩票注册网址It is important to note that while many jobs are eliminated each year, most people find new forms of employment. If this wasn't true, the unemployment rate in the U.S. wouldn't be at a 50-year low.

    Another much-discussed issue is the responsibility of companies regarding employees. My opinion is that a company in a free-market, capitalist system cannot guarantee employment. However, they should focus on employability.

    79彩票注册网址A key responsibility of companies is to help retrain individuals as some jobs change or are eliminated. During my time at Baxter International, while we did have layoffs, we focused on providing severance payments, helping people with outplacement and keeping track of how long it took them to find another position. The average time between positions was less than three months.

    Given the rapid change that will continue to occur in the global economy, workers at all levels need to share the responsibility to seek out and respond favorably to retraining. Fluidity in moving people from one position to another and moving across industries will be critical to both organizations and everyone participating in the future of the free-market, capitalist system.

    A final thought: There also has been much debate as to whether the purpose of a company should be generating a return for shareholders, providing a good work environment for its employees or being socially responsible. As I tease students in my Kellogg MBA classes, the answer is almost always "YES."

    Here's one way to think about it: Yes, a company has a responsibility to generate a return for its shareholders. However, in order to achieve a return, two things are required: a strong team of employees and loyal customers.

    79彩票注册网址By being socially responsible, a company is able to attract a strong team of employees and loyal customers. And if the company has a strong team and a great relationship with customers, it will generate an attractive return for its shareholders.

    79彩票注册网址It is possible to focus on multiple stakeholders at the same time, and key among them are well-trained workers confident about their place in our future.

    Harry Kraemer Jr. is a professor of management and strategy at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, an executive partner at private-equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners and former chairman and CEO of Baxter International.

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