The demands of the 21st century workplace are a world apart from those faced by our grandparents a few decades ago. And the challenges that a supervisor or manager faces in today’s industries are equally demanding.
The increasing reliance on cutting-edge technology in the workplace, changing employment trends and expectations, and the dynamics of a society that is more accepting of diversity in the workplace create both opportunities and difficulties for the new millennium manager.
As little as 30 or 40 years ago, the concept of a contract or temporary worker, who fulfilled job duties without any or all of the promises of benefits afforded to his fellow employees, would have been rare. In 1983, temporary workers made up less than 1 percent of the labor force. Today, notes Danielle Kurtzleben, workers hired to fulfill temporary slots amount to more than 2 percent of the U.S. workforce.
Contractors also fill a significant portion of employment roles, as either skilled professionals who can fill a time-limited niche at the onsite office or as self-employed freelancers with a specific expertise. These independent contractors frequently work from home and for multiple employers.
This changing workforce means managers must have a clear understanding of federal and state employment laws that govern the use of contract workers. While work-at-will legislation does give the employer (in most cases) the right to say when the job is over, there are still stringent limitations on who an employer can define as a contract worker and what the manager can demand as part of the contract. From the IRS' point of view, whether the worker is classified as a contractor or employee often determines what taxes should be paid on behalf of the worker and what exemptions can be claimed by the employer. In many small businesses, this Rubik's cube of laws and procedures are a critical element to how the manager runs the office.
Some small businesses have found setting up an agreed-upon communication plan is the ticket; others find that their preparatory written work, such as operations manuals, are the key to ensuring good performance. But most will agree that running an office, whether it is in a building or in the cloud, requires just as much supervisory prowess as it did in our parents' day.
More than a third of workers in the U.S. are people of color, according to a 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey. Women represent an even greater percentage overall. More than half of the country's office, professional and managerial workforce were women in 2012 -- a huge shift from the 1950s, when less than a third of all women worked outside of the home.
And for the contemporary American business, learning how to manage such a diverse workforce is the key to marketplace success, says Glenn Llopis. "Diversity can no longer just be about making the numbers, but rather how an organization treats its people authentically down to the roots of its business model." So, how a company's management team leads its workforce can reflect on the values it wants to share as a business.
And the increasing role of individuals with disabilities in the workplace hasn’t just made offices more physically accessible, but it has also required managers to learn how to adapt job settings and requirements to meet the needs of a new, but growing, sector of workers.
Today's manager recognizes that the new millennium workforce is more than a team of individuals. It is a microcosm of the global marketplace, where ideas and values are enriched by the diversity of backgrounds, identities and views they represent.
Image courtesy of MGM Resorts Foundation
Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.