PART 2--The Landscape of the 21st Century Workplace: Emerging Trends You Need To Know as a Career Development Professional

By Caitlin Williams

Of course we know the workplace is much different than it was a decade ago, and we know the Great Recession further heightened these differences in ways none of us could have predicted. But simply knowing that the workplace is different isn’t enough. Knowing and understanding the impact of the changes on workers, and using this information to better assist those we work with on their career development are required.


Recently, I researched emerging workforce and workplace trends as part of co- authoring Career Moves: Be Strategic About Your Future, (ASTD Press, September 2013). In doing this research, I focused on eight trends that have significant implications for workers’ learning and for organizational talent management. While helpful to training professionals, knowledge of these eight trends can also make a huge difference to those of us who help workers develop their careers and help organizations develop their employees. This article focuses on trends 5 through 8. Review the first article on "The Landscape of the 21st Century" which covers trends 1 through 4.


The Eight Workplace Trends Career Development Professionals Must Know:

Trend #1: Learning Takes Center Stage

Trend #2: A Culture of Connectivity

Trend #3: Shifting Demographics and Increasing Diversity

Trend #4: Globalization 3.0

Trend #5: The Impact of Economic Turmoil and the Recession

Trend #6: The Talent Trifecta

Trend #7: The (R)evolution of the American Worker

Trend #8: New Work and the New Skills It Will Take To Do It



Trend #5: The Impact of Economic Turmoil and the Recession

In the words of Carl Van Horn, author of Working Scared (Or Not At All), “American workers know that the rules have changed, and they don’t like what happened” (p. 49). With economic turmoil still in the air and the impact of the Great Recession still taking its toll, our work in helping the unemployed, underemployed, and the “working worried” (Williams, 2009) has never been more important. Workers need help in coming to terms with how much the workplace has changed and in determining how they can take back some measure of control for their career going forward.


As a practitioner:


  • How fully do you understand the consequences of the Great Recession on workers and new/recent graduates?

  • How do you make space to listen to the challenges of workers you serve – without responding too quickly in an effort to “try and make it better” for them?


Trend #6: The Talent Trifecta

This “trifecta” includes recruiting for agility, fostering engagement, and retaining knowledge. Though these actions might be seen as the responsibility of the organization, the truth is – employees and potential employees have their responsibilities here also.


As organizations focus on agility to remain competitive, it falls to employees and potential employees to demonstrate their agility (in thinking, learning, problem solving and more). Likewise, demonstrating engagement and the desire to add to an organization’s knowledge base are actions that all workers need to take.


  • Talent management and integration are hot topics in organizations today. How knowledgeable are you on these topics and what they mean for the career trajectory of those you coach/counsel?

  • How have you helped those you work with find ways to demonstrate their unique talents to their organization?


Trend #7: The (R)evolution of the American Worker

At the same time that organizations are making new demands and raising their expectations of their employees, workers are shifting their view of what they want and need from their organizations. Though more dollars and job security may not be negotiable, the way that workers do their work, the manner in which they learn, the flexibility in how they get their work done and the chance to make a difference are all definitely on their agenda.


  • How well do you understand the latest information about worker needs (across different age groups and family challenges) to help them shape career plans and set career goals?

  • In what ways do you help workers prepare for career conversations with their bosses and supervisors?


Trend #8: New Work and the New Skills It Will Take to Do It

Author Marshall Goldsmith says it so well in the title of one of his books: “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There!” Every worker (from the most recent grad to the most seasoned employee) knows that the skills needed to find employment and remain employable go far beyond basic schooling and credentials. Yet most workers don’t know the best way to strategically “grow” their career.


  • Are you aware of issues surrounding the so-called skill gap - and the key competencies that employers are looking for in their employees?

  • Do you know how to help those you work with to identify the “new skills” they need?


Next steps

As you review and consider these final trends, how will you put these trends to work for you and your clients? Which trends are the most relevant to your situation? As you continue to stay informed and aware of these trends today, you will be ready to effectively respond to the changing needs of workforce and workplace career development challenges and prepare workers for a better tomorrow.


I look forward to hearing your thoughts and responses in the Comments below!



Get more information about these trends, the competencies that professionals need to be successful, and the research that formed the basis for this article in the new, revised edition of Career Moves, co-authored by NCDA member Caitlin Williams and Annabelle Reitman, available at: http://www.astd.org/Publications/Books/Career-Moves.



Goldsmith, M. (2007). What got you here won’t get you there: How successful people become even more successful. NY: Hyperion.


Van Horn, C. E. (2013). Working scared (or not at all). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.


Williams, C. & Reitman, A. (2013). Career moves: Be strategic about your career. ASTD Press.


Williams, C. (2009, September). The working worried: How career development practitioners can help. The National Career Development Association Career Convergence Magazine.

Retrieved February 5, 2013, from http://ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/news_article/21850/_PARENT/layout_details_cc/false.



Caitlin Williams

Caitlin Williams, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, trainer and coach whose passion is bringing out the very best in the people she works with. Caitlin helps individuals and organizations identify opportunities to shine through improved performance, the demonstration of strengths and the pursuit of making a difference in the world. Originally from Ohio, Caitlin spent the last 8 years living and teaching in the Bay Area. She recently moved to Asheville, North Carolina where she continues to coach and speak on workplace issues and on the value of focusing on strengths in work and in life. Email her at Caitlin@drcaitlinwilliams.com.


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1 Comment

Kiana Wilson   on Wednesday 10/02/2013 at 11:41 AM

Excellent article Caitlin! I especially enjoyed your views on Trends #6 and #8. Organizations absolutely do and should share in this responsibility. Career development initiatives have in the past been considered to be an area largely owned by employees. However, I have seen recent changes in this area that balances these efforts a bit by creating a shared responsibility between the employee and employer. I believe that this shift will continue as employers and employees likewise realize the true benefits of partnering up in regards to these and other related efforts.

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