In reading the news out of Detroit that that auto parts company Delphi won’t be able to maintain their promise to former employees to pay benefits, it is more and more clear to me that all businesses, whatever size, should sit down and have a new conversation. No company in America is guaranteed to take care of you for life. You are not in the world of “putting in your time” in exchange for pensions. That ship sank—that’s the bad news.
The good news is that your new ship awaits.
In a world where you (as either the employee or the boss, to be honest) are the masters of your own destiny, you have a whole new set of perspectives and opportunities you should think about. This conversation started way back at Enron. We talked about how much stock we should purchase from our company. Now you need to think about other decisions and when you do, think about it as if you’re the captain of your own ship, and bosses, talk to your employees about it this way too.
If you’re the captain of your own ship, you don’t want to rely on a pension. Instead, you manage your own finances. You take advantage of company plans if they are tied to a 401-K or other financial product, but ask your financial planner whether the company pension plan is a good idea for you. (My own personal vote is no.)
As captain of your ship, you realize that the role of human resources has changed for lots of organizations. It’s no longer commonplace for companies to help you build your career. Sure, promotions happen, but the era of “we want to help you succeed” seems gone.
Instead, HR works hard to preserve the best possible benefits for you, they work to maintain all the machinations of maintaining a workforce, and all kinds of other jobs. But education programs in companies seem to be dwindling in many cases, and as revenue shrinks, budget shrinks, so too do your opportunities to expect a company-delivered education.
Instead, as captain of your ship, make your own education program. Find books, audio programs, websites, courses, and conferences that further your education. Don’t wait for the company to save you. It’s your ship. Make it the best one in the water.
Look at all your work experiences in this way. Think of yourself as simultaneously a servant of your business, and the steward of your future. As you are now captain, I salute you, but stay vigilant. The era of permanent whitewater, as Stephen Covey used to call it, is upon us.
Chris Brogan is captain of New Marketing Labs, a social media content marketing and events company based in Canton, Massachusetts. He maintains a highly-ranked blog at Chrisbrogan.com where he writes about the future of marketing and business communications.