8 must-know workplace trends that could give you a competitive edge

Group Business Team
Judy A. Jenner, freelance writer 

The professional world has evolved, and to survive, your career tactics must evolve with it. Unlike your parents and grandparents, you can’t expect to work at one place your whole life. In fact, most Gen Y professionals will work at least seven jobs during their lifetimes, according to a Time magazine article. But that’s not the only change you’ll find in the modern job scene. What is the new corporate culture, and what do employers expect from workers? Find out with these eight need-to-know workplace and employee-centered trends.
Trend No. 1: Professionalism and teamwork
Work life in 2013 doesn’t look anything like what’s depicted on “Mad Men,” (women can be especially grateful for that). First, being cordial isn’t enough anymore. Employers want employees who can work in interdisciplinary teams to achieve common corporate goals. They are also big on professionalism, high energy and confidence. Universum, a Stockholm-based employer-branding firm that does extensive annual surveys, found that these are the top-three personality traits employers are looking for in candidates, as reported in a 2012 Forbes article.
Trend No. 2: Social media madness
We live more of our lives online, but many tend to forget that those lives are public. Before you tweet, post something on Facebook or comment on a blog with your real name, ask yourself, “Is this something I would like a potential employer to read?” Don’t be surprised if a potential employer requests your social media passwords so they can have a complete look at your Facebook profile. Luckily, recent legislation might put an end to that in certain states, such as in California, where the state senate recently voted for a bill banning employers from demanding access to social media profiles, as reported by The Huffington Post.
Trend No. 3: Continuing education
In these times of tight corporate budgets, your employer might not always be able to pay for that online MBA or Project Management Professional certificate, but they will still expect you to invest in your own professional development if you want to move up in the company — even if you have to pay for it out of your own pocket.
New trends in online education, such as the rising popularity of massive open online courses, may be the answer. MOOC sites such as Coursera, Udacity and edX feature tuition-free online courses from universities such as Stanford, MIT and Harvard.
Trend No. 4: Technology rules
Not having basic tech skills is not acceptable anymore — even for lower-wage jobs or for mature employees who might not have grown up with iPads or netbooks. Employers increasingly expect their employees to either have a company-issued mobile device or use their own device, which means having to be available via email during nights and weekends. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the lines between personal and work life are blurred because of lower-cost and more effective communication technologies (Skype, social networks, etc.), which enable 24/7 business operations. Work in virtual teams is becoming more commonplace, prevalent and expected.
Not all the trends revolve around what employees should do to be successful in their field of work, however. Employers want to retain high-performing professionals and want to keep them happy and challenged.
Trend No. 5: Workplace flexibility
The reign of the 9 to 5 workday could be coming to an end. Employers are increasingly recognizing that traditional schedules might not be the best fit for employees trying to combine careers with having children — or for those with long commutes or other challenges. SHRM expects an increase in workplace flexibility and telework, which could invariably lead to more security and workers’ compensation issues.
Trend No. 6: Collaborative workspaces
In today’s workplace, cube dwellers may have to venture beyond the confines of their homey partitions, as open, collaborative workspaces and communal areas are becoming more commonplace. According to a March 2012 article by The New York Times, two-thirds of American office space is now configured in some sort of open arrangement, with the goal of increasing the free flow of ideas and eliminating the office as a status symbol — although it may perhaps come at the cost of some privacy and to the dismay of employees who prefer to work alone.
Trend No. 7: Corporate social responsibility
According to SHRM, organizations of all types and sizes are participating in philanthropic activities and devoting more resources to creating environmentally profitable and sustainable practices. Many organizations even use their social responsibility commitment as a competitive advantage, and participating in social projects can do wonders for employee morale, teamwork and company pride. The most admired companies for social responsibility, according to a list published by CNN Money, are Chevron, Walt Disney and Whole Foods Markets, among others.
Trend No. 8: Rewards and recognition
Companies have realized that workers crave other things besides money to keep them motivated. To that end, employers are offering a variety of rewards and recognition programs. Online retailer Zappos has built an entire culture around employee recognition, frequently hosting happy hours during which awards are distributed. They also have the Zollar (Zappos Dollars) Program, where employees can earn Zollars for good performance and teamwork. Another recognition builder, the 200-page “Culture Book,” has pictures from company events and unedited submissions from every single Zappos employee, further enhancing the company’s corporate culture and employee recognition focus.
As you can see, this isn’t your parent’s employment world anymore. But while a lot has changed in the workplace, change isn’t always a bad thing — especially if you’re prepared for it and armed with the latest knowledge.

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