Hard Work Is No Longer Enough

06/10/2015 11:23 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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My mum likes to reminisce on the days when she was finishing school by remarking: "jobs were a dime a dozen in those days."

In my parent's generation, as long as you worked hard and were dependable, finding and keeping a job wasn't difficult. In fact, finishing high school wasn't even a prerequisite for many roles.

Many of the young adults beginning their working careers in the 1970s expected to get a job out of high school and work at that same company for the rest of their lives.

We all know that isn't the case anymore.

Between rising unemployment rates, a much higher average level of education, and the ever-increasing rate of automation of many roles, today's job seekers must be prepared to do much more than just work hard.

Recently I was having dinner with a friend who works at one of those very desirable tech companies that was founded in Silicon Valley. She told me that she had had a hard week because one of her employees had to be fired.

"I feel really bad because he really loved the company, and loved working there. I don't know how he's going to tell his friends and family he got fired."

I could understand her distress -- she was tasked with 'performance managing' the young man at the start of the week, but by the end of the week the people above her decided to fire him.

However, I asked her, was he doing his best to learn and develop himself? Was he working on his shortcomings and committed to the growth of the organisation?

No, he wasn't. In fact, he was hard to teach, and was too content with working for this company rather than adding value to the company.

In elite sport, we have always known that hard work is not enough.

Some athletes work their butts off at training every single session, yet never seem to "make it," whereas others seem to just glide through on pure talent alone.

In sport, in order to succeed you need to work hard, but you also need to be talented, you need to have a bit of luck on your side, you need to be given opportunities, and most importantly, you need to be able to perform when it counts.

As they say, they don't give out Olympic gold medals on just any day of the week.

It's a curious phenomenon that while sport is currently going through some big governance changes to make it more like the business world, in many ways, the business world is experiencing changes that make it resemble sport more closely.

In order to succeed in today's job market, workers need to do much more than just work hard. They need to ask themselves, what value am I adding to my organisation? And what can I deliver to the benefit or growth of the organisation in the future?

The rate of automation of jobs has been heavily reported in the media recently. Australia's Future Workforce report released in June by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia found that nearly 40 percent of jobs that exist in Australia today are at risk of being automated by 2030 -- that's nearly 5 million jobs.

Creative problem solving skills, the ability to synthesise information and to effectively communicate and connect people with others and opportunities will be required for the jobs of the future. But not only that, the workers of the future must be able to deliver when required.

The big tech companies from Silicon Valley have already implemented a lean, mean, growth machine model of workforce. In order to achieve success, and great growth figures, these organisations operate on a model whereby every employee is directly contributing to the business' goals, all the time.

I recently listened to an interview with Patty McCord, one of the original employees of Netflix. She summed up the Netflix HR model in one sentence:

'We are not a family, we are a team."

Just as in professional sports, if you are no longer performing, you're dropped from the team. As unfortunate as it is, Netflix cannot afford to keep you around, even if you've been with them from the start.

After being with Netflix since 1998, in 2012 when the organisation started to invest more heavily in creating its own content, Patty herself was no longer needed. She was duly "moved on."

Young people are always demonised as being lazy, entitled good-for-nothings. Being a part of Generation Y myself, I do not subscribe to this idea.

In fact, I think our generation has it harder than any before us: today there are far fewer jobs available to go around, and in order to be competitive, you don't just need good marks from school and uni, but you need desirable skills and an array of extra-curricular interests that prove your leadership, your dedication, your philanthropy and how balanced an individual you are.

But most importantly, when you finally get a job, you need to perform, and continue to perform. Hard work just doesn't cut it anymore.

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