Beyond the Build


Take Lemons and Make Lemonade: Embrace Workplace Evolution

I was listening to NPR recently and they were discussing how the Recession isn’t the only culprit behind recent job loss. Throughout modern society, the ability to work in certain fields has ebbed and flowed based upon changes in culture and advances in technology.

The example they gave was from the 1920s. Before motion pictures had sound, every movie house had an organist who performed the soundtrack for each film as it was being played. When “talkies” became a reality, there was no longer a need for the in-house music. Suddenly thousands of organists were out of work through no fault of their own—the technology simply changed. But there’s a flip side. Now there are sound engineers working on every set and in the editing process. The motion picture industry evolved.

It seems to me that inevitable technology changes are accelerating in our era. As managers, that should motivate us to rethink processes. It’s occurring organically in the today’s economic downturn. Many of the cut positions were, in their current state, no longer essential. They would have eliminated themselves eventually, the Recession just made it happen quicker.

Fortunately, the changes that result in the demise of one type of job often lead to the creation of new opportunities. In our organization, I’m seeing positions evolve, and I think it’s a great thing. Jobs are adapting to employee interests and specialties. I’m convinced it makes us a stronger team. Here are 3 questions we keep top of mind so that as we change, we grow professionally:

Can we reorganize daily tasks among the team to make us all more efficient? Since I don’t love automated systems, I’ve requested that our receptionist still answer the phone. However, we moved her desk into our central office area so she can easily help with administrative communications.

How can we embrace the latest in tech knowledge without overdosing? I feel we need to limit the time spent evaluating. We want to be leaders, but the research could also become a full time job. That’s not practical for us just yet. We seek balance in this area.

What can we learn from others? Since it’s hard to keep up with every single technology option, we are members of several local user groups, some with our competitors. This provides a way to share ideas so we are all more efficient and successful.

In our business we only have influence over so many things. We couldn’t change the credit markets, supply and demand or employment. But we can start in our backyards. As a manager, communicate with your employees. You might be able to help a team member grow into a more valuable new position. The evolution benefits us all.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.