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Work in the 21st Century

Karen May
Terranova Consulting Group

Over the past 9 years, I've been lucky enough to contribute regularly to TIP. While I may contribute periodically in the future, it seems I've exceeded the official time limit on editorial board members, and this column will be my last regular column. I appreciate the support of the three editors with whom I've worked, Kurt Kraiger, Mike Coovert, and Allan Church. They each gave me a great deal of freedom to make what I wanted of the column, and I appreciate their patience and encouragement.

My TIP "career" began with "TIP Profiles," for which I interviewed some of the newer leaders of SIOP and wrote profiles about them to help the general SIOP membership get to know them better. This column came at the suggestion of Kurt Kraiger, who was incoming TIP editor at the time, and who wanted to make TIP more about the people in the field. I had the opportunity to interview Elaine Pulakos, Mike Campion, Wally Borman, Ed Salas, Susan Jackson, Kurt Kraiger, Paul Sackett, and Kevin Murphy. Through each of these interviews I broadened my understanding of our field, learned how these people navigated their careers, and developed a stronger sense of the variety of ways one can be successful in I-O. I found the experience of conducting the interviews to be inspiring and rewarding, and I still appreciate the advice I received from each of them. Although I conducted these interviews years ago, I can still recall the energy and unique competence that has helped each of these individuals succeed.

I began writing about work in the 21st century shortly after Mike Coovert took over editorship of TIP. I was learning as much as I could about how work, jobs, and organizations were changing, and because I found that my own work was being profoundly affected by these changes, I suggested to Mike that I would write about them in my column. Mike was interested in the idea, and during the last several years I have focused my column on trying to share my thoughts and experiences about how changes in work affect the practice of I-O psychology.

I have found writing about the changes in the world of work to be a marvelous experience. Although the workplace is always a dynamic environment, this is a particularly volatile time. Between technological advances, the changing composition of the workforce, and the growing influence of the global economy, organizational structures and employees' careers are taking unprecedented and unpredictable turns. Writing this column has given me the chance to reflect on how we can contribute meaningfully to organizational effectiveness given the rapid speed of change of these environmental factors and the unpredictability of the future.

I find that I approach my consulting work differently now. With each new assignment, I try to determine how the changing nature of work affects the company, its jobs, and its employees, and to determine how my own approach should change in order to help them succeed. I have learned to make few assumptions and to change directions quickly. I have also learned that there are some things that don't change. People still want to be successful in their jobs, want a sense of internal and external equity, and want personal connections with others. Organizations still need people who have the right skills and who are working toward a common set of objectives. People still resist change, even though the amount of change in their work lives has increased. So, there continues to be a real need for our knowledge and skillsour challenge is to adapt our practice to today's (and tomorrow's) demands.

One of the pleasures of writing this column was that it put me in touch with other I-O psychologists who are also fascinated by the changes happening around us. It gave me a chance to hear about their work and research, and to broaden my own perspective. To those of you who wrote with ideas, approached me at SIOP, or sent me your work thanks, and I hope we can continue to share our thoughts and experiences.

Every once in awhile I'll get a call, letter, or e-mail from someone who has read one of my articles. I'm always pleased to know that someone has read it and excited to learn what others think about the rapidly changing nature of work. This exchange is what I will miss mostso keep in touch. Karen May, Terranova Consulting Group, 61F Avenida de Orinda, Orinda, CA 94563, karen@terranovaconsulting.com, (925) 253-0458.

Manuscripts, news items, or other
submissions to TIP should be sent to:

Allan Church
W. Warner Burke and Associates, Inc.
201 Wolfs Lane
Pelham, NY 10803-1815
Phone: (914) 738-0080 Fax: (914) 738-1059 E-mail: AllanHC@aol.com


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