HAVE YOU looked around your organization to see who’s doing what?

As technological changes have impacted so much in the last couple of decades, are the people in your organization “fully employed?” Here are a few things to think about.

Twenty years ago, libraries had a staff member whose primary job, I’m told, was to process and catalog the newspapers as they arrived. Since many periodicals are now online, what is that person doing instead of cataloging newspapers? Or is he just sitting around the office, hoping no one recognizes he really doesn’t have anything to do?

Or what if you were the director of the film laboratory at a major motion picture studio in 1999? Did you see the change from film to digital coming, or did you bury your head in the sand and refuse to acknowledge the industry was changing? If you ignored the technological changes, you’re now unemployed.

When I was in college 40 years ago, I had a work-study job at my university. I did a lot of typing and copying for faculty back then, as did the administrative assistant in my office. Faculty did not have computers, so staff members did a lot of that sort of work. These days, few administrative assistants are typing and copying like they were when I was in college. How have they filled their days? Or have they?

What if you’re an insurance salesperson specializing in property and casualty lines? What’s going to happen to your job when autonomous cars are commonplace? While there will probably be auto insurance sold, it’s going to be different and may not be as lucrative. How will that change your life, including compensation?

Futurists talk about advances in medical technology. If I can have a body scan at some point in the future and be told immediately what’s going on with my health, what will become of the many nurses and technicians who support testing today? What will they do?

We hear that people are going to have at least seven careers in their lifetime. If that’s the case, we should be scanning our environment to see how changes are impacting our work. We should also be thinking about learning well beyond our high school or college years. What are you good at and what do you enjoy doing? Can you find opportunities for employment that marry your interests and skills with chances to support you and your family?

Unfortunately, most of us don’t keep our eyes on the future. We begin a job and stay with it until something happens that forces us to leave. I believe in the concept of “love your work or find different work that you can love.”

Additionally, within organizations, many managers don’t look around to ensure that everyone is busy most of every day. It’s only when a person vacates a position that the question is asked: “Do we really need to replace the person in this position?” What if we began combining positions now and keeping people busy without waiting years to address it?

We all want to add value to our organizations. If you feel as if you’re not doing so, speak up and ask to do more. The days certainly pass by more quickly when you’re busy. But if you’re a manager and see unused capacity sitting idle, find a way to help your employee fill his day. He’ll actually be thankful.

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Lynne Richardson is the dean of the College of Business at the University of Mary Washington.

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