With the new economy of the late 1990s came a new mindset for the average employee. Gone were the days when employees were happy just having a job, going to work everyday, taking home a paycheck and, if it was a good year, getting a Christmas bonus. But with the rise of the Internet and e-commerce, a change too place in the employee mindset that hasn’t been seen before. Work was no longer about making enough to pay the bills and have two weeks vacation; it was about instant gratification, in the form of stock options, casual dress, flexible hours, ping-pong tables and a “fun” work environment. If these things weren’t available at their current company, then there was a simple answer: go to a company that would give them what you wanted. Now that they economy has softened, we are again seeing employees looking for a company that they can call home, a place where they feel secure that they will have a paycheck, a place that has a track record of success, not just potential. Below, I will explore some of the values that made up the old economy with comparisons of what employees looked for in the new economy. This will hopefully give you some insight on what we can expect next. Security/Stability
- Old Economy: When employees were looking for new opportunities, they were looking for companies that could offer them security and stability. Security and stability came in the form of increasing advancement over time and financial reward after a long tenure with a company. For many, a job was a career, and spending your entire working life at one company was not unheard of. It was not common to be a job hopper, and usually frowned upon.
- New Economy: Stability was a thing of the past. The only thing that mattered was meeting the company’s short-term goals, like a release date. Money and stock options were expected, not earned. If the company faltered, there was always an employer across the street ready to welcome you with open arms. Employees were full of lofty goals and dreams, enticed by the potential to become wealthy quickly.
- Old Economy: In the old economy you would clock in, do your job, collect your paycheck and go home at the end of the day. Work was something that you left on the job. You were not compensated to worry about the problems and challenges of the company, that was for management to worry about.
- New Economy: There was total commitment, not always for the good of the company, but for personal gain. If the company was doing well, then the value of your stock options would increase in proportion to the amount of success the company was having. The employee’s views became increasingly selfish. If there wasn’t a payoff soon for working long days, which was expected, then what were they working there for? That usually meant it was time to move on.
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- Old Economy: In the old economy you earned respect by what you did and not what you said you could do. You gained the respect of your peers and co-workers by producing, and sticking with a job when things got tough. There was a distinct pecking order within a company structure. It started with management and then trickled down to the employees with the most seniority, and so on from there on down.
- New Economy: With the arrival of the new economy, equality reigned. The pecking order shifted to the most skilled rather than management vs. employees. If there was a hot new programmer out of a top start-up, his or her place in the company hierarchy could eclipse the standing of someone who had been there for years. For this reason, seniority became a thing of the past.
Work, It’s All Business
- Old Economy: Before the economic boom, work was just that, work. You had a job to do and that is what you focused on doing. Workplace friendships were common, but the fun didn’t start until you clocked out. Work schedules were more rigid, you got to work at eight in the morning, lunch was from twelve to one, and you clocked out at five in the afternoon unless your boss needed you for overtime.
- New Economy: Midday ping-ping tournaments, massages and late night pizza parties were commonplace. In order for employers to meet deadlines and keep their prize employees happy, these types of activities were encouraged at many companies.
Who is to say which is better? There is something to be said for leaving work at the office; after all, it will still be there tomorrow. On the other hand, what is wrong with working late and your boss kicking down for pizza, or having a massage therapist come in to help relieve the tension of the high pressure, fast-paced new economy? We should all learn that there can be a happy medium between these two different places in time.