It’s October. College football teams have played a few games and are adjusting their game plans based on the competition. Farmers are turning under their fields to prepare the land for new crops they will plant next spring.
Similarly, ASSP’s Board of Directors is assessing changes in the business landscape. As your senior volunteer leaders, our outlook is squarely focused on what we can do to advance our organization, elevate our profession and ensure our Society’s sustainability.
As we all know, change is constant, perhaps nowhere more so than in the world of work, where technology constantly creates a new norm. The definition of work also continues to change as employment relationships and workforce demographics evolve. In addition, how, where and what we learn continues to shift based on ever-changing business and professional needs. Let’s take a closer look at each of these trends.
Changing World of Work
The world of work is changing rapidly thanks to emerging technology, increased automation and predictive analytics. As safety professionals, we must strive to understand how technology such as drones, robots, automated vehicles and artificial intelligence are altering traditional job functions, changing expectations and contributing to business performance. We also must explore how these technologies can improve safety while also addressing their potential to expose our workers to new hazards.
In addition, the data available to us continues to grow exponentially. We need to find ways to use the insights captured to better predict where injuries, illnesses and losses are most likely so we can better protect our employees and help our companies implement proactive measures to prevent negative outcomes.
The term work redefined reflects changing workplace dynamics, which includes a growing role for gig workers (think Uber or Lyft), a more diverse workforce that encompasses multiple generations, races and genders, and the continued shift from manufacturing to service industries.
Five different generations are at play in today’s workforce. People are living longer, and many are working longer due to economic or lifestyle factors. As safety professionals, we need to recognize some of the characteristics that define each generation and use that information to engage each group differently where possible. By understanding and respecting the needs of these different groups, we can help them thrive and contribute in their own way to our efforts to create safe, healthy workplaces.
It is also important that we seek ways to incorporate differences related to culture, race and gender rather than try to mitigate them. Embracing these differences is an opportunity to help all employees have a voice in decisions that affect them.
How we learn and how we want to learn is also in flux. Although in my experience nothing surpasses the experience of attending a conference with more than 5,000 other safety professionals, today’s business climate demands that we gather information on a just-in-time basis. Often, this means seeking knowledge in small, digestible segments (widely known as microlearning). We also must consider, for ourselves and for our workers, which type of learning—from classroom training to blended approaches to augmented and virtual reality—best meets a given knowledge need.
These trends are impacting our profession and our Society now, and they will continue to do so into the near future and beyond. We constantly scan how these trends impact our members and our profession so that we can provide you with tools, resources and information that will help you succeed. If you have stories to share on how you have addressed any of these areas, please reach out—I would love to hear them!
By understanding the ways in which work, working relationships and learning continue to change, we all can better support our employers’ efforts to protect workers and provide safe, healthy workplaces now and into the future.