Employee Shelf Life – What Is Your Expiration Date?

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Expiration Date

Why Should The Organisation Keep You?

Over the weekend a close friend contacted me for some assistance to prepare a bio for submission to re-apply for a role in his multi-national organisation. He seemed a bit surprised when I remarked pleasantly that assessing his employee shelf life was a welcomed initiative and more organisations should be doing it.

He works in the Energy, Oil and Gas industry and although he had been through this process before, this time he was concerned that his expiration date was imminent. COVID-19 has brought the world to a virtual standoff and rippling layoffs are more severe. His global organisation had already completed a round of restructuring in markets that had taken the worse beatings and it was now positioning itself to ride a long-term wave (no pun intended).

What his organisation was attempting to assess was what skills sets were available to meet the changed work demands that dropped on its doorsteps. It was clear that they had to re-purpose for a “new normal” and their employees were expected to adapt.

The Only Thing Constant Is Change

I always refer to my first organisational experience with the introduction of computers into the work place. It was the early 80s and I was fresh out of university, taking a year off before deep diving into my Actuarial Science studies. I chose to intern for that year with an insurance company in my home country, Trinidad, although I had been accepted at one of England’s oldest insurance companies.

That decision changed the trajectory of my work life and I have never regretted it. My parents were not that thrilled however.

Changing my trajectory
During my gap year, the insurance company was mandated by Government legislation to fully localise. They were partly owned by a Canadian insurance company which had to make way for localisation. That is where major changes started to happen.

There I was thinking that I was going to breeze through my year, pick up some learning here and there, make new friends and hang out as much as possible. I was wrong.

On the heels of this localisation was the global rise of computer mainframes. I was in the Accounts Department whizzing through data entry and someone thought that because of those skills I would be a good fit for the Computer Department. I was sent to IBM for an aptitude test, nailed that and was quickly redeployed to study to become a Programmer/Analyst.

The change was swift in that gap year and it excited me. I was thriving in it all. The long days and nights, the learning, the opportunities to do many different things – sometimes all at once – I welcomed everything!

New Skills and Experiences Attract Greater Demand

My gap year turned out to be the start of a lifelong career journey, with many junctions, turns, hills and valleys. Needless to say, I did not return to university in London and chose to stay in Trinidad and pursue professional study. The impact of the changes on me personally and professionally was as swift as the rise in COVID-19 cases.

I qualified as a Programmer/Analyst.

I completed my life insurance professional study and qualified as a Fellow, Life Management Institute (FLMI) and Associate, Customer Service (ACS). These were completed with merit and honours in record time and earned me good recognition among my peers and managers and some extra dollars too.

With the introduction of mainframes, which was an emerging global event, I was appointed as a Supervisor in the Operations Department. Management was not easy for me at the time, but it slammed me against a wall and taught me (the hard way) that I could be a manager or leader without followers. I needed to move people with me.

While I was learning, qualifying and acquiring all these new skills, people were noticing and offers for new roles in new companies were on the rise. I could choose what I wanted to do, where I wanted to do it and for what price.

It was during this time that I made a decision to stay relevant and in-demand by continuing to invest in myself, my learning and my development. These actions would make me very valuable and marketable as a resource.

My goal was to never be wanting but ALWAYS BE WANTED.

You Have The Power To Determine Your Outcome

I am not sure if it was these early changes as I started my career journey or the fact that in my personal life I was taught that if I do not shape my own life, it would be done for me and if that happened, I did not have the right to complain. But, my determination to own my life was always strong. Some even called me a rebel.

Fierce spirit
That fierce spirit has taught me a few things though and the most impactful, (even more relevant today), is the fact that my personal power is worth more than gold. There is no way that I am going to allow anyone to determine what happens to me and how my story ends.

My career and professional life have been key enablers for my personal growth and achievements. I have never turned away from a new or different opportunity – even if I was under-experienced or not qualified enough. I learned as I went along and worked harder than everyone else when I had to.

Today, I enjoy a quality of life and freedom that many just imagine or wish for. If I had sat on the fence, closed to change and difference, I would have had to work because I have to and not because I enjoy it and want to.

I would not have remained relevant with skills, knowledge and expertise that lead the way for others and are applicable across the world. Staying ahead of the game requires you to pay attention to the changes happening around you and regularly doing an assessment to ensure that you have or can acquire what you need to maintain value.

Pay Attention To Your Behaviours and Attitudes

Organisations are no different to products. Human beings make up organisations and for this reason alone, they are living systems. They have life, they grow and their needs change. What worked today may not be needed tomorrow. Client demands will change what the organisation makes or delivers. You may have been a key player a year ago, but because of these changes what you did may no longer be needed.

Here are some questions to get you moving in the right direction:

  • Are you aware of the changes directly impacting your current role in your organisation?
  • When last did you learn something new?
  • How up-to-date are you with technology? (I am not talking Tik Tok here.)
  • Have you recommended any improvements to your work environment recently?
  • Do your peers and managers enjoy having you in their workgroups?
  • Are you sought after to help others to learn and solve problems?
  • Do you avoid helping at work because it will get in the way of your personal time or are you open to investing some extra time to assist?

Be honest with yourself. If you are struggling to answer, ask a trusted co-worker or someone who you respect to give you some feedback.

Be Purposeful With Needs

I chose a career and business path of entrepreneurship. But, that mindset can be applied to any role that you perform. To remain relevant, make sure that you are needed in a purposeful manner and for the right reasons.

holding on
Many employees hold on to their positions refusing to help or teach others because of fear that they may lose their job if someone comes along and learns to do it better. They function selfishly and constrain the growth of their organisation and people as a result.

Employees who share, adapt their thinking and behaviours and support the development of others are those who manage and lead healthy organisations that are able to adapt and thrive as the business demands.

The choice is up to you. Expire on the shelf or remain fresh and always in demand.

Do you want to lengthen your shelf life and erase your expiration date?

Leave a Comment below and let us know your thoughts on employee shelf life, what resonated with this article or, how we may be able to support your growth and development.

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