It’s perhaps a massive over-simplification, but my understanding of the so-called ‘skills gap’ is that two things are happening.
The first is a long-term trend for employers expecting to have to spend zero dollars on training for the people they hire.
The second is the use of algorithmic scanning of CV-scanning software to reject the majority of applicants. Not surprisingly, although it might make recruiters’ jobs a bit more manageable, it’s not great for diversity or finding people who haven’t done that exact job before.
Software can also disadvantage certain candidates, says Joseph Fuller, a management professor at Harvard Business School. Last fall, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission launched an initiative to examine the role of artificial intelligence in hiring, citing concerns that new technologies presented a “a high-tech pathway to discrimination.” Around the same time, Fuller published a report suggesting that applicant tracking systems routinely exclude candidates with irregularities on their résumés: a gap in employment, for example, or relevant skills that didn’t quite match the recruiter’s keywords. “When companies are focused on making their process hyperefficient, they can over-dignify the technology,” he says.
This isn’t an easy article to cite, mainly because I want to quote both it and some commentary by Andrew Curry. The original article is paywalled, so I’m going to rely on Curry’s quotations.
I’m particularly interested in this because I’m one of the oldest Millennials (I was born nine days before the end of 1980). There’s something about my generation whereby we’re just not going to take that Boomer shit any more.
It turns out the latest moral panic about work —at least, abut our contemporary idea of work—is being fuelled by ‘The Great Resignation’ in the US, which I wrote about here recently. (‘The four Rs of post-pandemic America.’)
One of the elements of this is that it is Millennials who are disproportionately more likely to quit. One might say, ‘what are these young people thinking of?’, were it not for the fact that the oldest Millennials are 41 this year; half a lifetime in, in other words.
The writer Erin Lowry, who has written multiple books on Millennials, and is a Millennial herself, is having none of it. In a (partly gated) short column in Bloomberg, she suggests instead that the games’s up for the version of work that has been normalised in the last two decades.
Curry quotes Lowry as saying:
After 18 months of pandemic uncertainty altering how we work, it makes sense we’d return to the questions of why we work, and how our jobs affect our quality of life. Is there perhaps another way to earn an income that better aligns with our overall goals? Couldn’t we create a future of no longer using a career as the primary or sole basis of our identity and self-satisfaction? Shouldn’t this be a moment to consider how to work to live instead of live to work?
We can theorize that this burnout comes from the increasingly blurred boundaries between being on and off the clock. From being conditioned to believe that appearing “always available” is the hallmark of a promotable employee. From jobs that once required a high school diploma suddenly demanding a bachelor’s degree, forcing young people to get mired in never-before-seen levels of student loan debt.
Writing in Men’s Health, and sadly not available anywhere I can link to, Will Self reflects on what we’ve collectively learned during the pandemic.
In it, he uses a quotation from Nietzsche I can’t seem to find elsewhere, “There are better things to be than the merely productive man”. I definitely feel this.
[T]he mood-music in recent months from government and media has all been about getting back to normal. So-called freedom. Trouble is… people from all walks of life and communities [have] expressed a reluctance to resume the lifestyle they were enjoying before March of last year. Quite possibly this is because they weren’t really enjoying that much in the first place — and it’s this that’s been exposed by the pandemic and its associated measures.
The difficulty, I think, is that lots of people (me included at times) had pre-pandemic lives that they would probably rate a 6/10. Not terrible enough for the situation by itself to be a stimulus for change. But not, after a break, the thought of returning to how things were sounds… unappetising.
We all know the unpleasant spinning-in-the-hamster-wheel sensation that comes when we’re working all hours with the sole objective of not having to work all hours — it traps us in a moment that’s defined entirely by stress-repeating-anxiety, a feeling that mutates all too easily into full-blown depression. And we’re not longer the sort of dualists who believe that psychological problems have no bodily correlate — on the contrary, we all understand that working too hard while feeling that work to be valueless can take us all the way from indigestion to an infarct.
I’ve burned out a couple of times in my life, which is why these days I feel privileged to be able to work 25-hour weeks by choice. There’s more to life than looking (and feeling!) “successful”.
It’s funny, I have more agency and autonomy than most people I know, yet I increasingly resent the fact that this is dependent upon some of the very technologies I’ve come to realise are so problematic for society.
[I]t might be nice in the way of 18 months of being told what to do, to feel one was telling one’s self what to do. One way of conceptualising the renunciation necessary to cope with the transition from a lifestyle where everything can be bought to one in which both security and satisfaction depend on more abstract processes, is to critique not just the unhealthy economy but the pathological dependency on technology that is its sequel.
Ultimately, I think Will Self does a good job of walking a tightrope in this article in not explicitly mentioning politics. The financial crash, followed by austerity, Brexit, and now the pandemic, have combined to hollow out the country in which I live.
The metaphor of a pause button has been overused during the pandemic. That’s for a reason: most of us have had an opportunity, some for the first time in their lives, to stop and think what we’re doing — individually and collectively.
What comes next is going to be interesting.
Not a sponsored mention by any means, but just a heads-up that I read this article thanks to my wife’s Readly subscription. It’s a similar monthly price to Netflix, but for all-you-can-read magazines and newspapers!