"I''m telling organizations that if by 2004 they don''t have the internal capacity to reinvent themselves every 12 to 18 months, they will not be in business."
This was the bracing message delivered yesterday (June 4) at the opening session of the American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Exposition by futurist Edward Barlow, Jr., president of the consulting firm Creating the Future, Inc. "Embracing Change" is the theme of this year''s conference, held in New Orleans June 2-7.
Barlow believes the boundaries of industrial hygiene will continue to expand, encompassing safety, the environment and "social accountability." Social accountability includes such things as discrimination, working hours and compensation, community relations, discrimination, as well as the traditional fields of environmental, health and safety performance.
Barlow said that in the future companies would have to do social accountability audits in addition to traditional financial audits. He encouraged industrial hygienists (IHs) to seize this new opportunity, by expanding the boundaries of what they know, learn, and think.
"Eighty percent of what you need to know to make your business successful in the 21st century is outside your industry and field of expertise," he said. In addition, 20 percent of what we know will be obsolete in one year, he contended. Barlow then gave his audience some print and Web site resources to help them keep abreast of change, such as www.ceoexpress.com.
Barlow emphasized the challenges and opportunities presented by a rapidly changing workforce and work environment. In particular, he stressed the importance of learning to adapt to a multicultural workforce in the U.S. and the enormous international opportunities presented by global trade.
"Global employment opportunities will be absolutely unbelievable," Barlow predicted. He also told his audience of the importance of learning foreign languages, because fifteen percent of the workers needed in the U.S. in the near future will be non-English speaking foreigners. Barlow foresees continued rapid growth of the U.S. Latino community, especially in manufacturing. By 2050, 25 percent of the nation will be Latino, he predicted, and referred to DiversityInc.com as a resource for this issue.
The increasing pace of change can be stressful, and Barlow pointed to recent data linking stress to higher health care costs, low productivity and turnover. A key future training need, he said, will be training people in emotional intelligence in order to manage and reduce stress in the workplace.
While the future offers tremendous opportunities to those who seize them, Barlow concluded by warning of the perils those who ignore change will face.
"Some people make things happen, others let them happen, and others ask, ''What the hell happened?''"
by James Nash