Although the preface of Career Anxiety: Guidance Through Tough Times clearly says it is a 21st century labor market guide for “professionals and skilled workers approaching the middle and later stages of their careers,” that is not why I chose to review the book in Learning Solutions. There are so many changes coming in the next 5-10 years—from the ways in which organizations manage work and the workforce to the ways in which workers will seek and maintain employment—and each of these affects the other.

All of those changes are driven by related factors, but those factors affect what managers must do. Learning and development, human resources, and executive management in nearly all organizations between 2021 and 2030 will have a challenge that is the mirror-image of the one faced by the professionals and skilled workers. It is a challenge that is as badly understood by L&D, HR, and executives as it is by employees. I believe that the former group (“management”) must make an effort to understand the challenge as it is seen by the employees. That is why I suggest that managers will benefit by reading Career Anxiety.

Looking at the big picture

As the next 10 years pass, management will need to be very concerned about getting, maintaining, and adjusting the mix of employees that will be required in order to meet constantly changing business strategy. For L&D and human resources, awareness of the factors affecting employee motivation, performance, and retention, and how to avoid the financial cost of employee turnover during what is being called The Great Resignation, are critical strategic matters. Retaining and upskilling employees in those 10 years will be one of the top priorities in order to maintain competitiveness and to reduce time to profitability for new ventures.

Competition for workers with critical skill sets will be sharp. For example, according to a report from Faethm AI and Boston Consulting Group (“The Future of Jobs in the Era of AI”) on the impact of automation and technology adoption, employers seeking workers with technical skill sets in a variety of industries will face a real challenge to find (and keep) the talent they need within the next few years. At the same time, there will be a large surplus of workers with skills in office and administrative roles.

Career Anxiety addresses managing workers’ employability through the immediate uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and, later, through the anticipated uncertainty of the digital transformation and other factors affecting employment in the coming decade. The employment environment in the next five years will be substantially different, as the book makes clear. L&D and HR must understand the factors that will affect the workforce between now and 2030, how those factors affect the skills and credentials employers must seek, and how to manage the impact of the factors on:

  • Getting and keeping the right mix of workers
  • Minimizing the cost of turnover and workforce instability
  • Maintaining competitiveness
  • Time to profitability

The question is, how will the new world of work alter management’s responsibilities and priorities? Employees will face a complex web of career management and financial choices, and many of the factors involved will be beyond the control of employees. Employers have more options, including providing pathways for development of new skill sets and creation of career frameworks.

Careful study by readers will reveal ways to match management initiatives to employee motivation in order to retain workers and to improve the skills of those who stay. I recommend Career Anxiety to anyone in L&D and HR for study and for use in evaluation of strategic plans in the next few years.

The authors bring exactly the right expertise to the discussion. Saul Carliner is a professor at Concordia University in Montreal, where he specializes in workplace learning and communication. Margaret Driscoll manages international teams on projects producing complex learning technologies. Yvonne Thayer is the principal of VESTED Educational Development and has shaped educational and career policy as a state director of adult literacy and consultant on workforce development and research to universities, community colleges, and school districts. Career Anxiety is available in paperback and Kindle versions.

Bibliographic information

Saul Carliner, Margaret Driscoll, Yvonne Thayer (2021). Career Anxiety: Guidance Through Tough Times. International Career Press, 422 pages.