Recession, younger employees will lead to changes in corporate culture

A new corporate culture and a bifurcated workforce are emerging from this life-changing recession. And it might surprise folks to discover who has the upper hand.

A jobless recovery will mean many things, but clearly it implies that companies will not rush to replace the 8.4 million jobs lopped off the payroll since December 2007.

After two years of slashing payrolls, the new company will begin hiring at a very slow pace, opting in more cases than ever before to contract out for services.

It will contract for two primary reasons. The first is to keep costs down. The other is that the new company will learn, as previous experience taught us, that buyouts and early retirements cast away a large and talented group.

The new company will discover it still needs this talent.

And it just so happens that many of these folks will be creating the next wave of entrepreneurs and would rather work as contract freelancer than an employee. After reinventing themselves, they might be as reluctant to take full-time jobs as companies are to offer them, says Yoel Yohan, who published "The Corporate Drain" after a 37-year career at UPS.

The CEOs who have been cutting and slashing their way to profitability the last year or two will find it's a new ballgame when profits once again depend on growing revenue.

Anyone can cut. We shall see in the coming year who can make the switch to growth.

To grow, the new CEO needs to focus on what was lost during the Great Recession: loyalty, trust and revenue improvement, says Yohan.

Growing a business requires a different mindset. One that understands the critical importance of people.

"Those who concentrate on people and processes will see greater success with sustainable results," says Yohan, now a partner with the Progress Group, a consulting firm specializing in supply chain strategy.

The new employee workforce will be comprised of younger workers who want more out of life than a career with a single company.

It's no longer the ultimate goal to work for a great company as much as it is to be able to brag about working for one that allows them certain freedoms, Yohan says.

That means flex time. That means working from home.

For example, parents who can work from home reap enormous benefits, starting with savings in childcare and transportation costs.

To accommodate these younger parents will mean a different way of supervising their work. It will mean operating on a level of trust that pre-recession corporations were not known for.

It may seem counterintuitive that, as we enter a jobless recovery, workers will determine the rules of the new employer-employee contract. But it will make perfect sense to companies that believe people are their most valuable resources.

And companies that don't? At some point, they will no longer have a recession to blame their failures on.

Oliver writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. E-mail him at