July 18, 2023

The Business of Meetings – Episode 175 – What Do You Need to Be Employable? with Ira Wolfe 

In an era defined by rapid technological advancements and shifting employment landscapes, the future of work remains a topic of paramount importance.

Today, we have the privilege of engaging in a conversation with Ira Wolfe, a renowned expert in the field. We delve into his remarkable career trajectory and explore the challenges and rewards of changing professions later in life. We also uncover Ira’s invaluable insights on pursuing passion and navigating the uncharted waters of growth, mindset, and adaptability.

Join us as we embark on this enlightening journey, destined to illuminate the path to success in the ever-evolving world of work!

Bio:

Ira S Wolfe, the “Millennial trapped in a Baby Boomer body,” is one of the top 5 global thought leaders on the future of work and HR. He is the president and Chief Googlization Officer of Poised for the Future Company, senior consultant with Dame Leadership, and host of the top-rated Geeks Geezers Googlization podcast. Ira is a TEDx Speaker and 2022 inductee into the HRSouthwest Conference Speaker Hall of Fame. He is co-author of Create Great Culture in a Remote World, and author of Recruiting in the Age of Googlization, consistently nominated to best recruiting and HR book lists. He is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Medium and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, INC Magazine, Fast Company, and dozens more.

Ira’s story

Ira’s remarkable journey was driven initially by his childhood desire to become a dentist. Despite having no familial background in dentistry, he persevered and traversed the educational milestones from high school to dental school, eventually establishing his own successful practice during economically turbulent times. However, he could not shake his aversion to the fundamental tasks of drilling and filling. Realizing his true passion lay elsewhere, he left his dental career to seek more fulfilling work. Although career transitions and soul-searching have become commonplace today, Ira undertook this journey more than three decades ago when such shifts were far less prevalent. Embracing his calling to assist others in finding meaningful work and reassessing their priorities, he embarked on a mission to help people discover genuine fulfillment in their professional lives.

From Dentistry to Business in Practice

In his dental practice, Ira focused on marketing, content creation, customer service, staff management, and hiring the right people. However, he wanted to help professionals in technical fields like dentists, physicians, accountants, attorneys, and engineers with the business side of their practices. So he started a business called Business in Practice to offer advice and guidance. Despite his success, he soon realized that many clients only wanted him to solve their problems without changing their behavior. Unable to accommodate their demands, Ira fired them all, rebranded his company as Successful Performance Solutions, and discovered his passion for employee assessments and diagnostic processes.

Personality Tests 

Ira was always passionate about leadership, frequently participating in personality tests and management courses. Those experiences eventually led him to a sales training office where he encountered the DISC assessment tool, which he had previously used to understand his dental partners’ different personality styles. Understanding the four P’s: problems, people, pace, and procedures, Ira realized that personality assessments worked as a common language for teams with diverse approaches. With a team of 16 individuals, including two providers, he embraced the variety of personalities within the team, recognizing that each individual’s unique perspective added value to the overall functioning of the group.

Becoming a Thought Leader

Ira found his passion in diagnosing and solving problems. (Which he enjoyed in dentistry as well.) He integrated various personality assessments into his business and became a thought leader in the future of work. Eventually, he sold the business and shifted his focus to speaking about the future of work and advising business owners on team-building and the changing workforce.

A diminishing labor market 

Ira created a video discussing the declining birth rate in the United States and its implications on the workforce. Comparing it to countries like China, Russia, and European nations with low birth rates, he emphasizes that the US also faces socio-economic challenges due to a shortage of young people to support an aging population. His video presents statistical data showing that from the 1950s to the 1980s, there was a significant influx of new workers into the US workforce, driven by economic growth and increased female participation. However, with the emergence of Generation X in the late 1980s and 1990s, although their numbers were smaller, it did not cause much impact due to the continued presence of the large baby boomer generation. The introduction of the millennial generation further increased the population entering the workforce. However, since 2010, the birth rate has declined, and immigration policies have significantly reduced the number of new workers. The current trend indicates that by 2025, only 200,000 natural-born workers will enter the workforce annually, compared to the previous average of 2 million. Additionally, the aging baby boomer generation further diminishes the labor market.

The Future of Work

While the United States may have a larger population of young people than other developed countries, it still falls short of the workforce needed to sustain its economy. Ira suggests that automation could provide some assistance but dismisses the fear that AI and technology will completely replace jobs. He contends that individuals who refuse to learn new skills and adapt are the most likely to be displaced.

A High Demand for Blue-collar Skills and Trades

Ira emphasizes the high demand for blue-collar skills and trades because the jobs they do are not easily replaceable by automation or robots. He acknowledges the importance of education but argues that not everyone needs a four-year college degree.

The Challenges Retiring Baby Boomers Face when Returning to the Workforce 

While some boomers may need to return to work for financial reasons, many lack the necessary skills and physical stamina for jobs that require technological expertise. Better leadership, management, and productivity are needed to address those challenges. There is also a shift in the mindset of younger generations, who prioritize work-life balance and are unwilling to sacrifice their personal lives for work. That, coupled with a shrinking working population, further complicates the labor market. The lack of caregivers is another issue in the broader context of workforce concerns.

A Polarized World

Ira acknowledges the highly polarized nature of the current world and highlights the consensus among economists and business leaders that a different immigration policy is needed. While countries like Europe and Asia face low birth rates and aging populations, Africa has a large population of capable individuals willing to take on various job opportunities. However, it is still essential to provide fair wages and avoid exploitation.

Overcoming the Fear of Change

Despite the challenges and fears associated with technological advancements and societal changes, Ira remains hopeful about the future. He believes that technology and progress will lead to breakthroughs in healthcare and allow people to enjoy life rather than carrying the burden of medical expenses. He emphasizes the importance of having a growth mindset, being open to learning new skills, and overcoming the fear of change.

Adapting to an Evolving World

Adaptability is a crucial skill for the future, in addition to resilience, cognitive agility, and the ability to unlearn outdated practices. Despite being an older baby boomer, Ira encourages individuals of all ages to embrace a better future and remain productive by continuously adapting to the evolving world.

Connect with Eric

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Connect with Ira Wolfe

On Linkedin

On his website

On YouTube

Geeks Geezers Googlization Podcast

About the author 

Eric Rozenberg

For two decades, Eric Rozenberg has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and produced conferences in more than 50 countries across diverse industries. His focus is creating meetings that are not only breathtakingly memorable but which bring corporate strategies to life and amplify team motivation/performance.

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