Researcher: Secret to Long-Lasting Jobs Is Flexibility

March 26, 2004 ( - The length of time a particular job sticks around may well depend on how well those performing it can adapt to change and work cooperatively with co-workers on dynamic teams.

IBM researcher Jim Spohrer , who studies the business operations of IBM’s corporate clients, has found that the need for workplace flexibility is getting more and more acute, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report.

“Jobs that persist are dynamic and creative and require the ability to team with others,” Spohrer told the newspaper. “At its heart, a company is simply a group of teams that come together to create” products and services, he said.

According to Spohrer, the accelerated pace of job extinction is primarily because of technology as well as evolving businesses processes – notably outsourcing including sending some work overseas.

Software programming and call-center support technician jobs were among the first to be sent off to countries with cheaper labor. Spohrer said call-center jobs couldn’t have been sent to India if the government there hadn’t invested in new telecommunications networks that eliminated the annoying delay that had once been characteristic of transoceanic calls.

U.S. corporations can send software jobs overseas only because the process of testing and debugging software code has become a standardized process, he said.

So what occupations won’t be around for long? Spohrer said the field of translation is a good candidate, if cell phone software becomes capable of translating an image – of a road sign written in a foreign language, for example – and displaying it on the phone screen in the user’s native tongue.

In fact, large telecom service providers like Nokia now hire anthropologists and other social scientists to examine how the proliferation of cell phone use could alter the workplace of the future.