One of the most interesting trends in U.S. workforce demographics today is also one of the least discussed. It has little to do with age, ethnicity or gender, is somewhat impacted by geography and has tremendous implications for what is produced and consumed in this country (and all economically developed nations, really).!@!
I’m referring to the “creative class,” which was branded as such by University of Toronto professor Richard Florida in his 2002 book, The Rise of the Creative Class. This refers to post-industrial “knowledge workers” whose jobs involve creation of new ideas, products and services (in contrast to the Services and Manufacturing sectors, which encompass employees who deliver and distribute those products and services). Florida has described them in detail in his own works through a combination of research and anecdotes.
So, what are some of the general attributes of the Creative Class? Well, as I indicated before, they aren’t statistically more likely to belong to any generation or racial or gender group. They are, however, much more likely to live in big cities, particularly in the U.S. Northeast Corridor, the Great Lakes Region and the Pacific Coast.
In terms of their economic influence, the Creative Class is the second-largest segment in the workforce, trailing the first-place Services group by a substantial 20 million people. On the other hand, they earn approximately half the income brought in by the entire workforce. (The Services sector, by comparison, constitutes 46 percent of the workforce but earns less than a third of the income.) Also, the Creative Class professionals typically make many more high-level decisions in their organizations.
Incidentally, the rise of the Creative Class also is at least partly responsible for the rise in importance for corporate learning. After all, employee development (or “training,” as it was called back then) was much more simple and straightforward when it was focused primarily on the Services and Manufacturing areas, which tend to have more predictability in competencies and workflows.
But the Creative Class is extremely fluid and unstable in nature, like liquid mercury. They constantly need new, relevant knowledge to remain competitive. This in turn requires robust learning and performance-support functions. In other words, what you’re providing in your organizations.
Got any thoughts about this group and the way they learn that I didn’t cover? Let me know in the Comments section or on the CLO-Forum.
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