09/03/2012 02:35 EDT | Updated 11/02/2012 05:12 EDT

What Does Labour Day Mean to You?

Labour Day is so much a part of our culture that we rarely pause to consider its purpose and meaning. Labour Day is often more associated with fairs and a long weekend, than its original meaning -- a celebration of workers.

Labour Day began in Canada in 1872, when the Toronto Trades Assembly organized the first significant workers' demonstration. Speaking on behalf of working people, it encouraged union organization and supported exploited workers. This demonstration sowed the seeds for an annual workers' holiday, celebrated at different times around the world, to affirm the dignity and worth of workers.

How has the meaning and structure of work changed since the late19th-century?

During our great grandparents' era, scientific management, based on the belief that most workers were stupid, introduced authoritarian procedures to increase productivity. Money was the reward. Industrial capitalism and the corporate bureaucracy strengthened the idea that only top management had intelligence to make decisions. Unions organized to give workers a greater voice.

In the 1920s, management began to question these beliefs. Elton Mayo's research in the 30s demonstrated workers were more motivated by recognition and social interaction than material rewards. Companies subsequently introduced various incentives to increase employee motivation and productivity.

Ongoing technological, economic and social changes are forcing us to rethink our views of job satisfaction, productivity and career development.

Do your attitudes belong to the 2020s or the 1920s? How would you describe the following?

Career development

New views suggest career growth is a lifelong process of personal development. It involves a continuing quest to maintain harmony between who you are and what you do. When your position no longer fits your evolving personality, you find a more compatible job.

Your career is also a vehicle for self-expression. This gives you a sense of purpose, direction, and satisfaction. Career growth can mean moving up, down or sideways on the occupational prestige ladder. Who you are, rather than what you do, is important.

Old ideas perceive career development to mean moving up the prestige ladder. Your identity is tied solely to your job. But if who you are is what you do, what happens when you get laid off?

Career management

Today, nobody's job is safe. Benevolent organizations can't provide security for all employees.

People with new attitudes take charge of their own careers. Instead of looking for jobs, they're creating their own jobs. To stay competitive, smart people are continuing to upgrade professional knowledge and skills, and strengthening Quester qualities such as sense of purpose, mind power, self-reliance, optimism, resilience, creativity, and courage to risk. These adaptable skills are needed to succeed in a changing world.

Those with old attitudes leave their careers in the hands of their employers or the government. They usually wait for the pink slip rather than prepare for their next move before the layoff notice arrives.


The new attitude defines success personally. A growing number of people want to derive meaning and satisfaction from their work and lifestyle. Rewards are judged by personal and job satisfaction. Success is the degree to which work and lifestyle satisfy the mind, body, emotion, and soul. Status means having the best ideas.

Old ideas are having money to buy the good things, security, and social standing. Valued career rewards include raises, benefits ,and promotions. Thinking about self-fulfillment or quitting a high-paying job represent instability.

Investment in human capital

Organizations that value employees make employee learning and involvement key business strategies. They know that employee involvement and knowledge equal profit. They create work settings that respect employees, nurture inquisitiveness and playfulness, allow privacy, and avoid criticism and stress. In addition to varied skill development courses they offer executive coaching and leadership development, team building, career pathing, and outplacement services.

Those with old ideas, believe employees need to be told what to do and how to do it, and that the primary motivation for work is money.


New attitudes enable people to personally define retirement. Since people are living longer, adults plan for longevity an income power. Age distinctions between workers and retirees are unimportant. Retirement, at age 40, 60, 75 or older, is viewed as a career transition -- when people continue to pursue paid or unpaid activities that give them meaning, purpose, direction, and satisfaction.

Old attitudes view retirement as the resignation -- sometimes mandatory -- from a long-term employer at about 65, followed by years of relaxing and living off benefits and/or finally doing what one desires.

Are you ready for the challenges of the 2020? What's next for you?