If the current economic downturn has revealed any truths, it’s that the basic premise upon which employer-employee relations has been based in America is changing and must continue to evolve. Business owners can no longer afford to assume the role of in loco parentis. The cost of comprehensive health care and lifelong pensions has simply become too great for employers to be expected to take care of their employees the way they did 50 or even 20 or 10 years ago.

Gone are the gold watch days when people could expect to find a job fresh out of high school or college and stay with the company until retirement 30 years later. Employees no longer feel that kind of loyalty toward their employers any more. And technology is changing so rapidly that business owners can’t guarantee that today’s job will be needed five years from now. Naturally, these aren’t new ideas. Like all things, the business world is always evolving; technological advances seeming to speed change with each coming year. What’s new is that long-standing employee groups like the United Auto Workers are finally realizing that the employer-employee patterns that worked for their grandparents simply aren’t viable in today’s workplace.

With unemployment at a 25-year high, jobs may be scarce now; but work will return. But when it does, jobs are likely to be different. Both employers and employees should prepare themselves to face a workplace that may be vastly different from the one we enjoyed before the economy fell apart. In its May 25, 2009 issue, Time magazine addressed these issues, predicting a workplace that is “more flexible, more freelance, more collaborative and far less secure.” According to Time, the next generation of business owners and managers will bring new values to a business world where women will control an increasingly bigger slice of the pie. With the demise of the steel industry and potentially terminal illness of the auto industry, Time also sees jobs leaving the Midwest in droves and moving to Texas and the Southwestern states or Georgia and Florida.

Job expectations, business education, career paths, benefits, retirement, work-life balance, environmental savviness, management style, office spaces and manufacturing are all in for some major upheaval. Next time we’ll explore coming changes in the business world.