“You can’t go home again.” I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this expression, first made popular by American novelist Thomas Wolfe in 1940. After moving to Arizona from my home state of New Jersey in January, I’ve been testing the adage: If you return to a place from your past, it won’t be the same as you remember it.
From 2000 to 2007, I lived and worked in Arizona as the editor of WorldatWork Journal and contributing editor of Workspan magazine. I also helped launch WorldatWork Press as the book publishing manager. It was an exciting time for the association. My initial entry into the total rewards and human resources space came on the heels of new association leadership. We no longer were the American Compensation Association. We had broadened our mission. It was a departure from a deep and narrow focus, a farewell to the old way of doing and perceiving things.
Fast-forward 11 years and here I am again, back to a place from my past. It’s a new, critical juncture for WorldatWork and a time of tumultuous change for the profession. Things feel different. There’s an urgency to what we’re all doing. The workforce doesn’t wait anymore for deliberate action. Expectations have soared. Your senior executives and middle managers need answers and they need them now!
When I set out to write this issue’s cover story, “Rewards Rebirth,” I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach it. Everywhere I looked, every article I read, every meeting I attended, every person I interviewed, it all seemed so amplified. So topical. So relevant to the challenges of the postmodern workplace.
The state of the TR profession may not be in disarray, but it is moving at a clip so fast that it must seem impossible to keep up, if not be trampled in the process. There is no room for static. No time for hedging your bets.
Your profession is on fire. Only this is not a bad fire or the kind of fire that needs an extinguisher (because your role traditionally has been about putting out proverbial house fires). No, this is the kind of fire that starts in your belly, energizes your soul and lights a path to a new waterfall, a new way of perceiving your job. Doing your job. Rewiring, retooling and revamping your job. This is the kind of fire that sparks inventive solutions to age-old problems. The kind of fire that employers and managers demand from their employees. Without that fire, you’re a wet blanket, a stick in the mud, a road block on an open freeway.
Let’s face it: The world at work is a state of perpetual change. Unless you choose a less demanding career (and why would you do that?), you have little choice but to shed your skin and transform. You cannot afford to stand pat in your position, collect your paycheck and scurry home each day to binge on your favorite Netflix series. OK, maybe those last two things, but you definitely cannot afford to stand pat.
You can, however, go home again. If it’s undergone renovation, you may not recognize it, but that’s OK. It’s all part of the process. It’s the most proven and effective way to improve a broken, damaged or outdated structure, even if that structure is you.