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Fast Forward

You're in the midst of change – do you see it?

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On this day when so many of our readers are spending the day enjoying family and friends, I will be short and – I hope – sweet.

Thanks to the Pew Research Center, we can look into the likely workforce of the future, not just 50 years down the road but with a better understanding of what's happening on the shop floor and in our office cubicles right now.

While a lot of the data aren't new, the center has packaged the information in a fascinating way and comes to some encouraging conclusions – the main thing being, there's more to look forward to than not.

Titled "The Next American," the presentation is a series of interactive snapshots showing how America is changing demographically. In a nutshell, because we are in the midst of it, most of us aren't really seeing the dramatic transformation as the country simultaneously shifts ethnically and ages.

Here are some highlights:

• While the baby boomer generation has been characterized in large part by fragmentation as families split apart – either through divorce or dispersion (retired parents moving to warmer climates, children pursuing career opportunities thousands of miles away) – families today are coming back together. Because of the economy and other factors, "boomerang" millennials are returning home, as are grandparents. About 50 million people today live in multigenerational households – and find they like it.

• A resurgence of immigration is changing cultural tastes and reinvigorating the workforce with new talent and ambition. This is a return to the norm for America, which experienced an uncharacteristic slump in immigration between 1960 and 1990.

• Because of these first two points, the too-often-mentioned "generational war" is pretty much nonexistent and will continue to be a phantom.

• Because interracial taboos have largely broken down, racial labels are becoming meaningless.

• A generation of "digital natives" is knocking on the door of your personnel office, and they are the most educated in history.

Your takeaway? The things you worry about in the workplace – will people get along, will they give you an honest day's work every day, will they be able to learn their jobs – are being replaced by new ones. Employees will be looking for workplaces that value family time, that provide up-to-date technological work tools and that encourage autonomy and want to hear their ideas.

Not such new ideas, of course. But take a look for yourself.

The week ahead

The cost of parking has become a hot-button issue in Harrisburg since a private firm took over the parking operation from the city – parking has always been an issue in downtowns. The unresolved question – how much does it matter? Reporter John Hilton tackles the issue this week.

Experts predicted 2014 would be the year M&A activity picked up again in the midstate and local companies are, indeed, getting in on the action. Mike Sadwoski looks at why the change is happening now and who some of the players are.

This week's Inside Business focus is on technology in business, with lists on database management and software development companies; and biotech companies. Did you miss last week's lists? Here's a slideshow glimpse of mortgage lenders and brokers.

Find this week's networking opportunities here.

The rewind

Last summer, I wrote about The Mindset List, Beloit College's annual reminder that cultural benchmarks shift rapidly. Since the Pew Research study really is examining the newest generation in the workforce, a revisit can't hurt. The Class of 2017 will be on your doorstep before you know it – and, as I should have noted above as well, you'll be ahead of the game if it's a virtual one, not just bricks-and-mortar. Job applicants today expect a strong online and social media presence from employers. The smartest ones will be checking you out long before you try to recruit them.

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