In the past, workers were more than willing to trade autonomy for job stability. Staying with one company for life and building skills while progressing through the ranks was the dream – capped off with the proverbial gold watch after 50 years of loyal service. Then came the economic uncertainties of the 1980s, followed by three decades of corporate downsizing and salary/ benefits erosion. Employees felt a rising sense of expendability and, not surprisingly, loyalty levels declined.
Today, the career mindset for those with in-demand job skills has taken a 180-degree turn from the “job for life” days. The focus is on a “career for me.” Talented individuals still aspire to work for strong employer brands, as previous generations did, but look for employment security within themselves, not the organisation.
“In the Human Age, a career is viewed as an on-going journey to develop new capabilities and experiences regardless of company affiliation,” explains ManpowerGroup South Africa’s managing director, Lyndy van den Barselaar; explaining that the individual contributes to the company but measures career success in ways that are decoupled from organisational outcomes.
It’s critical for organisations to recognise the new reality of “career for me” and make the shift – strategically and operationally – from being job providers to being career enablers. “This commitment has to go beyond mission statements and hiring promises. To attract and retain the talent they need to succeed, companies must abandon the hierarchical and often paternalistic people management structures of the past. They need to redefine their relationship with employees as a mutually beneficial partnership and build a culture that encourages personal and professional growth,” says van den Barselaar.