Retaining staff in a changing environment: Part 4

Retaining staff in a changing environment: Part 4

When workers make decisions all day long in the knowledge-worker economy, they aren’t inclined to take a back seat when it comes to their career.

Today’s knowledge-worker wants to exert more control over his or her job, and is less willing to yield to the advice of their manager or mentor. In addition, they don’t want to put up with paternalism – the view that the organisation knows what is best for its staff.

Rather, workers want to act as “free agents”. ‘Loyal’, long-service employees are a thing of the past.

Ask a group of knowledge-workers want they want to do in five years, and many will say they want to be self-employed, and don’t see their future as being in a large corporate.

This desire to work autonomously is relatively new. In the past, employees sought the comfort, camaraderie, and safety of working for a big firm.

Given the invention of the personal computer, and ever increasing bandwidth, employees – even the older ones – are able to find camaraderie in a more virtual world. Comfort and safety not words people often use to describe work today. Seeing multiple rounds of layoffs has also resulted in employee’s thinking they have to be out for themselves, rather than relying on their company to look after them.

As a result, company loyalty has been replaced by employees who are savvy about their marketability, and they regularly make stay/leave decisions based on changing factors in their work and personal lives. While today they may be perfectly happy in their role, as life circumstances change they may seek out alternative job situations if they think their organisation is not willing to offer them the flexibility or the deal that suits their current life needs.

So, if your organisation is not providing the flexibility and control that employees are demanding, you may have less ability to retain them.

Generation X & Y employees have expressed values that are very pro-family and both men and women indicate that career decisions must consider family first. Thus, for the first time ever, it is not unusual for mid-career employees to turn down a promotion because it would require more hours, more travel or relocation, thereby taking away from family time or personal time.

Employees are choosing quality of life over career advancement. Employers take note.

This is the fourth part of Brian Gardner’s series on retaining staff. The first three parts were on the implications of a shrinking, increasingly global, diverse and virtual workforce, the engagement of the Baby Boomer generation, and changing family structures, and on the retention of staff. The fifth article will look in detail at the solutions to the dilemma outlined above.


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