Research says we want a ‘job for life’: so, do you want to be Queen or Pope?

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LONDON — There’s a great report out now from my old mates at Towers Watson. It’s called the Global Worksforce Survey. They do it every year, and it has lots of interesting stuff in it.

[Although don’t be fooled into trying to order it from here– you’ll get a three year old one.]

The major news headline seems to be that the recession has changed the way we see work. In particular, more than half of us want to work for one company for our whole life.

The irony is not completely lost on me, that the old Towers Perrin is announcing the end of the ‘job for life’, when they made my stay with them abruptly shorter about seven years ago.

They were a very good employer, and one I thought I would stay at for life — when I was doing any thinking.

Max Cauldwell, speaking for Towers Watson, explains that ‘the deal’ is now truly broken. The Deal is the concept that you offer something to the business (your time, intelligence, etc.) and in return, they give you something back (pay, safety, etc.). Towers, Mercer, Aon, and Hewitt, as well as all the other Human Resources consultancies, have been selling consulting on The Deal for about 30 years. So that must be bad news for them.

But truthfully the deal has been broken for a long, long time. Probably almost 30 years.

It’s not that employees don’t go into work every day hoping to be treated well and to have their long-term interests taking into account. It’s just that no one really expects it anymore.

You might argue that it is a sad statement that that has happened. And in places like France, as the state influence breaks down and jobs-for-life become harder to come by, they are seeing social unrest — with boss-napping.

‘Give me my job back, or the boss gets it!’

But it’s true. None of us can reasonably expect to have a job for life. And there’s quite a lot we can do about it:

• Manage our pensions better.
• Choose our companies for the work, the experience and the opportunities — not ‘nice people’.
• Demand more on your end of the deal.
• And so on…

What is most remarkable about the end of the job-for-life is that so few people and businesses have adjusted their style, processes and communications to take it into account.

After all, the job of Queen and Pope are both taken.


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