By Nancy S. Ahlrichs
2003, 232 pages, Hardcover
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Managing with Whatever It Takes
A new understanding about the tradeoffs for hard work is emerging. Multiple social and business influences have been at work reshaping the employee--employer relationship or contract. For years, work has imposed itself on the private lives of employees. Late hours and work taken home, trade shows, conferences and clients away from home, calls to come in early, beepers, and on-call status have required that family time be sacrificed in exchange for the promise of long-term employment. The overabundance of top talent and dearth of high-quality jobs until 1995 ensured that anyone employed did whatever was necessary to stay employed and be considered for advancement. The unwritten, unspoken contract guaranteed that hard work would pay off in continued employment and a decent retirement. If not the latter, at least the former was expected.
The bonds between employees and their organizations were loosened by the repeated violation of this long-standing psychological contract when employers began to lay off longtime employees, rewrite benefit packages, mismanage company finances so that retirement plans were in jeopardy, and require employees to be in charge Of their own careers. Initially, the generation known as Veterans (born prior to 1946) and Baby Boomers (born 1946-64) accepted the changes and continued to live to work. They did not alter their work hours or approach to work. Gen X employees (born 1965-77), the children of the first laid-off workers, refused the contract concept altogether. After two decades of mergers, acquisitions, restructurings, outsourcing to maquiladoras, technology upgrades, and global sourcing, Gen Y (born 1978 and after) asked, "What contract?" Both younger generations are determined to work to live even if that means scaling down financial and lifestyle expectations. Today, after the shock of September 11, employees of all ages increasingly want their own individual contract.
No one expects the employer to take care of the employee today. The "new" contract is two-way, and more egalitarian or partnering in nature, as compared to the "old" contract of the past that instituted a more parent/child type of relationship. In an analysis of more than eight hundred business-related articles from trade and academic journals, Mark Roehiffig et al. conclude that there are "systematic differences across target employee groups in what they require and value in an employment relationship."
Flexibility is key to the new contract. In exchange for employees' commitment to quality services, efficient processes, and the customer, the organization must demonstrate care about their work-life balance, efficiency at home, family, health, and interests. Employers today desire an empowered, committed workforce that makes decisions that are in the best interest of the organization. To increase the odds of that outcome, employers of choice (EOCS) offer a variety of work configurations and schedules, competitive compensation, developmental and skills training, and respectful, fair treatment. just as your customers have stepped forward to partner with your organization to defuse the value of what is purchased, your employees--as consumers of the work experience--are exercising their right to design, accept, or reject a specific job, work configuration, or even an entire career.
The variation of employee preferences may be due to different career and life stages and levels within the organization such as new graduates versus managerial employees, white collar versus blue collar, and core versus peripheral employees. Other factors such as nationality, citizenship status, religion, disability, and so on may also play a role. A poll of 660 working Americans by management search firm BridgeGate, LLC, points to demographics as one of the factors that encourage loyalty. In their study, 50.5 percent named factors other than money as the reason they continue to work for their current employer. These factors include
- Flexible work schedule: 17.3 percent of women valued it versus 11.2 percent of men
- Benefits: older employees valued benefits the most, including 30.1 percent of the 45-54 age bracket and 36.7 percent of those ages 55-64 compared to 23.1 percent of all respondents
- Training opportunities: younger employees (10.7 percent of respondents ages 18-24) were more attracted to ongoing learning versus 4.7 percent of all respondents
- Stock options: men were almost three times (12 percent) as likely as women (4.7 percent) to be motivated by stock options
- Raises: younger employees (ages 25-34) were more motivated (5 2.3 percent) than those in other age groups (4 3.2 percent) to stay for higher pay
Managing has never been easy, but it can be easier today if you do not limit your approach to the old contract, structuring all work on-site and during current work hours using your current job descriptions and headcount. Instead, look at the results desired and open your mind to new ways that technology enables tasks and projects to be bundled or unbundled. In the coming decade, never will so few do so much with so little continuous time together You will no longer "manage by walking around." Being a manager of choice (MOC) in the new century will instead require two kinds of wit: a sense of humor and a "whatever it takes" (WIT) approach to getting results.
In this chapter we cover the trends and demographic drivers behind the need for alternative work configurations, the variety of work and employee configurations that will be needed to get results, the role of employee involvement in success stories, and the use of communication, mentoring, and "managing up." Nothing is more difficult than gaining acceptance for new ideas. Selling new approaches and structures up and down the organization is a key part of managing with WIT--and a key part of being an MOC.
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