Fast Forward to Safety

My most viewed post in recent weeks has been the Career Safety Net.  This no doubt reflects feelings of insecurity in an uncertain economic climate which, at the same time, is quickly fueling a shift in labour market behaviour.

This shift is revealed in a bienniel Global Workplace Survey of employee attitudes and workplace trends.

TowersWatson_GWS2010  “…confirms that the recession has fundamentally altered the way U. S.  employees view their work and leaders today, while dramatically accelerating changes to the basic social contract that underpins employment here.   In stark contrast to earlier Global Workforce Studies, the 2010 results indicate that U.S. employees have dramatically lowered their career and retirement expectations for the foreseeable future. On-the-job advancement now takes a back seat to a growing desire for workplace security and stability — at the very point in time when traditional employment safety nets are eroding.”

Key Points

  1. Loyalty to a current employer is increasing as respondents seek more stability even when they do not like the work they do.  There is a margin of safety, it seems, in staying in a  culture they know rather than moving to a culture they don’t know, particularly where they would have no earned status or relationships.
  2. Employees plan to work longer.  Rather than retiring at 60 or 65, they plan to work well into their sixties.  The boomer wave will crest later than anticipated, so strategies for mentoring, knowledge transfer and succession will need to fall in line.
  3. Older employees expect to have managers who understand them and can work with them effectively.  Inter-generational communication will require more attention to temper and align the ambitions of millennials and prevent discrimination against older workers.  The desired qualities of leaders that respondents feel they need are:
  •  Is trustworthy: 79%
  •  Cares about the well being of others: 67%
  •  Encourages the development of talent in the organization: 56%
  •  Is highly visible to employees: 42%
  •  Manages financial performance successfully: 42%

Outside the Safety Net

With safety nets eroding, organizations must refine and escalate their abilities “…to enable employee self-reliance, fostering within each person the knowledge, skills and confidence necessary to effectively manage their careers, their health and their financial future outside the safety net provided in the past.”   Employees, now seeking more stability, will embrace the ways in which they can add value to their current employers while improving their personal capacity to confront an uncertain road ahead.   This shift, if seized upon and managed carefully by employers, will successfully increase talent retention and employee discretionary effort.


About leaderwalk

Diane Thompson is principal of Thompson Performance Consulting and is a practitioner in the field of organization development and design. Diane has 25 years of management experience in private and public organizations and is a keen observer and student of organizational dynamics and the factors that impact high performance. Diane's direct experience as a manager and her body of knowledge from her MA, Human Systems Intervention, converge to support clients and leaders with transition and change.
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