Executives swap security for higher rewards

A regular job is a low priority for today's high-fliers. They want flexibility and bigger salaries instead, writes Roger Trapp
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The Independent Online
Companies may talk about the importance of commitment and the so-called loyalty effect, but managers are increasingly setting their own agendas. Indeed, a "new breed of self-centred, independent-minded manager" is emerging, according to the latest management index to be published by Ashridge Management College tomorrow.

The index - an annual "barometer" of managers' lifestyles and attitudes based on a survey of 550 managers by the college's research arm - reveals that recent changes in organisational life have caused managers to "take a firm grip on their own careers and place less importance on job security". In the words of the study's authors, Laurence Hardy, Viki Holton and Andrew Wilson, "these people accept the notion of employability and give job security a relatively low priority in their motivational profile. Rather, they seek challenging and interesting work, and the freedom to make decisions."

In return they want a salary commensurate with their value on the open market and the opportunity to develop new skills. "In short, what they want is an empowering, risk-taking environment which encourages innovation and has a clear sense of purpose." But the survey provides a mixed picture of what is actually happening now that the "psychological contract" is being abandoned and organisations go through re-engineering, delayering and downsizing exercises in the effort to reduce costs and greater flexibility, clarity of purpose, better communication and faster decision-making.

And although there are signs of greater clarity and sense of purpose, "it is equally clear that, while many organisations are now giving considerable emphasis to the softer, cultural aspects of change, a significant proportion of managers still work in cultures which could be regarded as dysfunctional insofar as retaining and developing their talents are concerned."

These aspects of culture and leadership style can stifle the motivation, job satisfaction and commitment of present and future managers. And though the survey shows that 70 per cent of managers have been with the company for six years - compared with 65 per cent last year - the survey authors warn that failure to deal with "softer issues will almost certainly exacerbate the trend towards a new breed of transitory or, perhaps worse, mercenary manager who keeps moving to the highest bidder, should the opportunity arise".

In keeping with such attitudes, 72 per cent of those questioned said they felt in control of their job rather than letting the job control them, 69 per cent felt in charge of their own careers and only 40 per cent were worried about job security. But the third annual index based on questionnaires sent to managers who had attended Ashridge in the past year also finds that UK managers work harder than their counterparts overseas, even those in North America, and that they report higher levels of workplace stress - though more than half of respondents see it as a positive motivator.

The average manager is aged between 36 and 40 and tends to have an annual budget of between pounds 10m and pounds 50m. But he or she is - with an annual package of about pounds 52,000 - worse off than counterparts in continental Europe. Fifteen per cent of UK managers earn more than pounds 70,000 a year, compared with 36 per cent of those based across the Channel.

The report concludes that employers must do more to foster an empowering, risk-taking environment that encourages innovation and has a clear sense of purpose - or their managers may demand even more freedom.

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