Careers: Where employees aim to boldly go

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The Independent Online
A NEW book on management uses characters from that story of brave space voyagers, Star Trek, as its icons. The author, Peter Herriot, has resorted to the Starship Enterprise in his quest for a light touch in discussing management issues.

We have 'Captain Kirk the adventurous', 'Scotty the loyal', 'Mr Spock the egghead' and 'Lieutenant Uhura at the sharp end'. But Professor Herriot's message is a serious one. The point that the director of research at Sundridge Park management centre makes is that all types of individual need to be brought together to make an organisation successful.

So far, so unremarkable. But where Prof Herriot differs is in his view of where this leads. The conventional idea is that the outcome is an organisational structure, involving recruitment, induction, training and the like; 'all the career management systems designed to assist the organisation in achieving its objectives'.

That is a lopsided approach, he maintains. 'We have to look at the career enhancement of the employee as well as at career management by the organisation. Individuals come to organisations wearing all sorts of different hats in the real world. And each of these hats prompts them to hold various expectations about how the organisation should act.'

As a result, the increased demands imposed by companies - which most employees have grown used to in recent years - will be matched by 'the ever more discriminating and varied requirements of their employees,' Prof Herriot predicts.

Although the recession is delaying the development of this trend, he is confident that it will manifest itself before long in the 'psychological contract' between company and manager.

'Careers can't be ladders any more,' he says. 'But what they should be and may well be is a series of negotiations.'

The notion is that working arrangements should take greater account of the lifespan of individuals and their differing needs as they pass through various stages of that span. In other words, there should be a 'balancing act'.

The issues will form the basis of a conference, 'The Career Tightrope', that Sundridge Park is holding in conjunction with GHN Career Management Consultants in the autumn. Delegates will have a preview of research being carried out by Prof Herriot that aims to provide 'an advance photograph of what executives will be wanting in a few years and what employers will have to think carefully about'.

'The Career Management Challenge, Balancing Individual and Organisational Needs', by Peter Herriot, is published by Sage Publications. 'The Career Tightrope' conference will be held at the Hilton Hotel, Park Lane, London, on 4 November.