Employees reluctant to give up idea of job for life

The world of work: Leadership qualities under the microscope as Institute of Personnel Development considers 'new realities'
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The brave new world of "portfolio workers" hopping from job to job, accumulating self-confidence and expertise is a myth, according to a survey by the Institute of Personnel Development.

Despite all the "delayering", "downsizing" and the destruction of the old "psychological contract" between bosses and workers, most respondents thought their future lay with their current employer. Research showed, however, that the loyalty was not reciprocated by senior management.

Nearly half of the 1,000 employees interviewed regarded their current job as long term and a further 21 per cent saw it as an opportunity for career advancement within the same organisation. Only 16 per cent defined themselves as portfolio workers. These were primarily young - between 18 and 29 - with higher education qualifications. It was the least qualified who had the strongest attachment to their jobs. Sixty per cent of this group saw their position as long term.

"While many organisations are predicting the end of the career and lifetime employment, their employees are still banking on being in their jobs for the long haul," said Ewart Woolridge, the IPD's vice-president.

The discrepancy between expectations of job security and what employers are offering had created a "climate of suspicion". Although most respondents were still offering their employer a degree of loyalty, only a quarter unreservedly trusted their organisation to keep its promises to them.

Redundancies invariably hit morale harder than any other change in the workplace, the survey found. While the introduction of new technology, modern working practices and take-overs could have a considerable impact on attitudes, job losses and lay-offs were found to have a "significant negative impact" on almost every measurable attitude to work.

Professor Cary Cooper, of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, said employees needed to accept that jobs were no longer for life and that they should train to stay up-to-date and market and sell themselves.

Traditional career development was "going down the drain" and stress levels were shooting up, he said. "Companies have to start practising what they preach and value their human resources."

Stress was found to be a widespread. More than 40 per cent of senior managers and a third of middle managers said pressure of work had led them to take less holiday than they were entitled to. Nearly half of respondents said their companies contacted them with work-related questions when they were on holiday or off sick, and three-quarters felt obliged to go into work when they were ill.

t The majority of people do not work simply for the money, a survey for the institute showed. Less than half of the 200 respondents said they would give up work if they won a fortune, and a quarter said they would carry on in their current job.

David Guest, professor of occupational psychology at Birkbeck College, said research showed that people valued job satisfaction more highly than pay. "Work is also a means of social contact and shared experience; it defines personal status and identity and provides a sense of control." He said companies still regarded pay as the key motivator and they should pay more heed to the importance of job satisfaction.

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