On corporate change, flexibility, loyalty and human resources 12:20 on Saturday

With all the emphasis on speed, flexibility and adaptability to change in nowadays business why do employees get the short end of the stick? In Sennett’s words, corporate flexibility is destroying (or has already destroyed) the notion of career. This in turn is causing people to feel uncertain about their future: if I don’t know where I’m going, who am I? In a less grand scale, when you cannot be sure what will happen at work in the next four months, you are tempted to think more about saving your ass than the ultimate good of the company. It’s no rocket surgery to figure out this is no good for the corporation.

Makes you wonder, wouldn’t it be better to have employees who might be specialized, but had a generalist attitude and were able to learn and switch to new tasks if needed? And I’m not saying you should “pick employees who are able to learn”, I’m saying you should foster an environment where learning and general knowledge is valued. Everybody can learn.

So when the inevitable time for change was to come, the company would not have to fire all the specialized employees that did not fit the new mould. Instead, if the company demonstrated loyalty towards the employees by relying on them to take the company through the changes, then, I believe, people would demonstrate their loyalty to the company by bringing their brains to work and finding ingenious solutions to how the required changes could be made to happen.

Loyalty benefits both sides: the corporation gets more value from their employees and reduces employee turnover, while employees feel more secure with their jobs. This sounds a bit utopian, I know, but it shouldn’t.

The flexibility corporations are so excited about should be managed on the level of individual employees’ skills, not by looking at SAP screens and leveling “competence resource pools” (or whatever unhuman they’re called in your company). In effect, letting people be valuable at different things, instead of firing people based on the org chart box they were dropped into when they were hired, and then hiring new people to fill new boxes.

I really could not think of any good title for this post. So that monster will have to do.

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