Employees must realize that they must direct their own careers. If they want to be employable, they must acquire and maintain up-to-date knowledge and skills. Firms must fulfill their part as well. They must create working environments that motivate employees and provide them with the means to improve their intellectual assets as they contribute to the firm's goals.
The results from a search of the literature and our three Design News surveys (1975, '88, and '99) indicate that both employees and employers are starting to adopt some forms of new-era employment compacts. This can be a win-win solution for both. A firm will prosper when it expands and fully uses its intellectual assets, while employees will advance their career goals when they enhance their personal knowledge and skills.
All three surveys used the same set of four questions as follows. The average mean response for each group of related factors works on a seven-point scale.
First question. How satisfied are you with your present job? Related factors included knowledge of your career path, your knowledge of your company and what is expected of you, and your sense of accomplishment, challenge, and enjoyment on the job.
Job satisfaction increased in 1999 to an average mean of 3.9 from 4.4 (1988) and 4.4 (1975). Every factor listed increases. However, even though people report increased satisfaction with their knowledge of career paths and promotional opportunities, their response is far from satisfactory. So too is the amount of information they receive about what occurs in the company.
Secondly. What factors would influence your acceptance of a job offer? Related factors: more recognition for a good job, a socially relevant job, more highly regarded organization, early retirement, job security, higher earnings, better fringe benefits, more free time, advancement or leadership opportunities, and working with people.
The importance of all factors increased in 1999 to an average mean of 3.0 from 3.7 for both 1975 and 1988. This strong trend reflects new-age thinking where employees want to develop their skills and actively seek ways to grow the business. Employers are starting to provide support for employee development, rewards, and open communication about goals and expectations.
Question 3. What factors influence you to seek a job elsewhere? Choices included a poor manager, an inefficient organization, lack of work or creativity, a required move, excessive travel, unfriendly coworkers, stress, and no promotion.
The importance of all factors increased in 1999 to an average mean of 2.5 from 3.1 for both 1988 and 1975. All factors listed were evaluated as important.
Lastly. What factors would tend to keep you with your present company? A pension plan, the company's location and prospects, unwillingness to move, and salary were the given options. These factors relate more to old-era thinking. However, their average mean increased to 3.5 from 4.1 in 1988 and 3.9 in 1975. Perhaps employees feel this way because these factors previously motivated them.
Implementation of the new-age paradigm is progressing. Responses improved to around 3.0 for 1999. With 1975 and 1988 closer to 4.0. There is lots of room for improvement.
Q How should new-era performance evaluations be conducted?
A In the past, companies succeeded using a "management by direction" approach creating the plans that employees would follow. Performance evaluations identified any deviations and the actions necessary to correct them. In most cases, workers were considered interchangeable. The competitive environment remained stable. Under these conditions, some organizational inefficiency was tolerated.
Fallout from this approach became evident as competitive pressures intensified during the last decade. Many middle managers left their jobs. Some retired early. Massive layoffs forced others to leave. Throughout, companies focused on one strategy: survival.
In today's competitive business environment, a solid performance evaluation system is important. Employees expect it, because they want more from their jobs. Companies must meet such demands with effective human resources.
Human Resource Management must take on new and different tasks than the traditional personnel department. Human resources should operate more like a line than a staff function. The department will become more involved in job design, job relations, performance evaluation, and the other "people" tasks that affect the productivity of knowledge workers.
Line management must assure that the appropriate people are assigned to the right tasks. Human resources should assist in these decisions and provide support in manpower planning, training, communications, and morale surveys.
Human resources should work closely with line management in its performance evaluation process, especially on career path opportunities and employee counseling.