“What lies between most people and destitution is their job”
Satyajit Das Financial Commentator
Most working Australians families including the tax office have relied on regular salaried incomes. This however is unlikely to be the primary employment model in the future. Instead many workers will be “off balance” sheet. They will be self-employed, contract labour or outsourced.
The future of work is more about flexibility and reducing costs. It has been turbo charged by technology and globalisation. There is no going back.
In Australia, there is already a significant reduction in full time employment and increasing trends towards flexible employment options. This is already resulting in Underemployment one of Australian’s most growing workforce concerns.
Have you heard of “dollar ready”? I recently engaged in a conversation with a business person and he said that their organisation was not employing people who were not “dollar ready”. They would employ skilled people from overseas rather than employ juniors or graduates, because they did not provide the dollars on day one. In other words, “dollar ready”.
This attitude is not shared by all but it is powerful language that makes you sit up and take notice. Complacency is not an option considering current trends.
- Youth unemployment is 13.3% and one in five are underemployed. Competition for jobs is intense.
- Graduate employment is the lowest it’s been since the 1992-93 recession.
- Apprenticeship numbers have declined since 2010.
Have you heard of the term being “dollar ready”? I recently engaged in a conversation with a business person and he said that their organisation was not employing people who were not “dollar ready”. They would employ skilled people from overseas rather than employ juniors or graduates, because they did not provide the dollars on day one.
This attitude is not shared by all businesses; however, the term “dollar ready” is evocative language. It does make you sit up and take notice, especially when you are aware of the youth unemployment trends in Australia.
Why is developing confidence in people a strategic advantage for businesses of the future.
The future of work is focused on technology and the importance of people being capable of being innovative and entrepreneurial. According to discussions at Davos in 2017:
For the modern worker, flexible work places have been promoted as the holy grail for work life balance. For many this is correct. Flexible work places have assisted employees arrange their lives in a way that is mutually beneficial for themselves, their families and their employer.
For a growing number of others, this is not correct. People are starting to realise that the consequences and expectations of flexible work arrangements is darkening their lives. The long shadow is primarily accessibility.
We give you flexibility, you give us access to your life.
A type of ill-considered Faustian bargain
I recently went on a short holiday to western Queensland and as a part of my travels I went and visited a lake. I remember it was a glorious winter’s day and as I was wandering along the shoreline, I, by chance, had a conversation with a middle age local woman; let’s say her name was Jane. We exchanged the normal pleasantries, and as a part of our exchange we discussed a lot about her work. Like many conversations between strangers, anonymity provided the basis for an honest conversation. Almost like reverse road rage in some ways. This brief connection provided more insight into an average Australian’s view of work than any employee survey could provide. Let me explain by sharing the conversation and unpacking some of those insights.
Jane, I discovered, worked for a supermarket chain and had done so for 27 years as a full time employee. She was one of the few remaining “full timers” as almost all new employees were predominately employed on casual or part time hours. She reflected that in the beginning everyone was employed on a permanent basis, managers stayed in their positions and she described it like working together as a family. Everyone used to help each other out. If one person’s department was running late or customers were lined up at the check out, every one would pitch in to help each other.
I have spent hours writing an article on employee engagement and at the end of it I realised that Employee Engagement is passing its use by date. The world of work is changing dramatically. There should be no expectations by employers that employees will be so absorbed by their work, that they will use discretionary effort for the benefit of the company. Those days are going, if not gone.
When I was researching the area, I was looking for information that supported investing in employee engagement. What became apparent to me was with the advent of redundancies, restructures, and endless cost cutting measures, trust has been predominately lost between the employee and employer, with little chance of reconciliation.
Irrespective of this there was no “evidence” that employee engagement leads to better company performance. There are only studies that show a correlation. Some research suggests that the best performers in companies are actually those who are less engaged, suggesting at least that the construct is wrong.
Yet interestingly 78% of business leaders believe engagement is an urgent or important issue. They spend huge amounts of money identifying how engaged people are. What they seemingly fail to recognise is that employees are so sceptical or fearful of the confidentiality of such surveys; much of the information gathered within companies is potentially flawed.
A consequence of a secret fear of failure.
Achilles Heel Syndrome (AHS) is a consequence of a secret fear of failure and due to modern day circumstances I believe it is becoming more prevalent.
AHS, although it is not a new concept, I don’t believe it is well understood. My aim therefore is to explain the concept, understand why it is becoming more prevalent and explore actions that organisations can take to reduce the incidence of AHS.
What is Achilles Heel Syndrome? (AHS)
I first discovered AHS when reading Petruska Clarkson’s book Achilles Heel Syndrome. The term Achilles’ heel is used when referring to one’s vulnerability and it is spawned from Greek Mythology.
Acknowledgement. The big “A” word is one of the most significant things we can do when managing people, yet how often do we consider its importance, forget about it or stuff it up completely? How often do we think about acknowledgement as the “big things”, like the awards night rather than all the “little things” that make up the tapestry of being valued? How often do we here people say, “It is just the little things”?
Why should this be important? It contributes to employee engagement. Aon Hewitt has completed a number of global studies and in 2014 results showed that 39% of employees are disengaged and that percentage is the same in the Asia Pacific region. Some experts are saying we are experiencing an epidemic of employee disengagement. Reasons outlined for employee disengagement are many. However poor communication, lack of feedback and poor HR practices are significant contributing factors. Employees being disengaged are high;
“Gallup estimates that these actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity. They are more likely to steal from their companies, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays, and drive customers away.”Sep 23, 2013