How Have Social Contracts Between Employers and Employees Changed?
The workplace is evolving and employee-employer relationships are changing, But, what are the factors that are contributing to the shift in the workforce? In a recent interview, I asked Lindsay Witcher, director practice strategy at RiseSmart, to share her views on the shifting roles and the ways in which employers and employees view their responsibilities to each other.
Here are Lindsay’s thoughts on the state of today’s social contracts between employers and employees, and her reflections about how those relationships have evolved in recent years.
Q: How has the social contract shifted the way in which employers view their responsibility to educate and develop their employees?
Lindsay: I see the job market itself as having a strong impact on this social contract. In employer driven job markets, employers don’t need to offer nearly as many perks and benefits to attract the best talent. During these times, the belief is that employees are lucky to have or be offered a job. On the flip side, during an employee driven job market – such as the one we are experiencing today - employers must do more and more to attract and retain talent. In this job market, whether or not an employer offers continuing education and training become critical factors for attracting and retaining the best talent.
Q: Do employers assume employees already have the advanced skills they need to perform the job they’ve been hired to do now - more so than in the past?
Lindsay: In the majority of cases, with the exception of extremely difficult to fill positions, employers expect employees to come to them with the necessary skills to perform the job. Job specific training by the employer tends to be focused on helping employers find ways to use those existing skills to perform the job as it relates to the specific needs of the company. This is quite different from the past when the employer provided training to develop job specific skills. In rare circumstances - if a particular skill set is difficult to find or new to the market - employers may take on the role of providing skill training. In most companies today, training for new employees comes in the form of onboarding new hires in order to disseminate company- specific or industry knowledge.
Q: Has technology changed how training is offered to employees?
Lindsay: With training comes costs. Hence, any training investment made in organizations these days must be warranted, validated, and tracked for value. For that reason, organizations use technology as a training tool because it allows visibility into the process, and into how the training is being executed and adopted. The use of technology provides organizations with the metrics and value measures they need to prove the efficacy of the training. Furthermore, people take in information differently today. Providing a variety of learning options such as written, audio, and video is an effective way to serve the various learning needs of personnel. The use of technology makes trainings more accessible and relatable to each individual’s learning style.
Q: How has technology impacted the employer responsibility?
Lindsay: I think that more than technology impacting the employer responsibility, the current atmosphere within the market has affected the social contract between employer and employee. The hiring space has shifted from an “employer’s market” to an “employee’s market”, and companies must do more and more to attract and retain employees. The fact that technology has made a lot of things more accessible and common, simply creates more visibility for potential and existing employees and affords more transparency into what various companies offer and the gaps that exists between them. More than technology, transparency and trust are the factors which affect the employees desire to stay with or join an organization – and technology has made transparency more likely.
Q: Has the Gig Economy changed the view of turnover from negative to positive? How as this impacted the education and training employers now offer?
Lindsay: The effects of turnover have to be evaluated as negative or positive on a case by case basis. It is true that there are significant costs and other impacts associated with losing a high performing employee. The only time an employer would welcome turnover would be when the employee leaving is disengaged, underperforming, or has out of date skillsets. I think the view that turnover is either negative or positive to all organizations in regards to all employees, paints too broad a stroke of the actual issue. The need for continual skill development in employees is critical to future business results whether that skill development is offered by the employer itself or is pursued independently by the employee. Regardless of where the skills come from, having up to dates skills is critical to continued employment. People learn best by doing. Ideally, if an employer wants to see the growth of a particular skill set in their organization, they will find individuals who may want those skills, or are poised to develop those skills, and offer them opportunities to learn by doing through programs such as job shadowing, short term assignments, and adult internship programs.
Q: Based on the above answers, what are the implications for how executives might manage talent going forward?
Lindsay: Because of the visibility technology has created within the job market, employers need to be very concerned about their employer brand. The popularity of social media has put the spotlight on employee, and former employee, sentiment. To protect the brand, and to attract and retain the best talent, executives need to treat their employees as their biggest asset. As such, it’s important for executives to develop a company culture that encourages mobility within the organization and creates opportunity for employees to grow and feel challenged. Providing training opportunities and encouraging employees to learn new skills by taking on challenges outside of their job descriptions within the organization will help brands to attract and retain the best talent and meet their organizational goals.
What training and education trends have you seen in the workplace? What factors do you think have caused the changes in recent years?