Lifetime jobs are out, flexibility inNot too long ago, your dad (and, perhaps, your mom) woke every morning and went to work at the same company, in the same location, six days a week. When he dreamed of a promotion, it was a big desk in a corner office with that very same company.
Dad knew that when he landed his job right out of college, his future was secure. He had a job for life.
Those days are gone.
“Lifetime employment is a dated concept,” said Larry Cambron, the Asia Pacific president of DBM, the international human-resources specialists formerly called Drake Beam Morin.
“Employment flexibility” is the catch phrase today.
For companies to compete in an increasingly globalized, interconnected world, it’s necessary for them to increase and cut staff as demand warrants.
People, too, have changed. And most aren’t interested in lifetime employment, according to Chris Yapp, a London-based management consultant with ICL Lifelong Learning.
“There’s no reason for companies to shift back [to lifetime employment],” the Australia-based Mr. Cambron said last week while in Seoul to conduct a seminar on employment flexibility.
Korea dumped lifetime employment during the financial crisis of 1997 as scores of cash-strapped corporations were forced to restructure. The process, while painful, has resulted in leaner companies that can better react to market forces.
Advocates of flexibility say that lifetime employment leads to complacency. “Often, [lifetime employees] don’t feel a need to stay competitive,” said Kyu Kim, the managing director of DBM Korea.
For many employees, employment flexibility translates into employment insecurity. Jobs are no longer guaranteed.
But looking from the opposite perspective, people can now expect a variety of rich experiences working for several companies and different supervisors. Instead of rising through the ranks at one company, people increasingly take senior posts at new firms.
Mike Johnson, the author of “Winning the People Wars” and a corporate communications consultant, says that an unprecedented number of people are churning through jobs in the United States and Europe.
The average U.S. worker switches jobs seven times in his lifetime, according to recent studies.
Most Koreans change jobs three times in their lifetimes, according to a 1998 study by the Korea Career Skills Development Institute.
That figure is expected to grow, according to Lee Gil-sun, a researcher at Shingu University in Gyeonggi province.
To cope with changes in the workplace, Mr. Cambron of DBM suggests being open to new opportunities, constantly updating your skills and reinventing yourself.
“The best approach is to recognize that the speed of change will only increase, not decrease,” Mr. Cambron said.
Employment flexibility requires a sense of partnership on both the company’s and the individual’s parts.
“Employers need to invest in employees, and employees need to invest in themselves,” Mr. Cambron said. If companies move operations or restructure, it’s important that they help laid-off employees find new jobs to maintain morale among the existing staff.
Western employers benefit from frank discussions with employees, something that isn’t always practiced in Asia because of cultural sensitivities. “In these discussions, [employers] seek to understand employees’ strengths, talents and skills, why they accepted the position in the first place, what keeps them there [and] what kind of relationships they need to be most productive,” according to the human-resources division of the Gallup Organization in the United States.
Employees, meanwhile, need to hone their skills to bring expertise to their companies ― and to maintain flexibility for their next career move.
by Joe Yong-hee
Tools for employees to increase their employment flexibility.
Commit to a lifetime of learning. Your greatest assets are knowledge and skills. Continue broadening your knowledge throughout your career.
Never be complacent. Hone your skills and remain competitive. If you stop learning or slow down, people will pass you by.
Take control of your career. Update revise your goals to plan for the future.
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