Sustained employability in the 21st century economy: It's NOT what you know now

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As businesses, universities, states, counties, cities worldwide stumble through the greatest recession in modern times some find themselves in a phase of creative disassembly. Millions of jobs are shed. World class University of California Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau ($500,000 salary) and his $3 million outside consultants is firing employees via his “Operational Excellence (OE)”: 2,000 axed by end 2011. Yet many cling to an old assumption: the implied, unwritten management- employee contract.

Management promised work, upward progress for employees fitting in, employees accepted lower wages, performing in prescribed ways, sticking around. Longevity was good employer-employee relations; turnover a dysfunction. None of these assumptions apply in the 21 century economy.  Businesses, universities, public institutions can no longer guarantee careers, even if they want to.  Managements paralyzed themselves with a strategy of “success brings successes” rather than “successes brings failure’ and are now forced to break implied contract with employees – a contract nurtured by management that future can be controlled.

Jettisoned employees are discovering that hard won knowledge earned while loyal is no longer desired in employment markets. What contract can employers, employees make with each other?

 The central idea is simple, powerful: job is a shared partnership.

  • Employers, employees face financial conditions together; longevity of partnership depends on how well customers, constituencies needs are met.
  • Neither management nor employee has future obligation to the other.
  • Organizations train people.
  • Employees create security they really need – skills, knowledge that creates employability in 21st century economies
  • The management-employee loyalty partnership can be dissolved without either party considering the other a traitor.

 Sustained employability in the 21st century economy for the workforce and management