Unable to rely on the long-term loyalty of staff, employers need to learn to
work the new marketplace
It was not too long ago that opinion-formers first wrote that the concept of
a "job for life" was in steady decline. The recession of the early
Nineties and the massive wave of redundancies that followed confirmed this
Since then employers and employees alike have been exploring a range of new
contractual relationships. And a decade on, as another downturn looms, it
appears that employees have not only learnt to guard against complacency but
are taking action to ensure they retain a degree of control over the length of
their job tenure.
The recent stable economic climate and increasingly mobile workforce have,
it seems, combined to produce an environment where talented people are
beginning to surf from job to job – and this trend could be catching.
HR consultancy Cubiks has completed a survey, Predicting the Workplace in
2010, which confirms that many companies are beginning to accept they can no
longer rely on the extended loyalty of staff.
More than two-thirds of respondents said that employee turnover levels will
have increased by the end of the decade. Similarly, more than 70 per cent of
companies said they expect to see a decrease in the average length of an
It is no exaggeration to suggest that we are fast approaching the time when
passive job seekers switch their allegiance from one company to the next as
they are hired to work on specific projects.
The standard response from employers is that they would consider making
greater use of shorter, fixed-term contracts – with a number of respondents
confirming that this is their plan.
If this is the case, it is vital that companies do all they can to maximise
the performance of their workforce in the limited time they spend at the firm.
The fact remains that an organisation is only as good as the skills of its
employees. Even if a business is not market- or capital-constrained, it will
not be able to realise opportunities if it cannot rely on the skills and
knowledge of talented people.
As always, the key to this issue is effective selection and development. It
is imperative that employers know how to identify people who will achieve
results and deliver a quick return on recruitment or training investment.
Businesses need to invest time and resources in assessing candidates to
ensure they have the right skills and personality for a role and then
effectively develop these people so that they quickly achieve their full
potential. With the range of highly advanced e-selection systems now available
on the market, this needn’t be an expensive or difficult process.
By adopting this approach, employers will also avoid the huge costs
associated with poor recruitment. Our survey revealed that ill-informed
selection decisions frequently cost companies between £20,000 and £40,000 per
And with some respondents estimating the average cost at closer to £100,000
per position, the need to have in place high-quality recruitment systems
becomes startlingly clear.
All this goes to prove that whether you are employing people on a short-,
medium-, or long-term basis, there is still no substitution for effective
selection and development. If companies keep this in mind, they will ensure
that they see consistently high individual performance levels, irrespective of market
conditions or employment trends.
By Barry Spence, the chief executive officer of HR consultancy Cubiks