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Annie Hayes



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Editor’s Comment: The new rules of engagement


Annie Ward
If it’s cheap labour you’re after then look no further than a German jobs website which trades in salary bids rather than skills and experience; Editor’s Comment looks at why we’ve become as transient as our customers loyalty.

Reported in the Times, the website looks innocent enough at first glance; you look at the positions on offer and assess the goods and chattels being offered.

The move from ‘respect’ to ‘humility’ comes when you enter yourself into a bidding war based on salary. Like an auction, it’s the first past the post and the one willing to do it for the fewest peanuts that gets the job.

According to the newspaper report, German unions aren’t impressed while the site’s founder, Fabian Low, simply dismisses them as ‘job killers’. And he might just have a point for at least he is doing something to scrape the 12% of unemployed from off the floor.

Across the Channel and with our more impressive employment card you’d think that we’d never dream of stooping to such levels but on closer examination it’s not all carriage clocks and staff bonhomie here either.

The endless cycle of downsizing, outsourcing and other efficiency initiatives has reshaped the psychological contract.

New recruits no longer necessarily expect a long spell with anyone employer, happy to meander from one workplace to the next while bosses that genuinely harbour long-term views are few and far between.

Customers are also learning the new rules of engagement, their loyalty as transitory as the staff they deal with.

Working for the same employer and waiting for the clock to show it’s time for retirement is as prehistoric as the woolly mammoths.

We have become mere commodities being traded as fast and furiously as shares on the stock exchange.

And on the surface of it we don’t appear to care. Happy to wrestle the career ladder by a series of pre-meditated job hops, it’s a ‘dog-eat-dog’ labour market where only the ugliest survive.

We’re also seemingly undeterred by this selling of our souls to the blue-chips, we’d think nothing of whipping out our Blackberry’s while on vacation. Indeed we seem to have forgotten the word ‘no’.

A member recently told us that her office had recently closed and relocated elsewhere but hadn’t even told her. She only found out when she contacted them to arrange her return to work following her maternity leave.

So it is clear we really are as dispensable as the E-bay items we happily flog to total strangers, trading under the auspices of Hollywood-style names like ‘Moonbeam’ and ‘FlyingPickett’.

Readily relinquishing our right to a desk, we’ll even ‘hot-desk’ in the name of efficiency and cost-savings, usurping our identity and character for a ‘connection’ anywhere, anytime.

So has the British workforce really become so faceless and happy to trade their souls for a portion of the corporate pie at any price?

I’m not so sure. There is a clear juxtaposition going on in the labour market. For survey after survey tells us it’s not all about the money and clearly if you’re willing to trade yourself on you’re not in the business of hoping for a life above the minimum wage, but for the rest self-actualisation plays a part.

One such example of this is the plight of successful business women. A recent report shows that a lack of fulfilment and development opportunities are causing high-powered women to turn their backs on business.

A survey sponsored by Goldman Sachs, Ernst & Young and the Lehman Brothers found that four in ten female senior executives are taking a complete career break, not because, and here comes the interesting bit because of family commitments, but because of a lack of job satisfaction.

Richard Smith, HR expert at Croner, explains: “Status and salary are not necessarily key drivers for women once they reach a certain level, but feeling valued and intellectually fulfilled is. It is important that employers consult with all their senior executives, listen to what they have to say, understand what motivates them and what they are looking to get out of their role.”

Workers are becoming disillusioned with the state of play in the labour market – happy to trade themselves like fish at a market on one hand while turning their backs on the corporate lifestyle on the other.

The rules of engagement in the jobs market it would seem are as fragile and as transient as our loyalty to wage-slavery.

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Annie Hayes


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