Practice Development Counsel

Phyllis weiss haserot
Phyllis weiss haserot

President & Founder

212 593-1549

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Workplace Social Contract Veers To Freelance Mode

December 2005

Some employers may bemoan it, but the workplace social contract is continuing to move toward the freelance mode, even in the case of companies long known for their paternalistic cultures. While they may complain about the attitudes of younger generations of employees and even partners in professional firms, employers themselves have moved increasingly to modify the employment social contract.

The younger generations and even the younger half of the baby boomers have sought or accepted bonds of loyalty that are "transactional" rather than long-term. They accept that there are no guarantees, and they don't offer any either. Is there a danger that this mobility and pursuit of nimbleness may become chaotic?

When they join a firm or company, younger workers, including professionals, are looking for:

* Meaning in work and in the institutional vision
* Opportunity to contribute something that has a tangible impact
* Acquisition of marketable skills
* To be recognized and rewarded according to the merits of their efforts and contributions
* Flexibility in approaches, operations and work arrangements

They will stay and seek more responsibility to the extent and so long as those requirements are being fulfilled..

None of this is today's hot news. Nonetheless firms are not dealing adequately with the realities
to assure they will have the workforce they need to continue to thrive. If past history is any indication, they will wait till their backs are up against the wall. Let's hope they don't once again panic and just throw money at the problem expecting a viable solution.

The challenges for firms and other organizations are:

* To identify and train people in the new skills that will be in demand for the foreseeable future and beyond
* To provide a compelling vision for the future of the firm
* To create and sustain an environment that makes the most desirable talent want to stay.
* To achieve the above in a financially viable and profitable manner

Even IBM has adopted a flexible, self-reliant work style.

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration and now a professor of economic and social policy at Brandeis University, was quoted in the New York Times (December 5, 2005): "The most important community for an individual will not necessarily be a company but a looser community of people with similar skills and social connections. Continually building up those skills and connections is what a career is today."

We see much evidence of this already. How is your organization adjusting?

I welcome your comments to

© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2005. All rights reserved.