EMPLOYEE PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
“A concept whose time has come”
Just over a decade ago the star of lifetime employment began to fade rapidly over the labour market horizon. The star is unlikely to be seen again for at least several generations to come. In its place has arisen a new star of different character. Whereas the first star was brilliant and promising, the new star has a pulsating unsteady boldness. Those navigating the employment markets are confused by its vacillating signals. Employers are struggling to come to terms with its existence while employees are confounded by its instability.
Twenty years ago, jobs were secure and were generally guaranteed by employers who were actually willing to write out life time contracts to qualified employees. In those times, qualified labour was not as abundant as it is today. In the past, market conditions were relatively stable and definitely not as volatile as they are today. Back then, employers could make promises and keep them. Today employees doubt the sincerity of employer communication, but todays unstable market conditions make employer promises subject to multiple uncontrollable conditions.
Employment today is definitely not “permanent and pensionable” yet many employees and employers have not come to terms with the new realities. Many have not successfully adjusted to the new conditions. Both employer and employee have lagged far behind and tended to be more reactive than proactive to the new employment environment and labour market conditions.
The change in the state of permanency of jobs or employment has brought changes in staff recruitment policies (terms & conditions of service) and brought a major decline in length of service of employees. These changes directly impact human resources management and particularly human resource development strategies. If you are going to keep your staff for a long time, you will probably reap at least some return on any training you provide them. If you have them for only a short period of time, they may leave before you reap a return on your investment. Training becomes harder to justify. Employee-employer loyalty has also suffered a major setback as employees now realize the weakness and vulnerability of the relationship as employers pull out of employment agreements.
Human resources must find new ways of maximizing employee performance. The traditional training and appraisal approach may be insufficient to motivate employee performance. A combination of sound performance management and self-driven employee motivation is likely to be a more sustainable approach in the short run.
Organizations now struggle to hang on to organization competencies, something that was easily managed with permanent employees. The fact that employees are now hired on a short-term basis makes it complicated to manage and develop corporate competencies. Training becomes more of an expense than an investment with the frequent turnover of skilled employees. Some organizations have chosen to share the cost of training with employees while those that cover the full cost of training build the cost directly into their product and service prices. Their customers pay for staff training.
Despite these measures many employers are yet to find a way to maximize the employee-employer relationship. One way to re-establish a profitable employee-employer relationship is to share the responsibility for personal development. Employers are under no obligation to facilitate the development of an employee’s personal circumstance, but employees can benefit significantly from empowered self-driven staff who appreciate what they can obtain from an employment relationship.
Employee Personal Development (EPD) focuses on maximizing the employment opportunity. An employee is a mutual beneficiary of the employment relationship and should be able to take responsibility for his or her own development. This may sound “obvious” but in practice the employee is often the weaker partner in the employment relationship. Strengthening the weaker partners’ competencies in managing their affairs will in fact strengthen the employment relationship. However, the concept of EPD must be rationalized and understood before it can take effect.
EPD allows the employee to strive to contribute his best within a supportive environment provided by the employer while the employer benefits from the motivation of an employee successfully managing their personal affairs. The employer will require to invest in developing staff “life skills” alongside the traditional management development programs. This means including a selection of life skills training programs and dropping a few traditional programs without necessarily adjusting the training budget.
By pursuing this double-edged development employees are inspired to make the most of the employment opportunity. The employer is able to win the goodwill of the employee and build confidence into the employment relationship. It may not be possible to restore staff loyalty to levels of days gone by, but it will definitely ensure a more realistic and productive association for both parties during employment.
Each organization will have to work out the mechanics of a balanced employee-employer relationship that will ensure sustainable organization performance around its business process. Whether or not employees take up the concept and responsibility for their own personal development, EPD is a concept both employers and employees cannot ignore as an avenue to beneficial short-term relationships.
Allan Bukusi, 2005