The Great Divide; Two-Way Loyalty That Once Linked Bosses and Workers Has Split. Can Both Sides Unite Again, Asks MARJORIE CALDER

Article excerpt

The days of a job for life and the gold watch for 40 years' service at one firm seem to have disappeared since the 1970s.

Some people are nostalgic for that time - when whole families worked for one big employer and sons followed their fathers into the same trade.

But others say good riddance to it ... because that was when everyone had to "know their place" and stick to it!

Fast travel and communications mean that today's business trends are global.

Social trends, too, mean that very few people live all their lives within walking distance of where they -- or their parents - were born, as they might have done just one or two generations ago.

The whole world has speeded up and become more short-term and we live with both greater variety and opportunity AND, of course, greater insecurity.

Career management and outplacement consultancy Sanders & Sidney recently conducted research among 100 human resource management (HRM) professionals and a large number of individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and levels of seniority.

They found that neither employers nor employees hankered after "the good old days" when employers took more of a paternalistic interest in their workforce.

Almost three-quarters of HR managers acknowledged that company loyalty to staff had decreased.

Almost all the individual workers questioned agreed.

But companies were very wide of the mark when it came to recognising the effects of the weakening of that relationship.

Less than a quarter of HR managers felt that corresponding employee loyalty to their companies had decreased "very much". And 75 per cent thought it had decreased only "a little or not at all".

This was quite a serious mistake ...

Because nine out of 10 employees insisted that THEIR loyalty to the workplace HAD decreased.

And two-thirds of them see the withdrawal of that loyalty as a substantial change in their working environment and conditions.

So where does this leave working relationships if neither side trusts or feels much of a responsibility for the other?

Lack of job security comes out in the survey as a very important complaint factor on the employees' side.

More than four out of five employees questioned felt that company loyalty was now exclusively to customers.

The need for profit in an increasingly competitive world means that flexible working relationships, such as short-term contracts and the use of temps, has done away with many full-time jobs. But Sanders & Sidney managing director Frances Cook can still express optimism that a resolution will be found.

She said: "While the research paints a somewhat bleak picture of the current situation, we were pleased to see that employees and employers believe that solutions exist. …