Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Responsibilities in the "New Employment Relationship": An Empirical Test of an Assumed Phenomenon

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Responsibilities in the "New Employment Relationship": An Empirical Test of an Assumed Phenomenon

Article excerpt

There has recently been an explosion of interest in the perceived changing relationship between employers and employees among academics (e.g., Hendry and Jenkins, 1997; Sims, 1994; Sparrow, 1996) and human resource (HR) practitioners (e.g., Covey, 1996; Goman, 1997; Wilms, 1997). The social contract in employment, which consist of expectations of reciprocal obligations between firms and employees, is touted to have changed as a result of changes in the business environment (Capelli et al., 1997). A review of the literature indicates wide, though not universal, consensus regarding the nature of the new employment relationship. Moreover, articles typically reflect an assumption that the new employment relationship is found across organizations and situations and that it is reflected in employer and employee beliefs regarding respective responsibilities or obligations (e.g., Kissler, 1994; McLean Parks and Kidder, 1994). However, no reported study specifically tests the extent to which the widely assumed "new e mployment relationship," or social contract between firms and employees, is actually reflected in the beliefs or expectations of different populations. This article reports the results of a study that begins to address this limitation.

We first identify the characteristics of the assumed new employment relationship through a review of the literature. Next, the factors affecting beliefs about employment relationship responsibilities are discussed. We then report the results of a study in which we investigate the extent to which the assumed new employment relationship is reflected in the beliefs of studentjob-seekers and recruiters and examine whether these groups have similar beliefs regarding employers' and employees' responsibilities. In addition to looking for a similar understanding between job-seekers and recruiters, within group differences are examined. Finally, the implications of the study, limitations, and future research are discussed.

ASSUMED EMPLOYMENT RELATIONSHIP CHARACTERISTICS

Many researchers have argued that changing economic trends, competitive pressures, and organizational structures have led to a new employment relationship (e.g., Burack, 1993; Capelli et al., 1997; Kissler, 1994). Increased global competition has spurred organizations to develop new strategies focused on responsiveness to rapidly changing market conditions and innovation. The rise of technology has further sped up the pace of change in business. Further, many organizations have experienced downsizing or restructuring in the past two decades. It has been argued that such changes in the economy and business environment have led to changes in what firms and employees expect from each other in the employment relationship (e.g., Burack, 1993). For example, increased competitive pressure has led organizations to require more from employees. New requirements may include employees taking initiative and/or responsibility for organizational improvement and innovation. In turn, employees are often evaluated and rewarde d based on their value-added. The increased pace of change in business environments has meant less organizational stability. The result has been less reliance on traditional promises of job security and longterm career development within a single company (Sims, 1994).

We identified the key characteristics of the commonly assumed new employment relationship through a review and content analysis of the academic and practitioner literature. These characteristics are shown in the first column of Table 1. Specifically, articles were identified through a search of ABI Inform, an online service that contains abstracts of approximately 800 business-related publications, including professional journals, academic journals, and trade magazines. The search was conducted using various combinations of the following terms: employment, relationship, contract, deal, compact, psychological contract, new, and changing. …

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