‘Job For Life’ A Thing Of The Past – But How Does It Affect Employers?

Job for life – a job that you can stay in all your working life…

This is traditionally what young people aspired to, just a couple of short generations ago. Get a foot in the door of a firm, learn a trade or develop new skills, and build qualifications so that you could move up through the company, earning yourself promotions and pay rises. At the age of 60 or 65 comes the big retirement party and that handshake from the company directors where you are presented with a golden clock or watch as a thank you for your loyalty and hard work over the years. Off you go to retire with your state pension and a company pension keeping you financially afloat.

Fast forward to 2014 and all that has changed for many employees and employers. According to various sources – and maybe you are even seeing increasing evidence of this in your own workplaces, too – the whole concept of the ‘job for life’ is done and dusted. It is no more. The debate remains, however – is the suggestion that a job for life no longer exists a good thing or a bad thing for employers? Where does that leave you for your recruitment strategy, for staff retention, for developing your company – or the company you work for – further, for future growth and success?

There is certainly no doubt that the workplace has changed a lot over recent years, both for employers and for employees, and that means both parties need to address these changes and work with them. While employees who change jobs regularly – and even sometimes take the step of making a complete career change – need to take more charge of planning for their future from a financial point of view, employers need to adapt so that they can get the most from employees while they are with the company and develop strategies to keep employees feeling fulfilled so that they might stay around on a more long term basis.

So what’s changed for employers and employees?

A combination of factors has brought on this change. Just a few of those factors that have contributed are; changes in the world economy, technological developments, government changes in legislation and the introduction of new initiatives and also changes in people’s attitudes towards the workplace by both employers and employees.

Insurance firm LV= recently conducted a large survey of 3,000 people – some of the them in employment and some who are retired. The report found that the generation that are now going into employment can expect to do more jobs and, in real terms, be paid less for those jobs than previous generations who were in employment before them. On average, people in the workplace now will have around nine jobs throughout their work life career; a definite move away from the concept of a job for life, and they will also work longer before retiring. Indeed, some workers never really retire. It’s now expected that many employees will work into their 70s rather than their 60s.

Employees are also now taking more charge of their careers and, according to LV=, are moving jobs on average every five years. This is both to increase their chances of promotion and also to increase their salaries. In the current climate, many employees themselves don’t consider their current role as a job for life and they are not afraid to make changes such as changing job or career in order to improve their lot both financially and in terms of lifestyle.

But LV= also suggest that another major reason cited for the movement of employees from company to company is the removal of workplace pensions. Employees no longer feel tied to their job in order to keep their workplace pensions going. So what are employers doing to about this situation in order to encourage a sense of loyalty towards the company? What can they do about this situation both in terms of recruitment strategies – recruiting the best young people and graduates – and in terms of retaining the best staff in the long term?

A Commons debate earlier in November 2014 discussed the fact that those employees on lower wages had less chance of securing considerable pay rises while those in higher paid careers were able to increase their pay more significantly. School leavers and others who take on low paid jobs which pay the national minimum wage can find themselves in what has been labelled ‘the poverty trap,’ because wages are not increasing in line with the cost of living.

So What Are The Possible Solutions For Employers?

But there is action that employers can take, both in larger corporate companies and in small and medium sized enterprises, too. Getting students and young people into the workplace to learn new skills increases productivity in the United Kingdom – and all employers can play a part in ensuring this happens. Investment in staff and in staff development is key.

Employers can attract school leavers to encourage loyalty

Some of the top companies in the United Kingdom have tweaked and developed their recruitment strategies and are now leading the way in trying to attract students and young people who are not university graduates into the workplace . This is good for those young people who are looking for an alternative to university but who still want to build a dynamic career for themselves.

By going into schools and promoting links with these schools, these companies are accessing young talent and can promote themselves as some of the best companies to work for. They are encouraging loyalty from a young age by developing training programmes for those school leavers so that they can learn new skills, progress through the company and hopefully get promotions and pay rises that they otherwise might not have earned elsewhere. Investing in young school leavers and developing their skills can mean they have an increase chance of earnings above the national minimum wage and can therefore free themselves from the ‘poverty trap.’

This type of strategy is not only a viable strategy for larger companies. It can also be adapted and used as a strategy for small and medium-sized enterprises. School Leaver Programmes and apprenticeships are both strategies companies can employ in order to encourage loyalty and keep staff feeling both valued and fulfilled. While School Leaver Programmes probably suit larger companies, apprenticeships are a great way to recruit those young people who might otherwise slip through the net. Via their apprenticeship, working with your company, they can learn skills whilst on the job and increase their knowledge by gaining recognised qualifications. Apprenticeships can be a very valuable tool in your recruitment strategy and also for staff retention.

If your company is an SME, a previous blog post on 5 ways SMEs can retain the best young talent could give you some further ideas about ways to encourage your staff to stick around to help drive your company forward. Apprenticeships, locally based training courses, the possibility of faster career progression and offering flexible working hours are all strategies smaller companies and medium-sized enterprises can leverage to their advantage. In a recent study conducted by themselves, the CIPD (Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development) concluded that pay can only increase if there is investment in training and technology by employers. A structured, government recognised apprenticeship can can be a good way of making sure young recruits are getting the workplace training they need. For more information about this, you can take a look at why more employers are benefitting from implementing apprenticeships and school leaver programmes into their recruitment strategies.

Employers can employ students and young people for evening and weekend work or seasonal jobs

Obviously, this depends on the type of company you are running but many firms actively recruit university students and those in other types of study. Recruiting students into entry level jobs can give employers the opportunity to spot talented students before they graduate. If you don’t already advertise your vacancies to students and young people via E4S, take a look at our Recruiting Students page to see how you can go about it and get yourself set up. Recruiting students into part time jobs can lead to them building a full time graduate career within your company if you, in turn, can offer a staff development programme that can challenge and fulfil them.

Job hopping comes with risks when it comes to future retirement plans

As we said above, many people these days can expect to have on average 9 jobs throughout their working life. This can be a benefit for employers because staff can come to the company with experience of various workplaces and can bring different skills and ideas to the table. Job hopping can be good for the employee, too, because of the transferable skills that are developed and there is the feeling of rising to the challenge of taking on something new. Today, there is very much a culture of people moving jobs – or even making a career change – on a relatively regular basis.

This has been a concern for the government for some time. As LV= said in their report, the lack of generous workplace pensions means a job for life is a thing of the past because staff no longer feel tied to their jobs. The responsibility of planning for financial security once in retirement now lies more with the individual. Moving from workplace to workplace and being a part of various pension schemes means people can lose track of what is due to them in the future and the concern is that many people are not planning for their retirement effectively and could be leaving themselves with a small pension.

Automatic Enrolment Pension Schemes have been introduced and, although as yet, not many small and medium-sized companies have registered for the scheme, the CIPD state that of the companies who have enrolled onto the scheme, those employers are going above and beyond the call of duty in the size of their contributions for employees and this, in turn, encourages those employees to also save for their future. It could be interesting in the future to see if those employers who have registered themselves with the Automatic Enrolment Pension Scheme are seeing any change in the average amount of time their staff stay in employment with them.

In Summary

So, it is clear that the notion of a job for life is no longer in the mindset of the new, young generation of employees that are now entering the United Kingdom’s workforce. But that does not have to be a bad thing for either the employee or the employer. It’s a case of adapting accordingly as the current climate develops – apprenticeships, school leaver programmes and even traineeships are a way of addressing this; as are changes to the way people work such as the opportunity to work from home, career breaks and job sharing, for example. And as for students who are looking for part time evening and weekend jobs, and seasonal work such as Christmas jobs or summer holiday work, employers could do well to think about recruiting students for those roles if they don’t already do so. As well as providing valuable experience in the workplace, there is also the opportunity for employers to recruit them later to more senior, full time positions.

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