The new employment model – the open-talent economy

‘I think employers are still looking for loyalty, but there’s no reciprocity.’

Professor Michael Quinlan, University of New South Wales

The psychological contract, whereby the employer matches employee loyalty and hard work with loyalty and job security is under assault from globalisation, the global financial crisis and advances in digital technology. Business professionals and other white-collar workers and IT, sales and marketing staff have replaced blue-collar workers as the main victims of corporate restructuring.

As units of human capital, often rated highly as an organisation’s most important asset, shut their office doors behind them never to return, we are switching to an open-talent economy where organisations buy knowledge and services from a global marketplace and existing employees are disposable.

Beleaguered employees who remain after a redundancy often find it difficult to produce the same quality of work as in the past. Questions such as ‘Am I next?’ and ‘How can this happen?’ drag down morale. Often, remaining employees are expected to pick up the work of departed employees, adding to an already high job load.

As permanent full-time jobs continue to give way to an ever-changing workforce comprised of increasing numbers of temporary ‘tour of duty’ jobs, casual workers, contractors and offshore and outsourced ‘hired hands’ and ‘hired brains’, the pressure mounts for employers to find viable ways to engage the best efforts and commitment to the corporate vision and strategy of remaining employees, contractors, casuals and outsourced personnel.

How organisations and employees can best deal with unstable workplaces are questions we need to find answers to in a complex and uncertain employment landscape.

Discussion questions

People in leadership positions are often torn between simple, short-term expediency and following a long-term, morally just vision. What ideas do you have to re-engage employees who survive redundancies in your team? To engage the commitment of temporary and other categories of employees and service providers? What practical steps would you take and in what order to help employees deal with unstable workplaces? How might you ‘tweak’ the operations and procedures at your workplace to deal with a changing and often de-motivated workforce?