CIPD 2014: Employer/employee relationship should be ‘strategic alliance’

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A 'strategic alliance' between an employer and its staff should replace traditional concepts of loyalty in modern organisations, according to Columbia Business School associate professor of management Rita Gunther McGrath.

Speaking at the CIPD annual conference in Manchester, McGrath told delegates businesses should see the value in “entrepreneurial” employees, even if they are not in post for more than two or three years.

“Today’s careers are going to be fundamentally different to yesterday’s,” she said. “The idea that someone would join a company at 22 and still be there when they’re approaching retirement is laughable today. In fact the company probably won’t be there when the employee is reaching retirement.”

Many employers still “resist” taking advantage of the entrepreneurial skills of employees because of a perceived lack of loyalty, according to McGrath. But she called on companies to re-think the way they build value in their relationships with staff.

“Increasingly we’re not trading off stability for loyalty,” she said. “It used to be that we could offer employees a stable and relatively steady career and in return we would get their loyalty and a relatively long-term relationship. But today you think about the metaphor of an alliance. Like any alliance it’s an ongoing and constant process of getting to know each other.”

McGrath, who was this year ranked 18th in the HR Most Influential International Thinkers list, highlighted research that suggests 45% of work done in the US is not associated with a permanent job. She also claimed that for Millennials work is “something you do and not somewhere you go”.

“But the young entrepreneurial workers are still valuable people even if they’re not going to stick around,” she continued. “Businesses should move on from taking a negative view of them because they see them as disloyal, and take advantage of their skills when they are there.”