· 2 min read · News

The gap between boss and worker widens

Thirty years ago, the relationship between employer and employee was clearly understood. The latter would promise honest toil over fixed hours each day, while the former would provide the promise of a trade and a job for life.

Since those times, the relationship has clearly been in flux. And when HR teamed up with Ceridian Centrefile to discover its changing nature, we suspected that we would find ongoing differences in what exactly the two want from each other. What we didnt expect to discover was a breakdown in trust in the workplace between boss and worker.

Several issues lie at the root of this mistrust, but the most notable are to be found in three major areas. First, there is the much-debated subject of flexible working. While there was a clear call from employees for greater control and flexibility in their working lives, there seemed to be an even clearer message from employers (according to the HR managers we surveyed) that such flexibility is completely out of the question. Second, many employees suspect that they cannot count on the loyalty of their employer when times are tough. They are right to be suspicious: many HR managers in our survey candidly admit that not only is most of the workforce expendable, but that mantras such as people are our greatest asset are little more than hot air in many cases.

A third area of mistrust is of particular concern for one particular age group. Nearly 90% of HR managers surveyed believed that social and demographic change will eventually compel employers to abolish retirement age limits. Yet in spite of our finding that older workers feel more loyalty and commitment to employers than younger colleagues, companies are still likely to discriminate blatantly against them. One HR manager recalls a previous job where the CEO was extremely hostile to the thought of anyone over 60 years of age working in his organisation, even though he was well over 60 himself. This sort of residual ageism is still rife in many organisations, she suggests, and unfortunately comes at a time when the wheel is coming full circle: nearly six out of 10 employees are attracted by the prospect of a job for life. Now where have we heard that one before?

That nearly half of all workers want to work beyond their current retirement age has much to do with the continuing uncertainty over pensions provision. Companies are falling over themselves to reconsider their final salary pension schemes. But how do you tackle this subject without alienating the workforce? In an excellent analysis, David Prosser gives some helpful pointers.

Trevor Merriden