The old employer-employee model was this: The employee works hard for many years for the same company and is rewarded with a steady paycheck, steady raises, and a retirement stipend. This is a leader-follower model. In it the employee is submissive. This model is breaking down under the pressures of a recession and a new generation of workers who have different expectations than their antecedents. The new model should look more like Leader-Leader.
As Tammy Erickson writes in the HBR article “Trust Is Dead. Long Live Trust!“:
“I believe the new equation will be an adult-to-adult relationship between organizations and those who perform work. Organizations should expect that everyone who shows up to work will be fully present, engaged, and have the relevant skills to do the job at hand. Individuals should expect the opportunity to choose interesting, challenging work, suited to their skill set, and to be compensated through fair, transparent arrangements.”
In the new model the employer and employee approach the job as equals. The employer searches for the person most adequate to complete the given task or project and the employee comes to work excited about the task at hand. This arrangement is better for everyone. The employee is engaged in his/her work and the employer benefits from this in terms of better work. Some of the changes we will see will be more flexible work hours and locations. Some firms are instituting a project-based work schedule and giving employees options of which projects they wish to take on.
As things change it is important to see that this new model will be an improvement. The old way of thinking led to armies of workers who were only partially engaged in what they were doing. Work was not as cognitive as it is now so it was easy to see if a worker was slacking. Today, the nature of work has changed but our approach to it has not. This applies to talent acquisition and retention as well. The result is that large portions of the work force are not 100% engaged in their work. This leads to decreased effectiveness for the company. As we shift into the new model workers will become more engaged in the tasks they perform (which in some cases they may choose for themselves). The increased engagement will lead to a dramatic improvement in the effectiveness and performance of the organization. A more resilient and effective organization will outperform its competitors every time.