Lifetime employment. Is it possible?

In a recent TED Talk, “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe,” author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek used family structure as a way of understanding this sort of approach. “A company is a modern-day tribe. Hiring someone for your company is akin to having a child,” he says. “If you have hard times in your family, would you ever consider laying off one of your children? We would never do it. Then why do we consider laying off people inside our organizations?” At Next Jump and other organizations that have found alternatives to firing, Sinek describes how this form of leadership creates a workplace where people feel connected, personally and emotionally.

According to Jay Forte, author and certified workplace coach, this is an extremely valuable quality for organizations to develop. “We are in an intellectual workplace where our performance is the best when we are intellectually, personally and emotionally connected to work,” he says. Forte describes these three fundamental connections in a high performing workplace:

  • Intellectual: Employees have the abilities and talents to perform the role – they are capable and competent.
  • Emotional: They are in roles that inspire them; they feel like they make a difference and are motivated by the work.
  • Personal: They experience trust, respect, and meaningful relationships with their teams and managers.

“Engagement happens when employees see something to commit to,” Forte says. A company that commits to employees’ futures shows them that they’re more than just cogs in the wheel. Forte explains, “This type of leader wants more for their employees than for their customers because they know that an employee-focused workplace will create employees committed to do extraordinary things for their customers.”

Lifetime employment is typically more common in long-established multinational corporations, where good pension provision, transparent pay structures and varied departments mean workers may have less incentive to search the job market for a fulfilling career elsewhere.

The Japanese employment system

The Japanese employment system is characterised by distinctive features that until recently, were widely accepted by both employers and workers. One of the most rooted practices is lifetime employment, which even if it did not cover all workers is a system implicitly guaranteeing many employees, especially those in larger firms, stable work within the same company until retirement. This was linked to seniority wage schemes, whereby workers’ salaries rise with years of service rather than with productivity. Alongside this is the Japanese unique practice of firms’ yearly mass recruitment of new graduates, which relegates mid-career hiring to a secondary role of serving to meet unexpected labour shortages.

What does the future of work say?

Lifetime employment is not the same as lifetime employability. In the days of the baby boomers, it was normal to work for the same employer throughout one’s career. In fact, it was encouraged for workers to find a job and stick with it till their retirement. Today, people no longer seek the certainty of a single employer. Fueled by the fact that AI and technology will increasingly replace repetitive jobs, the likelihood of lifetime employment seems even more obscure. In a recent ‘Future of Jobs Report’, the World Economic Forum estimates that 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines, while 97 million new roles may emerge across 26 countries by 2025. Half of all workers will require some form of upskilling or reskilling to prepare for the changing job landscape in the next five years. While it is heartening to know that there is an astounding number of new roles, unless we start paying attention to reinventing our skills, we will not have the adequate know-how to fit into the workforce of the future.

Sources: OECD, Cornerstone, Chanceupon


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