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The Need For A New Type Of Job Security

The Need For A New Type Of Job Security

By Susan Williams

The University of Oxford published an article entitled Rise of Job Insecurity: What Age Groups Are Most Affected?.

Within the post, they shared the following research;

…24% of people between the ages of 45 and 74 were worried that they might lose their jobs within the next 12 months…. (and that) people over the age of 50 who had lost their jobs were facing severe challenges for re-entering the workforce, including institutional ageism (employers’ reluctance to employ older workers) and internalised ageism (their own belief that they were too old to find new employment).”

They continued to share that this situation is starting to give rise to the gig economy as older people try to supplement their incomes as they deal with long stretches of unemployment.

Compound this with the rising rates of unemployment due to COVID-19 and this is not a pretty picture. Having people feel insecure at any time is not a good thing.

But as I thought about how we get nostalgic for the days of job security, I wondered how realistic this really is. Previously, we expected companies to “look after us” and guarantee us a job for life, a secured pension for retirement, and long term health benefits.

But were the businesses really looking after us or themselves?

The origins of job security began in 1910 to 1920 when companies were trying to recruit young men into big business. Back then, it was not considered attractive to work for an organization but more ideal to work for yourself. To attract these individuals, companies would then offer one thing that people believed working for yourself could not – job security. This along with health benefits, vacation, pension and opportunity for growth all allured people into large companies.

As well, unions – whether you liked them or not – allowed workers to band together and fight for rights that would also secure their jobs. And for organizations that were not unionized, the threat of being unionized was enough to force them to ensure that their working environments were so positive and secure that employees wouldn’t even consider organizing a union.

But since this time things have since started to shift. 

As the power moved from the demands of workers and unions to the need to satisfy shareholder demands for profits, the unwritten agreement for job security changed.

So starting in the 1990’s, downsizing, offshoring, rightsizing and so many other things allowed employers to shed their workforce in whatever way they needed to stay competitive and profitable. This  changed the employment landscape and the unwritten agreement of job security was lost.

So are the days of job security gone for good?

I believe that there is the opportunity for job security however it is now packaged in a totally different way. An individual’s personal brand and capabilities will now be the primary enabler for job security.

I think we have shifted to an employment model where a person needs to consider themselves as being an independent business and the product they are managing and selling is their reputation and skills.

For example many years ago when I was hiring, we would hire people based on attitude and aptitude. We would then take on the responsibility for the development of their specific competencies based on what the needs of the business were. Should those skills change, we would then take on the additional responsibility to re-skill them for other opportunities.

Today, there is an expectation that when someone is hired they already have the necessary skills and experience and will be immediately productive. If their skills are no longer required, they are then let go and new people are hired with the new required skill set.

This shift fundamentally moves the responsibility for professional development right onto the lap of the individual. They now have the responsibility to be aligned with what trends are happening and take on the responsibility to adapt and learn new skills in order to survive.

For older workers, this is potentially something they may not have needed to embrace before. This may be contributing to why many are experiencing significant difficulties in finding re-employment.

Now I am not suggesting for a minute that ageism is not a factor in limiting employment opportunities. But we may also need to consider this new hiring model and whether we have embraced life long learning in keeping our skills current.

As much as there is a rally cry to go back to the good ‘ol days when job security was high – the reality may be this work environment was never really there in the first place. Maybe we are actually moving back to the days even before this was a thought. When working for yourself was valued and we were accountable for our own success.

Now that would be real job security that we may be able to control.

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Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover and share ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and tries to embrace Booming Encore's philosophy of making sure every day matters.