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Rafael Andreu and José Mª Rosanas , Professors at IESE, University of Navarra

Disposable employees

Thu, 20 May 2010 08:11:39 +0000 Published in La Vanguardia (Barcelona)

A article in Businessweek ("The disposable worker") describes how many companies are responding to the recession by trying to eliminate fixed costs and converting large issue of jobs to temporary. The proportion of people on the payroll leave is accelerating and the share of work temps is growing.

Experts assure that the trend is unstoppable and irreversible: that of a stable work for life does not make sense; you have to go to the market of work and sell your skills or talent for which there is demand. After that, everyone goes home. However, the return home until the next market round does not take place under the same conditions for both parties. In the short term deadline, business leaves more satisfied than the other. In the long run, both parties will lose out.

Why? There are obvious aspects: with uncertainty about whether or not you will have work tomorrow or next week, the professional degree program of employee is an anxiety. Less quality of life, motivation and commitment to the business(s) you work with. Companies gain flexibility: they can adjust their workforces to the needs of the moment, freeing themselves from a fixed cost that is more annoying than ever these days.

But there is another, more fundamental one that should set off alarm bells: we will lose what has traditionally been called loyalty. According to Wharton professor Cappelli, this concept has been lost forever. Bad thing: loyalty is based on trust between business and employee, and makes learning about it something natural that eventually leads to a knowledge that enhances the competitiveness of business when it is distinctive and characteristic of its culture.

Without loyalty, companies will be less competitive. They will be more ordinary and their contribution will have less value: this will not lead us to the much-needed competitiveness in the long term deadline. Maybe in the short term: adjusting the workforce reduces costs, but it is so short-sighted.... We need knowledge new, differentiated and competitive, which requires focused and idiosyncratic learning at business. And that cannot be achieved with disposable employees, because by nature people are not usable or disposable. Let's see if we apply ourselves to the story.