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Job satisfaction and personnel mobility
Europe, and indeed all the major industrialised nations, is currently going through a recession.This obviously has serious implications for companies and personnel who find themselves victims of the downturn. As Britain apparently eases out of recession, there are also potentially equally serious implications for the companies who survive, associated with the employment and recruitment market in general.
During a recession, voluntary staff turnover is bound to fall sharply. Staff who have been with a company for some years will clearly not want to risk losing their accumulated redundancy rights. Furthermore, they will be unwilling to go to a new organisation where they may well be joining on a ‘last in, first out’ basis. Consequently, even if there is little or no job satisfaction in their current post, they are most likely to remain where they are, quietly sitting it out and waiting for things to improve. In Britain, this situation has been aggravated by the length and nature of the recession – as may also prove to be the case in the rest of Europe and beyond.
In the past, companies used to take on staff at the lower levels and reward loyal employees with internal promotions. This opportunity for a lifetime career with one company is no longer available, owing to ‘downsizing’ of companies, structural reorganisations and redundancy programmes, all of which have affected middle management as much as the lower layers. This reduction in the layers of management has led to flatter hierarchies, which, in turn, has reduced promotion prospects within most companies. Whereas ambitious personnel had become used to regular promotion, they now find their progress is blocked.
This situation is compounded by yet another factor. When staff at any level are taken on, it is usually from outside and promotion is increasingly through career moves between companies. Recession has created a new breed of bright young graduates, much more self-interested and cynical than in the past. They tend to be more wary, sceptical of what is on offer and consequently much tougher negotiators. Those who joined companies directly from education feel the effects most strongly and now feel uncertain and insecure in mid-life.
In many cases, this has resulted in staff dissatisfaction. Moreover, management itself has contributed to this general ill-feeling and frustration. The caring image of the recent past has gone and the fear of redundancy is often used as the prime motivator.
As a result of all these factors, when the recession eases and people find more confidence, there will be an explosion of employees seeking new opportunities to escape their current jobs. This will be led by younger, less-experienced employees and the hard-headed young graduates. ‘Headhunters’ confirm that older staff are still cautious, having seen so many good companies ‘go to the wall’, and are reluctant to jeopardise their redundancy entitlements. Past experience, however, suggests that, once triggered, the expansion in recruitment will be very rapid.
The problem which faces many organisations is one of strategic planning; of not knowing who will leave and who will stay. Often it is the best personnel who move on whilst the worst cling to the little security they have. This is clearly a problem for companies, who need a stable core on which to build strategies for future growth.
Whilst this expansion in the recruitment market is likely to happen soon in Britain, most employers are simply not prepared. With the loss of middle management, in a static marketplace, personnel management and recruitment are often conducted by junior personnel. They have only known recession and lack the experience to plan ahead and to implement strategies for growth. This is true of many other functions, leaving companies without the skills, ability or vision to structure themselves for long-term growth. Without this ability to recruit competitively for strategic planning, and given the speed at which these changes are likely to occur, a real crisis seems imminent.