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Why Best Places To Work lists are wrong!

Image Credits flickr user chippenziedeutch
"A Director of Human Resources for a federal agency told me I was looking at the (Best Places to Work for) lists all wrong. 'I think they're great!' he said. Just not for employees. I was looking at the wrong consumers." Traditional companies (like the government), offer solid benefits like a great retirement plan
That quote above is so true. The last 2 decades of rapid economic growth across the globe, the coming and going of recessions and rallies has created a lopsided environment about the importance of 'work' (and its derivatives 'job satisfaction', 'learning', 'growth' etc.) in an employment relationship. Prior to the 90s, when the old economy jobs ruled, trade unions (and even officer unions) controlled what went into employment contracts - the important things were job security, retirement benefits, fixed work hours etc.

Today, most workplace surveys and initiatives do not even consider any of the above aspects. It is arguable that the economy, job descriptions and even the work force has undergone a complete change. Unlike the majority unskilled or vocationally skilled employees of yesteryears, most work force today is composed of skilled to highly special skilled workers. And the new job descriptions also throw open several new conveniences for us. But it is as much arguable whether these new conveniences really enhance quality of life for all of us.

Take work hours as an example. Fixed hours of the industrial era are now an anachronism in the era of flexi-timing and work-from-home. But as much are these new concepts open to misuse. How many times have you felt that you work longer hours when you work from home? Or that, we are now working all the time - on weekends, on holidays, even while traveling! Work-life balance, a term which entered our lingo in the 80s is now something we (and sometimes our family) have to forcibly enforce on our lives!

One can go on to argue similarly for the other benefits such as the emotional and mental satisfaction of learning new things and constant growth in our job roles might have adverse effects, if not regulated, and until now we have possibly not even understood all such implications.

With the recession, rise in neo-socialist movements like "Occupy Wall Street", some notions of the industrial world like the 8 hour workday, retirement benefits, compensation regulation and job security might gain currency again, alongside the newly discovered ones like learning and growth.

There is an even more subtle point - as employees go through the different phases of their life, their priorities change. There comes a point in life [ref] when career, growth aspirations are not so important as is spending time with one's family or giving time to one's hobbies / passions - achieving the golden 'balance' between work and life. As the frenzied economic activity fueled by the rallies of 90s and 2000s dies down, and average age of the workforce moves from middle age to late middles in the West, and from young to middle age in Asia - companies will have to adjust their compass of what constitutes the 'Best Place to Work'.


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