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  Notion of 'flexible worker' challenging 'professional identity'
    
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  The European professional/ occupational identity approach is situated mid-way between the individualistic job orientation of the USA and the corporatist/ company/ job for life perspective of Japan. Global free market competition is challenging European work-related values; the development of flexible workers is a direct challenge to the notion of 'profession' or 'occupation' (professional/ occupational identity) [R09].

The tension between professional identity and flexibility has been addressed in projects and debate:
(a)
[Four hypotheses:] Due to multiple social change the development and functioning of vocational identity has become unstable - Vocational and occupational identity provide the basis for motivation and good work performance, commitment and quality - Education, especially vocational education and training, are an essential source for the development of work ethics and vocational identity - The specific strength of the European economy to win in global competition is the particular work ethics that identities can provide [V07].
(b)
Countries show a strong variation of traditions, especially concerning the relation between learning and work. In Germany the main factor influencing these identity changes arises from the vision of work as 'Beruf', whereas in the UK it would be interesting to look at how vocational training effects the way of handling changes at the work place; but in countries where vocational training does not play a role identity is much more determined by the direct relation to work. In France, you can find variations within each sector, also within organisations, whether family-owned or multinational in character; in telecommunication there are two variations: in slow-changing companies you find workers who have the status of civil servants (highly unionised), and you find the new contractual workers with high mobility; in fast-moving companies some highly qualified people have the fear of becoming more generalist in the field, with specialised staff loosing ground; this is not the case in big companies which are still anchored to their established activities [V08].
(c)
When organisations become more flexible and/or introduce new technology in response to competitive pressures, many stress factors are created which make it difficult to generate and exchange work-related knowledge in the workplace - these include loss of professional identity, insecurity and the pressures of work intensification [E12a].
(d)
One might say that what is central is the holistic idea: you are not going to do your task in a flexible way unless you have got a large understanding of the processes in the organisation. In some situations the knowledge of the process could lead to be innovative, but sometimes innovativeness may come from another source: more creative ways of thinking, possibly the capacity of doing research, and a variety of skills and approaches [V18].
(e)
There is another reason which we can see as to why flexibility is not going to be taken up with great enthusiasm. Basically, any functioning work system is a social system which achieves a certain degree of equilibrium. This equilibrium is a particular way of distributing certain things throughout the organisation, it's a way of distributing responsibilities, it's a way of distributing rewards, and it's a way of distributing knowledge. Modernisation tends to upset the delicate social contracts in the organisation. If you try to introduce a new work system which relies on different ways of distributing knowledge then this is very threatening to everybody involved, because it upsets the equilibrium which was established in the previous work system [V20]. 

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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO