Nick Boreham, Martin Fischer, Graham Guest, Gerald Heidegger, Mike Kelleher,
Nick, in his conclusions from the WHOLE project (see contribution),
is particularly interested in the implications of power and control relationships
and the implications for industrial relations on the European Commission's
work and industry programme. Particularly interesting for me at least was:
if all organisations are looking for flexible workers, what are the trade-offs
I would like to point out the fact that most of this debate is about modern
industries and industry related services, which only employ about one quarter
of the work population. When it comes to networking, Graham talked about
virtual networks and people communicating with emails. Most workers do
not communicate with emails, they are just selling and doing things like
that. Therefore I think that we should always keep in mind that we are
dealing with a minority of workers. And excuse me please, Nick, I think
that your presentation was very much focused on
those aspects which are certainly an important part of the economy which
is relevant for international competition, but when we think about this
occupational identity and the social meaning of work then we have to think
about the vast majority of people.
Just a quick point: I quite agree with that, nevertheless we have got to
look at European vocational training policy. If you look at the European
employment strategy it emphasises flexibility and adaptability as one of
the major objectives. Employability is defined in terms of becoming more
flexible, and the concept of key skills always stresses the idea of preparing
people for flexible work. So I quite agree with what you say, but we have
got to interrogate European vocational and HRD policies because they are
based on an assumption that the future is going to be this very small sector.
I would agree with that. As I said, my contribution
was designed to be provocative and we need to take care to balance the
concept of knowledge workers with people who are more involved with day-to-day
practical activities. But it is worth noting that over 60 per cent of UK
businesses have just one employee and that's the person running it. I have
certainly seen more and more people working in a virtual context. Yes,
but we must not get carried away, I agree.
Just one or two things not to get carried away about. A related term that
has not been mentioned is that of employability, which is part of the trade-off
for the employee to be more flexible. Some research I came across, conducted
in Ireland, showed that where employability was emphasised by the employer
as an attractive feature of working there, that is increasing employability
with other employers, the consequence was that you had a high commitment
to that employer on the part of the employees and a much lower likelihood
of intention to leave. So in fact it was having the opposite effect that
it was intended to have.
An issue addressed by Leif (see contribution) is
that the learning capacity and the contribution of ageing workers is detrimental
to organisations. At British Telecom, for instance, people at the age of
50 have pensions and are no longer workers; some of them are actually pensioned
off before the age of 50. It is assumed they can't make a contribution
In the title of this part of the programme the challenge of professional
identity is mentioned. I thought that this is a particular German issue.
So I would be interested to hear from you what your findings say about
this topic: challenging professional identities.
As well as working for EurEta I have a background of working for a professional
institution in the UK. We spent a lot of time thinking about what that
institution is for. Certainly in the UK, professional bodies were founded
as gentlemen's clubs two centuries ago, where people would get together.
They were men who would sit around discussing the latest developments of
steam turbines or whatever. I think many of the professional bodies are
still living in that sort of era, and they really have to look now at their
relevance. If we go down the road of the portfolio concept what does it
mean to have a profession, what does it mean to be an accountant, an engineer
or whatever? So those structures I think are breaking down, but many professional
bodies deny this.