Digital Business & the Changing Employment Compact

Chris Farrance

Chris Farrance

17 March 2014

In the same way that we are told the polar icecaps are melting, so too is the nature of the employment compact. Yes, I do mean ‘compact’ not ‘contract’ – the first is the implied relationship between a business and its people; the latter a legal set of terms of employment.

This was brought sharply in to focus at an HR Forum I went to recently where the subject was BYOD – Bring Your Own device. Until then I was more familiar, of course, with BYOB – Bring Your Own Bottle!

Let’s look, then at BYOD and a couple of other areas where expectations are changing:


Not many people these days will leave home without a mobile device – they’ve become a sort of umbilical cord!

Many businesses struggle with allowing their staff to use their mobile devices in the office – issuing them instead with company specific equipment but still worrying that time is being wasted in the social media space.

Other companies recognise it’s somewhat illogical for people’s attention to be split in this way. On the one hand it’s a question of trust. On the other there are concerns about the potential loss of confidential materials or key relationships if employees defect to the competition.

These concerns are valid but can be addressed in a very straightforward way with the proper protocols and solutions like cloud based software.

The 9 to 5 Day

Probably a myth these days anyway, but constant connectivity means constant accessibility. Digital Natives are used to being ‘on’ all the time.

Some worry that this leads to increased stress and this shouldn’t be ignored, but it brings a flexibility and immediacy that in today’s fast moving is now an imperative.

Interestingly text and MMS are increasingly the preferred methods of communication for the digital natives – we could all do with less emails couldn’t we?

A corollary of this is, of course, remote working or working from home. Some businesses of course do need people on site, others, however could afford to be more flexible in their approach to this. Again, this is very much a question of trust, but enlightened employers understand the real underlying benefits of treating their people as adults.

The Nature of Learning

I listened to an interesting panel discussion at a Young Enterprise event I went to last week about how young people could best prepare themselves for the workplace. Options included Apprenticeships, University, a gap year or just getting straight in to the work environment.

What was clear, however, was the weight given to the right attitude beyond any paper qualifications job applicants might have. I was reminded of the maxim ‘hire for attitude, train for skills’. Curiosity was highly rated. There’s a growing recognition that learning now is ‘lifetime’ and the responsibility largely lies with employees  to re-skill themselves perhaps several times during their working life.

These are by no means the only issues impacting on the employment. They do pint, however, to a growing elasticity as between businesses and their people if they are to capture their motivation, commitment and advocacy.