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The Bases of Competence explains what skills and competencies students need to succeed in today's workplace and details how colleges and universities can strengthen the curriculum to cultivate these skills in their undergraduate students. The book addresses the continuing disparity between the skills developed in college and the essential skills needed in the dynamic workplace environment. By providing a common language from which to work, The Bases of Competence enables both educators and employers to create educational experiences of practical and enduring value.
Drawing on more than a decade of research on companies, graduates, and students, the authors identify four distinct skill combinations most desired by employers—Managing Self, Communicating, Managing People and Tasks, and Mobilizing Innovation and Change. Using case studies and best practices from a wide variety of institutional settings and workplace environments, the authors show how developing competencies narrows the gap between the classroom and work—providing students with a portfolio of basic skills that translate into lifelong employability.
|Pt. 1||Understanding Competence|
|1||The Humbling Effect: Moving from College to the Workplace||3|
|2||Creating a Common Language About Competence||23|
|Pt. 2||Essential Skills and Competencies|
|5||Managing People and Tasks||93|
|6||Mobilizing Innovation and Change||113|
|Pt. 3||Developing Competence|
|7||Closing the Gap Between Campuses and Workplaces||135|
|8||Fostering Workplace Skills in the College Curriculum||153|
|9||Building on Collegiate Learning in the Workplace||167|
|Pt. 4||Case Studies|
|10||Teaching World of Work Skills Within a Degree Program: Ontario Agricultural College||179|
|11||Listening to the Customer: External Assessment of Competencies at Babson College||207|
|12||Cultivating Competence to Sustain Competitive Advantage: The Bank of Montreal||229|
|Resource: Making the Match Year 3 Questionnaires (Skill Sections) for Students, Graduates, and Managers||239|
Mary walked into a tough situation on her first day: the group she would be working with had already formed, the project was under way, and there was a looming deadline. In addition, she had to get up to speed on the technology, the expectations, and the environment. She had two options: quit or take the challenge and learn fast. She chose the second, but things seemed to get worse. The team leader was ineffective, morale was low, and Mary chose not to tackle the instruction manual. How would the situation look if everyone had taken greater responsibility for their own attitudes and behaviors?
Managing Self is the ability to take responsibility for one's own performance, including the awareness, development, and application of one's own skills and competencies. Managing Self is the ability to control one's own behavior and improve one's own performance, recognizing and overcoming barriers along the way. It involves being aware of one's self and surroundings, being able to lead oneself and manage one's career, and being able to handle and adapt to changing, ambiguous, and often conflicting circumstances in the immediate environment.
The first step in this self-management of skills resources is to ensure that one's own store of generic skills and technical knowledge is adequate. The second is to engage in the self-organized and self-disciplined steps of applying those skills and knowledge. The third is to reflect on progress, being open to omissions and errors that need to be corrected.
The transition from child to adult is an ongoing process of taking responsibility and defining one's self. It is the process of learning to manage one's life in all its facets and to take ownership over the decisions made. We may not always be in control of our journey, but we do have control over our reactions and choices. Stories of people who overcame barriers -- physical, economical, or social -- to achieve what had seemed to be impossible are more widely heard than those of people resigned to their lot in life. We could characterize these differences according to individual characteristics such as locus of control -- whether people believe they can have an impact on their destiny or whether they view themselves as pawns in a grand game, in the hands of external forces.
Whatever happens to us, the one thing we can manage is our attitude. That attitude will govern how we respond to life events. We can choose to learn or to shut out experiences that might cause us to question our beliefs. We can choose to be positive, looking for the small rays of hope, or we can rant and rave about the injustices of life. We can take responsibility for not making things worse, or we can inflict suffering on others. We can choose to stand the ladder of our success on the backs of others, or we can choose to hold out a hand, helping someone else move a few steps forward with us.
However we choose to manage our reactions and attitudes, we are responsible for ourselves in life just as in our professions.
In a dynamic world such as we find ourselves, it will not be possible for leader and managers and other organizational systems to take complete responsibility for each member. The balance between corporate guidance and individual responsibility is tipping toward the latter. The locus of responsibility over employee skills is shifting from the organization's role as trainer to a mutual role of the organization as facilitator and the employee as self-motivated, self-managed contributor.
The participative, self-managed employee cannot wait for her manager to tell her what she needs to know to do the job. Much as the inventory manager cannot hide behind the excuse of, "Sorry, we ran out of this item," and hope to be rated a high performer, the employee cannot use the excuse, "I do not know anything about that," or "I do not know how to use that program." Even with tenure, the academician who refuses to turn on the computer because he does not believe in its utility is on a sticky career path. Tools, knowledge, and skills are needed to do a job well. The employee is responsible for acquiring them with the help of the organization's resources.
Yet self-management is not focused solely on benefiting the organization. The individual's career aspirations must also enter the equation. What does it take for individuals to prove themselves as valuable assets in the profession of their choice? If that profession experiences a decline, what generic skills can individuals transfer to a new occupation or field?
In an authoritarian system, managers think, and employees do. Thus, the formulation and implementation of strategy are separate activities. In a participative environment, people with different roles think at the same time about the same things but not in the same way. Suppose that an engineer and an operator explore a production problem. The engineer focuses on intricate and long-term design solutions, while the operator points out the practical limitations and suggests operational alternatives. Or a company director may manage the process of strategy development, while salespeople discover new market opportunities, bringing their insights to the strategy forum for debate.
Peter Drucker's (1992) prediction that "businesses will undergo more, and more radical, restructuring in the 1990s than at any time since the modern corporate organization first evolved in the 1920s" has come true. As he foresaw, work has moved to where the people are rather than people to where the work is, and more activities have been outsourced, unbundling the traditional corporation. The implications are that the traditional employment contract is being replaced by a self-monitored arms-length contract for services, thus "desegregating" the long-standing employment arrangements (Arthur, Claman, and DeFillippi, 1995; Quinn, 1992).
These opportunities for contracting services and moving between organizations to achieve greater self-development come with the responsibility of managing one's own career and skills package. The internal competition for career enhancement bolstered by political networking will be replaced by a free market competitiveness among free agents touting unique skill packages flexible enough to meet demanding needs. Whether these free agents are part of the organization or completely independent, the competition is still the same. While individuals have the ability to choose their organizational preference, organizations can shop for the best-suited individuals for particular activities.
The implication for employees is that they need to manage their own skills development as well as skills application. Employable individuals will build and maintain a skills portfolio, just as they would a resume, proactively seeking skill development opportunities. Yet they still need to be engaged participants. This balance between individualistic and team player mentality is crucial to both the individual's career and the organization's performance.
Individuals who are rated as highly competent on Managing Self are those who can assess and define problems facing them; establish appropriate goals that, if achieved, will solve the problem; monitor the ways in which aspects of their environment are hindering the attainment of those goals; develop a plan for achieving the goals; determine whether the plan is working; and revise the plan if necessary. To do this, individuals must be able to learn new ways of dealing with situations and manage their own resources (time, talents, and attitudes).
Individuals who are not rated highly on this competence area do not show the listed behaviors. These individuals might be skilled but perhaps unmotivated to behave in such a manner. Sometimes they prefer situations that are more controlling and more certain, and require less effort on their part to perform.
Let us take a closer look at the specific skills within this competence.
Managing Self: Constantly developing practices and internalizing routines for maximizing one's ability to deal with the uncertainty of an ever-changing environment.
Under the employment contract model, Managing Self entailed compliance with work schedules and carrying out predefined duties. There was protection against exploitation, and expectations were predictable and well defined. Contributions were explicit and measurable, and rewards were extrinsic. The human resource department decided what training was necessary, and the employee was expected to participate. Managing Self meant managing one's behavior such that rules were not broken and expectations were fulfilled.
Under the lifelong employability model, Managing Self takes on a different dimension, one of development and partnering as opposed to application and compliance. Employees are expected to manage their own growth and development using the human resource department as facilitators rather than trainers. The contributions to be made are goal oriented, unpredictable, intangible, and often self-defined, without clear parameters. The employee is expected to partner with the company in cooperatively achieving those goals, in return for which intrinsic rewards often outweigh the extrinsic.
Managing Self takes on the added responsibility of being a good team player and helping the team win, as well as ensuring personal gains. Personal mastery has been identified by Senge (1990) as one of the five necessary components of a learning organization capable of continually renewing and redefining itself.
Managing Self comprises four skills: Learning, Personal Organization and Time Management, Personal Strengths, and Problem Solving and Analytic (briefly defined in Exhibit 3.1).
Learning is the ability to gain knowledge from everyday experiences and to keep up-to-date on developments in the field.
There are two reasons that learning as a self-managed process is becoming more important. First, the amount of knowledge and information available and applicable is greater than ever before, and keeping up with the latest developments is an ongoing challenge. Second, as we move away from hierarchical environments, individuals get more information directly and "can now manage their own activity and participate without layers of interference or direction from authorities" (McLagan and Nel, 1996, p. 51).
Also important to consider is what is being learned. It is easy to focus on the specific knowledge required to accomplish a task or be proficient in an activity. As emphasized throughout this book, generic competence in applying that specific knowledge is also essential. Hence, learning needs to focus on both of those types of knowledge: specific and generic. Ironically, while we are often not rewarded for proficiency in generic skills and therefore do not place much effort in their development, weaknesses in generic skills can lead to negative performance outcomes for which we are penalized.
Being able to integrate the knowledge, skills, and abilities of different people is a critical variable in an environment where production processes, whether of goods and services, involve increasing amounts of intelligence and complex outputs (McGregor, 1991). Hence, being responsible for one's own pool of knowledge, skills, and abilities is important. The people engaged in the activity are to some extent most knowledgeable about the knowledge resources needed to complete those activities.
Using Bloom and others' (1956) taxonomy of educational objectives as a guide, individuals will take responsibility for comprehension and application of their specific expertise or knowledge base, in addition to analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of their knowledge base. Responsibility for personal knowledge development, with the goal of increasing effectiveness, relies on an understanding of the different levels of learning; learning content is not enough. Learning how to use that knowledge, compare and integrate it with other pieces of knowledge, and evaluate its usefulness is also the individual's responsibility.
Managers have the responsibility of enhancing the human capital assigned to them. But in a knowledge-intensive environment, individuals carry more of that responsibility, ensuring that their own pool of knowledge is sufficient and appropriate to the function they fulfill. Human capital as an asset can depreciate in two ways: through skills deterioration when they are not constantly practiced and honed and through obsolescence as discovery and invention continually redefine knowledge boundaries (McGregor, 1991). The person most familiar with skills and knowledge held and applied is that individual.
Mirvis and Hall (1996) have noted the difference between retraining the micromanaged employee and continuous learning on the part of the self-managed employee. They describe the continuous learning environment as one in which the self is the agent of learning, the time and cost of learning are lower than retraining, and training is conducted on a just-in-time basis in the context of real work, with a stronger application in future jobs. Compared to the training environment, the continuous learner is more empowered and adaptable, with a higher sense of identity.
Alavi (1994) suggests that collaborative learning, an interpersonal problem-solving process, is a way of "achieving higher levels of perceived skill development, self-reported learning, and evaluation of classroom experiences" (p. 159) when supported by a group decision support system. She suggests that social learning will meet the challenge presented through the greater bodies of knowledge that need to be learned. This has implications for the way educators structure learning environments. Using technology, such as group decision support systems, to improve the decision-making process and encourage interactions and communication can lead to better decisions and better decision-making skills. Personal Organization and Time Management involves managing several tasks at once, being able to set priorities and allocate time efficiently in order to meet deadlines.
In the past, managers relied on assistants to manage their day for them, scheduling appointments and providing reminders. Assistants organized paperwork, maintained records, and often knew more about the intricacies of the manager's job than the manager did. However, the elimination of slack resources and the move to leaner organizations has put the responsibility on the manager. Now it is more likely that the managers maintain their own schedules, type their own correspondence on their own computer, deal with their own e-mail and voice-mail messages, and organize their own work activities. This additional work has not generally been matched by a decrease in management responsibilities. In fact, often just the opposite is true.
These increased responsibilities apply to staff and hourly employees as well. It is now likely that press operators are responsible for scheduling machine maintenance and coordinating changes. Data entry clerks typically decide for themselves how to organize their day to accommodate both their scheduled meetings and the need to cross-check the entries of other clerks.
It is not always easy to determine in what order tasks should be completed, especially not to the satisfaction of others, who may have different priorities. It is possible to fall into the trap of dealing with all the emergencies that others bring forth without ever getting to one's own important tasks. Time can be wasted trying to solve trivial issues when larger, more complex problems are left to grow. Human nature is such that we tend to do the easy and comfortable tasks first, leaving the tough jobs in the hopes that they will go away. None of these avoidance behaviors helps us or the people who depend on us.
It is no longer viable to assume that someone else will continually update us on what is to be done next. As management time becomes more constrained and employees are expected to manage their own work more and more, the assumption will be made, until proved wrong by some poor performance outcome, that the individual is capable of determining what is important and what needs to be completed right away.
Covey, Merrill, and Merrill (1994) developed a time management matrix by which daily activities can be categorized according to degree of importance and degree of urgency. In this matrix, the upper quadrants differentiate important activities as urgent or not urgent, whereas the lower quadrants differentiate activities that are not important on the same urgency dimensions. Within each of the four quadrants, examples of characterized activities are presented. For example, urgent and important (Quadrant I) is represented by pressing problems. Not urgent, yet important (Quadrant II) is represented by planning and relationship building. Not important but urgent (Quadrant III) is represented by some phone calls or mail. Not important and not urgent (Quadrant IV) is exemplified by escape activities such as irrelevant mail and excessive TV.
Covey, Merrill, and Merrill suggest that time is wasted engaging in activities that are neither important nor urgent. How many times have we escaped pressing problems by dealing with irrelevant mail, telephone calls, and watching "just one more" television program? They contrast these kinds of activities with productive activities dealing with urgent and important issues. Managing Self fits well with the personal leadership quadrant in which important, albeit not urgent, developmental activities such as planning, preparation, and relationship building are completed. The trap of completing urgent but unimportant activities can create the illusion of doing important things while in actuality these activities may be important only to someone else.
There are many tools available to help individuals analyze and manage their use of time; each is based on a particular philosophy and on certain assumptions of the characteristics of the reader. Some are useful to certain people; other people will prefer different techniques. The point is that if you are not a well-organized, highly productive person, find a tool that will help you, and use it.
Personal Strengths comprises a variety of personal traits that assist individuals in dealing with day-to-day work situations -- for example, maintaining a high energy level, motivating oneself to function at an optimal level of performance, functioning in stressful situations, maintaining a positive attitude, being able to work independently, and responding appropriately to constructive criticism.
Whetton and Cameron (1991) discuss self-awareness -- having knowledge of oneself -- as being essential to one's productive personal and interpersonal functioning as well as understanding and empathizing with other people. Through awareness and practice, individuals can understand their own strengths and weaknesses and gain confidence in that understanding. Bennis (1995, p. 71) suggests that "you make your own life by understanding it" -- that, in fact, leadership depends on this self-understanding.
Focusing a significant portion of one's time in Covey, Merrill, and Merrill's Quadrant II, Personal Leadership activities, can lead to higher energy levels and optimal levels of performance. These are not urgent, but they are important, enabling one to cope better with the stresses inherent in almost every job. Allowing space for reflection and energizing activities can release the stresses and alleviate the negative impact of personal difficulties such that healthy perspectives and reactions are possible.
Attitude plays an important role in achieving personal strengths. Having a positive attitude goes a long way in motivating oneself to making a valuable contribution toward the organization's goals. It is useful to ask oneself questions such as, Is this really important enough to get upset about or is it more useful to just deal with it and get on with the things that are important? Will I really accomplish anything by getting mad about this situation?
Often the difference between a person whose career moves at a satisfying pace and a person who is stagnating is initiative and attitude. Displaying an active desire to be part of the organization and taking an active role in managing oneself to make a valuable contribution give people the confidence to promote. Being a critic of all that goes on does not. Showing that you care enough about your own development to manage it and to accept the guidance of others will lead others to the conclusion that even if you run into unanticipated challenges, you will be able to work through them and learn from them. Given the uncertainty of today's work environment, these are the attitudes being sought.
If we take responsibility for our own learning and attitude, criticism will be important feedback for us to analyze and evaluate. We can decide whether to incorporate the view in our ongoing development.
Problem-Solving and Analytic consists of identifying, prioritizing, and solving problems, individually or in groups. It involves the ability to ask the right questions, sort out the many facets of a problem, and contribute ideas as well as answers regarding the problem.
Problem-solving and analytic skills are personal competencies that feed into decision making, a component of the Managing People and Tasks base competency. Not all decisions are based on problems, and not all problems can be resolved through a single decision. The connection is that analyzing and solving problems can lead to certain decisions that minimize potentially problematic factors. The decision maker needs to assess the likelihood and severity of potential negative outcomes and thereby prevent the creation of more complicated and significant problems.
There are two approaches to problem solving. The first is a rational analysis using familiar terms to define the problem and historical outcomes to generate solutions based on what is known. The second approach follows a more creative approach. It does not assume that the problem or possible solutions are necessarily related to what is known or what has happened in the past. Whetton and Cameron (1991) suggest a technique that W.J.J. Gordon developed in 1961. Synectics, as it is called, involves putting something that is known in the context of something that is not known to develop new insights and perspectives. For example, the difficulty encountered by department chairs in achieving consensus and teamwork among their faculty has often been referred to as "herding cats." The familiar problem of getting independent, achievement-oriented individuals to work together is made clearer by associating them with another example of independent, individualistic characters. Most people understand the temperament of cats. That understanding helps clarify the difficulties encountered in managing faculty.
Although this creative approach still follows the steps of defining the problem, generating alternative solutions, and then selecting and implementing one of them, the difference is in the process of carrying out each step. The creative approach allows for alternative problem definitions. By not using what is known as a basis for defining the problem, the possibility that someone else may define the problem differently is opened.
Two distinctly different idea-generating processes are envisioned. The first is moving from one known idea to other connected ideas or concepts. Rico (1983) describes the technique of clustering, "a non-linear brainstorming process akin to free association" (p. 28), as a way of mapping the generation of ideas. The alternative process is the nondirected, hands-off phenomenon that occurs when we get an "Aha!" in the shower -- that is, the sudden presence of a solution or novel idea during a completely unrelated activity.
Regardless of how the idea is generated, problem solving also involves critical assessment of that idea. Does it make sense to the situation? Is it feasible?
Both idea generation and assessment can be inhibited by past experience, beliefs, and bounded rationality. The higher-level competence, Mobilizing Innovation and Change, speaks to the need to get beyond those limitations if we are to be effective in the new realities of the business world.
Both students and graduates rated themselves on Managing Self at the same level as Communicating and consistently higher than Mobilizing Innovation and Change and Managing People and Tasks. In general, individuals felt most confident in managing time and multiple activities, in personal strengths that enabled them to deal with day-to-day work situations, and in identifying, prioritizing, and solving problems. They felt least confident in learning skills -- gaining knowledge from everyday activities and keeping up-to-date on developments in their field. The rational activities are stronger than the more cognitive ones. People feel they are more capable of managing tasks than engaging in conceptual activities like learning.
The common pattern when looking across cohorts is that Managing Self improves from university to the job-entry level and then steadily decreases to the stabilized cohort. It seems that when graduates enter the workforce, they feel confident in their ability to manage their own activities; but by the time they reach later stages in their career, that confidence slips. In the first years of employment, jobs are generally uncomplicated and well specified. By the time individuals have been in the job for a number of years, the demands have increased and the information required has become more complex. During the early career years, the work environment does little to help people learn how to manage their time and their knowledge base. Training courses focus on technical knowledge, information bombards from various directions, and time management erodes into crisis management.
Overall, males and females rated themselves equally in Managing Self. However, differences were found for the individual skills making up the competence. In all three years, females rated themselves significantly higher than males in time management and significantly lower than males in problem-solving skills. It seems that females are stronger in organizing their activities, and males are stronger in analyzing problems and developing solutions.
There is a significant interaction between cohort and year for Managing Self, implying that cohort ratings change over time as the cohort moves through education and work experiences. A particular change is seen in the early university cohort, where the confidence level improves for both males and females from Year 1 to Year 3. The early years of university life seem to have a positive influence on individuals' management of their tasks, time, and learning activities. At pregraduation, this pattern is reversed for males, who suffer a decline in confidence from Year 1 to Year 3. Females showed a slight improvement over the same time period.
Managing Self showed a significant effect on the ratings of Mobilizing Innovation and Change and Managing People and Tasks, indicating that the latter two competencies build on self-management skills. As for Communicating, self-management provides the groundwork for the more complex competencies. Successfully managing activities such that they are completed effectively and on time and dealing with daily pressures in a healthy manner frees up energy and time to engage in more complex activities and provides an example for others to follow. This exemplary behavior builds credibility when influencing the behaviors of others. The ability to stay abreast of knowledge and information, and to deal with issues that arise, gives a person the resources and ability to be innovative and creative. Having a clear understanding of the environment allows a person to see possibilities more readily than if he constantly has to sift through unknowns for potential solutions. An entrepreneurial mind is one that is both well informed and well exercised.
Bok (1986), in his report on higher education, emphasized the need to change instruction methods so that students learn to be continuous learners. His suggestion was to move away from lecture modes, in which students are passive recipients of information and knowledge, toward active and interactive problem-solving modes of education. Students need to learn how to learn and solve problems. Otherwise they will be restricted by the limits of the knowledge imparted to them -- knowledge with a half-life of four to five years or even less.
One aspect of learning how to learn is to understand the choices of learning. If employees are expected to take responsibility for their own stock of competencies, then developing that mind-set during the school years is appropriate. This starts with course selection. If curriculum is designed based on a matrix whereby courses are mapped out according to the specific and generic knowledge and competencies they provide, students can build their portfolio of disciplinary and generic capabilities over their four-year tour at college. When they leave the institution, they are aware of their own specific and generic skills and can promote themselves as bundles of sustainable and renewable knowledge.
Having made course choices in order to fill all the specific and generic learning options, students can expect that each course will deliver on both as advertised. Obviously, this has implications for the design of courses and curriculum. Teaching styles have to give students the opportunity to engage in the learning process and to solve problems by working the mental muscles within the class context, rather than just memorizing what is given them. The specific knowledge -- for example, calculating asset utilization ratios -- must be placed in complex contexts so that students have to look for the information within a case discussion and then apply the results to solving management dilemmas. This is exactly what will happen to them on the job, and they should be prepared for that reality. Learning and problem solving are not necessarily intuitive processes. Being challenged by the complexity of the situation to find creative solutions, and not throwing one's hands up in frustration, is the responsibility of the individual. Students need the confidence to do so.
That confidence can come from outside the classroom as well. Students who are involved in extracurricular activities, particularly activities tied to educational goals, will have greater opportunities and richer contexts for learning. A student who has to summarize her junior year financial markets course to provide an interesting and understandable exercise for a class of fourth graders learning about their world will gain confidence and appreciate the value of synthesis. When that same individual, five years into her career, has to make a ten-minute presentation to the senior executive on the key financial issues in a division's annual report, she will be practicing that synthesis.
Finally, educational systems need to teach and encourage students to manage their own time and organization. It may be inappropriate to assume that freshmen come in with disciplined self-management skills, but certainly by the time they reach the sophomore year, they should not need constant reminders about deadlines or requirements. Since one method of learning is through example, encouraging faculty to be clear in their communication and display effective personal organization would be helpful.
Managing Self is an increasingly important competence. Organizations face the inevitable tension between flexibility and control -- flexibility to deal with the increasingly complex world in which they operate and control to keep competitive resources effectively used. To resolve this tension, individuals will have to take more responsibility for managing themselves. Less managerial time and fewer administrative systems will be available to inform employees of what they are to do and how they are to do it. We know as well from recent surveys of young employees that their own flexibility and autonomy are key to their workplace satisfaction. The ability to manage oneself will be one of those areas that set successful employees apart from less successful ones and the satisfied from the unsatisfied.
At the Strategic Management Society Conference held in Mexico City in 1995, Sumantra Ghoshal and Christopher Bartlett provided a new view of organizations. They suggested that as complexity in the business world increases, the old view of human resources as the "organization man" is no longer appropriate and that a new philosophy of the "individualized corporation" is needed. (The Organization Man was first described by William Whyte, 1956, as "people who not only work for the organization but belong to it as well; the ones who have left home, spiritually as well as physically, to take the vows of organization life, and it is they who are the mind and soul of our great self-perpetuating institutions" [p. 3].) The scarce resources of today are not capital but people, particularly their knowledge, expertise, and information.
Ghoshal and Bartlett believe that to survive in this new paradigm, organizations must allow individuals to become the best they can; they must recognize and employ the untapped abilities that each individual brings to work each day. Under the old paradigm, the employment contract was one of loyalty and obedience. Under the new paradigm, the employment contract becomes employability based on performance, responsibility, and constant learning. Employees need to take responsibility for the company's performance and for their own continuous learning, while top management creates the context for renewal and ensures employees ongoing employability rather than guaranteed employment.
The context that top management creates depends on the resources available, the company's products, and the industry in which it operates. But the principle remains the same for all organizations: the organization needs to support the individual such that the individual has the resources and autonomy to make the full contribution expected. What this means for individual employees is that they need to take responsibility for their own role in achieving the organization's performance capabilities and for their own knowledge base required to carry out that mandate.
Hall and Mirvis (1996), drawing from Hall's previous work (1976), define the new organizational reality as a "protean career," "a process which the person, not the organization, is managing... shaped more by the individual than by the organization" (p. 20). The organization should provide individuals the opportunities and choices to engage in that self-management, setting their own goals, choosing their own preferred developmental activities, and being accountable for their own self-development. If the organization does not reward this self-development, recognizing the contribution to the individual's performance, at a minimum the individual's motivation will be lost. The worst-case scenario is that the individual's interest in the organization is jeopardized.
A subtle yet important role of the organization is to provide the resources and remove the restrictions to learning and problem-solving issues. There is nothing more frustrating than having to seek out people who have expertise in a particular area or to rearrange business meetings to accommodate rigid training schedules set by customer support services. Making it easy to learn or find resources is essential. If it is cumbersome to schedule and get to training sessions, or find people who can help work through a problem, none of this will happen.
If employees are supposed to manage their time effectively, balancing self-development with functional activities, the organization must not require them to engage in unimportant, noncontributing tasks. It can cut out the meetings and training sessions that look good but serve only to fill time, focusing instead on the training sessions that provide useful tools and information, provide opportunities for networking, and encourage stress-releasing activities that defuse the need to blow up at colleagues. In summary, it needs to maintain a culture of self-managed citizenship where the citizen is both an individual and an organizational member.
Linking self-managed career development with the new organizational realities, an implication exists for job structures themselves. As Mirvis and Hall (1996) point out, abandoning rigid job descriptions and classification schemes in favor of "self-designing relationships among co-workers and the relevant customers, suppliers, distributors, and so on" (p. 80) will make work activities more flexible.
For Mary, realizing that team skills are needed would be helpful. She could approach her supervisor and suggest a team skill-building workshop, or at least talk to her about how to function in a team. Recognizing her own shortcomings, as well as the value that she does add to the group, would help Mary deal with her frustrations in her new position.
In addition, Mary needs to realize that her own attitude is contributing to the Mystic Team's problems. She chose not to work on the less interesting manual and has avoided dealing with Benjamin's style. A head-to-head confrontation may be inappropriate, but consideration of the issues and analysis of what she could do would be helpful.
Mary should realize that she is not just a passive contributor, but should be an active part of the team. Even if her efforts are challenged by Benjamin, she can take charge of managing her own contributions and interactions.