Each year, Fortune puts out a list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. Using a 57-question survey that goes out to 400 random company employees, the researchers at Fortune compile statistics about the employers that do the best job keeping their employees happy. In 2007, when Google was atop the list, the list of amazing perks that Google employees receive made international news. For example, if you buy a hybrid car, the company will write you a $5,000 check. There's a sand volleyball court if you get bored and have creative block. There are as many as 11 different gourmet cafeterias open at one time – and free gourmet food is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week (Kopytoff). It's not just the food, though. You can wear whatever you want to work. If you're sick, there's a doctor on site to treat you. Need to do some wash? There's a free washateria. Did you forget to book that anniversary meal? There's a concierge on staff to take care of that for you. If you need to order takeout during the first month after you have a baby, the company will reimburse you for the first $500 you spend on those meals. All of these perks are expensive. However, the $2 billion profit that the company turned during the first three quarters of 2006 suggested that the investment in employees is worth it. The combined creativity on the Google campus turns out innovation after innovation, and the profits have spoken for themselves. Also – while those perks sound amazing, they are also designed to give workers fewer reasonsto go home. Why go home at 5 when you can do your wash at work and brainstorm until 9? Still, the company receives over 1,300 applications each day (Kopytoff).
It's been a few decades now since the era of the 40- or 50-year career with the same company went by the wayside. Our grandfathers expected to come out of college, work for the same firm until retirement, and then enjoy a generous pension that he could then pass on to his widow upon his death. However, in more modern times, the average person changes careers several times, and companies do not have the wherewithal to make large-scale commitments in terms of pensions and other benefits that they did in the middle and latter twentieth century. Employers now view employees as being more interchangeable than they did in the last century, and employees view employers through more mercenary eyes than they did in the decades when generous pension plans were the norm. Indeed, expectations have changed on both sides, as the nature of benefit systems, the speed of change in technology and in other areas, and such factors as individual mobility have affected job tenure status.
Since the advent of the computer age – roughly since the beginning of the 1970's – there have been a number of significant changes in the ways that employers and employees view one another – and view their tasks in the working environment. In Great Britain, the University of Sheffield's Department of Information Studies has followed its master's-level graduates since 1974, for the purpose of ensuring that its existing curriculum continues to adapt, so that it meets the needs of the present-day learner (Loughridge). For example, one change that researchers discovered an increase in the number of graduates from library information systems programs that went right to work in an information system position – and in positions that required some sort of management role from their information systems professionals. This represents a significant shift in employer expectations for the candidates that apply for their positions.
Far more people have finished graduate degree programs in library and information sciences than there are available traditional library and information systems positions. Over the past thirty years, several studies have indicated that these graduates have had to broaden out significantly in the positions that they are willing to accept. This shows some flexibility on the part of the candidates, as they are willing to apply their knowledge and skills in positions that linear thinking would not have suggested to them. Studies about the various destinations of information sciences students have looked at various employment ads targeting these graduates (Schauder, Middleton), as well as attitudinal surveys seeking the opinions of the young adults themselves about the job market (Genoni, Exon and Farrelly). In the Australian job market, it took several years for employers outside the library and information sciences field to accept the idea of someone with that degree applying for something other than a librarian position.
In the American job market, perception of the librarian and the library information services fields is one of fairly high respect. A significant trend in American libraries, that has taken several years longer than we expected to suggest that people who are having a difficult time finding information systems work diversify, is a desire on the part of employers to find candidates that are interested in electronic librarianship (Heimer). This new trend in information sciences would lead to the abolition of the huge cabinets of index cards, with one card for each work in possession, known as the card catalog and categorized by the Dewey Decimal System. Instead, librarians would start using the Library Congress classifications for books, making the Dewey system obsolete. Keeping sources online was a major part of this shift, as libraries were finally able to start shifting paradigms from having a paper copy of everything to getting rod of paper copies of just about everything. As in Australia, American libraries started to ask more of their employees, including taking on such roles as serving as a liaison with other departments. Supervisory roles were lumped in with the functions that go along with maintaining the records and sources in the library holdings. In 2000, a survey of over 250 online job postings for academic librarians. These jobs all have divergent expectations – particularly for those graduates who left to pursue careers in other fields. However, a study by White indicates that, in the field of information systems, the employer demand for such items as skills with technology is increasing. Also, the more advanced skills of manning the reference desk or developing the funds we'll need for a $30 billion donation make individuals at different values and different points in the spectrum. The key here is flexibility and variety; in the American market as with the Australian one, there's no way around the requirement that librarians and other information service professionals must be ready to perform multiple functions. Lynch and Smith analyzed the job market for librarians and came to the conclusion that simply maintaining the appearance of the library would not be enough to keep them fed. Instead, librarians must diversify in the things they can do, if they want to keep their positions, as more and more devices are added to the arsenal that the library has to compensate by having their employees work longer hours, if the rush insurance for that is already in place.
Looking at the available raw data takes these generalities and puts the information in a much sharper relief. Going back to the analysis of the Australian job market for graduates of information sciences programs, one instant impression available from the data is that the days of the librarian who gets to work in her office all day, coming out to help kids or teach the research classes on occasion, are long over. Now, librarians have to be able to substitute in a number of dire straits, they have to come up with multimedia presentations to serve as book talks – they have a lot more work when it comes to promoting the library and its programs.
Expectations for librarians, before they can teach a class by themselves, have changed radically in the past few years. The primary reason for this expansion, in my opinion, is the increased number of functions a librarian must perform. It's not enough to be in one professional circle; the recommended number is still under debate.
As time goes by, the job of the librarian will continue to evolve. Employers will expect more and more qualifications out of their candidate librarians, and the candidates will show up at interviews more prepared to advocate for themselves than they have been. While this might be said to challenge the existing conceptualization that people have of librarians, it should turn out to be rewarding. After all, creating new synergies is one of the most creative parts of any information services position. Librarians who put together reading tournaments, Clue tournaments and who host other activities that students will also enjoy a higher degree of advanced students, as these types of intellectual rigor are, in large part, what separates the top-notch schools from the rest of the pack.
There are some career paths in which the expectations from the employer have not substantially changed, at least in general terms. For example, in most sales fields, the emphasis has always been on production – the amount of revenue you’re bringing in. This is true on car lots, it is true in furniture stores, and it is true for home builders. Sales professionals have been under an immense amount of pressure since the very beginning of the use of commission as a sole determinant of income – if you don’t sell, you don’t earn any money, and if the company pays you, you end up having to pay them back out of your next month’s commission.
However, while the concept of selling is unchanged, the expected methods that sales professionals are expected to use has changed over time. The advent of the Internet has kept many consumers from doing much of their shopping in front of sales professionals; instead, they are using tools that grow more sophisticated and more accurate each day to determine for themselves the type of product they want, and the specifications they want. Most importantly for the sales professional, they even come in with an idea of what price they want to pay. While an educated consumer will usually come away with a better deal than someone who has not done any research beforehand, what this means for the sales representative is that there is usually less room for profit. So, in many sales lines, this means that sales representatives are expected to market not just the product, but also warranty packages and extended service packages that add to the cost of the product. This can be a good idea for the consumer, if the consumer doesn’t already have enough cash on hand to replace or repair the product under consideration.
Other expectations that sales managers have added to their representatives include monitoring and updating social media. Some businesses – particularly the automotive industry – may assign one or two sales professionals to handle Internet inquiries. However, for different industries, sales professionals are often asked to add updates on Facebook and Twitter, in addition to handling in-store responsibilities. The more outlets there are for communication, the more opportunities there are for sales – but that also means more work for those who depend on commissions.
Differences in expectations between employees and employers have been a part of the working world since the first business owner opened his (or her) doors. Maintaining an equilibrium between what employers want and what employees expect depends on market forces – in times of recession, employer expectations tend to have more weight; in a time when there is an economic boom, employees may have the pick of the job market, depending on their specialty. This tends to oscillate with economic conditions. For a human resources department looking to maintain long-term stability for a company, finding a happy medium is essential.
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