• Sean Lewis

The Social Contract: Business and Employee Commitment to a Meaningful Recovery

Employer - employee relations were strained long before the current crisis. The present goal for business and worker should be beyond simple recovery, and focused on renewed commitment to each other for the betterment of all.



Whatever the “new normal” is going to look like, it is surely going to include a new competitive landscape for both workforce and workplace. Both business and employee will each have to offer more in order to compete with peers to be the chosen workplace, or the chosen employee.


Despite the current turmoil, this is the perfect time to put an end to the long-growing, whack-a-mole engagement & turnover paradigm for both business and employee by building real apprenticeship cultures that will close skill gaps and foster the solid foundations for stabilization, growth, and ultimately recovery. Moreover, because of the financial stresses that businesses and workers are experiencing now and for the foreseeable future, the combination of the apprenticeship model of “earn-as-you-learn” with the currency of commitment to each other is today more important than ever. In short, apprenticeship cultures are built on a foundation of trust and commitment:


·  Can you as a business commit to providing the work environment and learning process needed for accelerated growth, responsibility, and feedback? Can you commit to sharing a greater portion of the rewards when healthy balance sheets return?


·  Can you as an apprentice commit to dedicating the time, effort, and accountability to grow both personally and professionally? Can you commit to trading the short-term gains of hopping from one position to another for staying with an organization for the “long run” so that the business can benefit from its investment in you?


The commitments from business or apprentice cannot work without the other, so here is one possible framework to begin fostering the trust:


·  Begin with a commitment agreement signed by both parties. It should be structured so there are risks and rewards for both the business and the apprentice.


·  Co-develop a goal and outcome plan that meets the needs of both the business and the apprentice.


·  Clearly define the expectations and milestones of achievements along with time frames for both the business and apprentice.


·  As a business, commit to apprentice development by providing frequent, quality supervisory time, inclusion in strategic and decision-making processes, controlled opportunity for failure, and meaningful rewards for success.


·  As a business, commit to removing barriers to growth or policies that contribute to burn-out, such as toxic managers, outmoded expectations of time vs. work product, or inflexible schedules.


·  As an apprentice, commit to self-accountability and learning both “on-the-job,” as well as at home by spending the time to learn even more through reading and active research.


·  As an apprentice, commit to providing the same opportunity to grow the people in your sphere of influence by committing to the growth and success of the business. 


Prior to the current state, Small Business accounted for 48% percent of US employment. The number of businesses believing that they will reopen at all should the current state last longer than four months varies by industry, but the numbers are alarming, nonetheless. Whether a businesses is in the position to scale up, scale down, rebuild, or start anew, it should be considering what the business and work models are to be for the “new normal” of the next 18 to 24 months, and likely beyond. Regardless the position, the models should be built on the foundation of commitment to each other as business and apprentice so that, through the process of recovery, all boats can truly rise with the tide.


This is the opportunity today for business and employee to stand out among peers, with a common belief in the primary tenets of the role of business in our social contract, as well as the shared commitment to upholding them.



#newnormal #socialcontract #apprenticeship


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