Yesterday I heard of an employer who boasts about deliberately hiring down-on-their-luck knowledge workers.  He offers workers low wages (monthly, not hourly), insecure contracts and bullies them into working long hours and performing ethically dubious tasks.

The conditions are Dickensian.

In other words a nightmare from a worker’s point of view. The manager thinks he is clever. Perhaps he is in the short-term. But it is a dumb strategy:

  • First, despite everything, while some workers are desperate now, most  still have options. Exploited workers will move on at the first opportunity. So an exploitative employer in any knowledge-based industry can expect to have an unstable workforce and be constantly getting new workers up to speed.
  • Second, the recession isn’t going to last forever. Sooner or later there will be another skill shortage. There are already signs of this in Australia. Employers with an exploitative reputation will struggle to find anyone willing to work for them. This applies to companies and to exploitative people.
  • Third, having downtrodden workers impacts on other staff. Those who can will ask themselves “is my turn next?” Staff will options will bail out.

If your employment strategy is to hire desperate people, you’re in trouble.

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