Juniorisation – a word to make you nervous…

Staff and their cost is important for any organisation. This gets lots of attention to ensure an organisation’s staff profile not only aligns with strategic ambitions and objectives, but also remains competitive, financially viable, and market-relevant. Discussions on the topic often take place under strap-lines like ‘outsourcing to drive efficiency’, ‘realigning the pyramid to support our strategy’, and ‘juniorisation to save costs and free up seniors for more valuable work’. There’s nothing wrong with having such discussions; they, and the subsequent decisions and actions, are crucial for ensuring an organisation continues to thrive. No more so is this true than in the IT services industry where ‘juniorisation’ has been an almost perpetual subject, and become a well-used word, for the last two decades.

The Badger’s first experiences with ‘juniorisation’ involved moving roles in Western geographies to India, and the replacement of experienced staff on a major contract with cheaper staff from the same territory to increase profitability. Looking back, there were many hidden challenges, things were not straightforward, and not all the intended benefits were achieved. One thing is certain, however. Staff whose roles were ‘juniorised’ – typically older, very experienced, loyal people who had worked hard for their company for a decade or more – became disgruntled, quietly disaffected, and suspicious. Loyalties to the company they’d materially helped grow successfully were shaken. Many found that promises of new roles or retraining were hollow, and some voted with their feet for pastures new. ‘Juniorisation’ – rightly or wrongly – became a euphemism for a devaluing of long tenure staff, dilution of the organisation’s overall capability, and an increased likelihood of being made redundant.

Many organisations handle those affected by ‘juniorisation’ respectfully, well, and with the utmost integrity. Sometimes, however, ‘juniorisation’ is handled deviously and disrespectfully, and can be just a smokescreen for ageism and exiting older, higher paid staff using back-door methods. Regardless of the country you work in, the Badger feels that if you’ve many years tenure and ‘juniorisation’ appears in the organisation’s rumour mill, or indeed in coffee point gossip, then you should always quietly prepare yourself appropriately! Always remain objective. But if it looks like you’ll be affected then re-read your employment contract, your organisation’s published staff policies and processes, and know your rights under local employment law. If you think age-discrimination is relevant, then formally complain using your employer’s formal processes. Hard-working, loyal staff with long tenure often place more trust in their organisation than is warranted. There is, however, only one thing to do if ‘juniorisation’ comes your way. Look after No.1. Put past loyalties and priorities aside because No.1 is not the organisation you work for, it’s you!

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