As this New Year starts and we all get back into the swing of work, or looking for work, or retirement, as the case may be, now is as good a time as any to reflect on what it means to be an ideal employee.

                Committed (old school):

There was a time when the ideal employee only needed to be “committed”, to his or her employer – whether in the public sector or private sector, and to a lifetime of employment with that employer.


Then the environmental movement came about, with the growth surge and popularity of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which led to a search for “conscientious” candidates for employment, in some industries and service sectors.  Truth be told, there are certainly a good number of employers who could care less, or who would even, perhaps, prefer those with no pre-set views or that fully reject prevailing “environmentally-correct” or “socially-responsible” or “politically-correct” or “anti-globalization” platforms; which platforms in some cases have brought-out quite extreme and obnoxious behaviours on both sides of the fence, as adjudged by the fence-sitters in that space, place, and time.  To be conscientious about the fighting issues and only those issues, is the raison d’être at one end of the spectrum.  At the other end, however, to be conscientious about the bottom line and solely the bottom line – to the point of blatant, repeated unethical behaviour or illegality in some cases, is highly valued.


Now, we have the “Social” phase, with potential employers themselves or through contracted third-parties, trolling criminal record and other databases, the Internet and social media in an effort to develop a better picture of the person and the “contacts or connections” of the person, who’s paper resume, personal video, multimedia resume, or LinkedIn or Facebook profile has been sent to their inbox, pasted on their private wall, or delivered by hand.  As a result of this highly disruptive paradigm-shift, the 5 (“five”) recurrent questions in HR circles, have now become:

(i) to whom are they connected;

(ii) where;

(iii) how;

(iv) what causes or entities do they like or follow; and

(v) how will any or all of this help or hurt us if we bring them onboard?

Alas, if you have no online profile, or too few connections but years of experience, then “some” HR professionals may well think you are hiding something due to the assumption that “everyone” now has an appreciable online presence and a large connection group through all of which the original data subject may itself, be or become far better known to them through open source and standoff means.

Unfortunately, the lack of an online presence or even a large connection group does not necessarily signify an issue.  I am sure that there are many people who have simply never gotten around to it, face restrictions on what they can post online due to current and former employers or their specific lines of work, or who have simply rebelled against what they feel is over-sharing and information overload.

To counter for this potential bias, it is likely high time to go back to the basics and focus on the “Committed” aspect, as in Committed (new school), in looking to the core of what an ideal employee is, or should develop into.

Committed (new school):

With a resounding yes, we can all agree that (at least in the western world and other parts that sincerely follow the western model), two core work assumptions are now gone, forever:

(i) that there is lifetime employment on offer; and

(ii) that the employment relationship is one with more obligation of employee to employer, than employer to employee.

Today, people will have more than one career, and often simultaneously; and there are a mix of mutual obligations and rights between the employer and employee – now codified by law and custom.  On account of this, the assessment of commitment is multifactor, multidisciplinary, and always in flux.  We can look at it through the 3 sub-elements of that commitment; being: (i) Culture; (ii) Competence; and (iii) Coordination.


Culture is a system of values, beliefs, and norms that guides worldviews, behaviours, and relationships. The employer will have a culture, and the potential employee will have taken in the culture of one or more societies or prior employers; resulting in quite a complex of motivators.  Organizations tend to be rather intolerant of newcomers who try to change the culture from the inside-out, once allowed inside.  If a person joins an employer after being attracted by the culture, then a later discovery of mismatch, or that the culture is not quite as it seemed, can lead to disillusionment, acting-out (in performance issues or whistleblowing), or separation – whether voluntary or involuntary.  Where HR speaks of “a good fit”, they are referring to their culture, and the likelihood that the potential recruit will both say “ok”, and actually decide to stay.

Behavioural interviewing is one way of assessing how the candidate will fit into the established order.  However, some veterans of the process can be very good at giving the right-sounding answers, only to be and present a later disaster.  This is why it is essential for the employer to project its true culture to potential hires, and for jobseekers to be true to themselves in their search and responses to interview questions.  If this is just to be a survival job, then what’s your problem?  Go with the right attitude and don’t try to change the whole place around you, if you know you won’t be there for the long-term.


Competence is that mix of skills, abilities, certifications, and knowledge (SACK) that makes the candidate attractive to a potential employer.  The potential employer may have listed a specific requirement, or the potential candidate may be targeting that employer, or working with a third-party recruiter who does the match-making as go-between.  However, in all cases, the goal is to get a match and have as many SACK-points in common as possible.

Here, we can get a better appreciation of that mutuality of obligations mentioned earlier.  If the person is hired to do a specific job because of his or her SACK, then where the SACK is not used or under-used, due to any or all of re-tasking, lack of work, or disorganization and mismanagement, then the new hire will not be happy.  Mental muscles not used will tend to atrophy over time; especially in fast-moving infotainment fields such as IT and graphic design.  In this way, candidates who are under-used, will soon become candidates again, so that they can get meaningful work that they enjoy.  While it is true that this is not always the employer’s fault, especially in a slowed economy where work can be scarce in some lines, the truth of the matter is that employees are now more focused on their own longevity and their own bottom line, as lifelong loyalty to the employer – even a government employer– is no more.  It is one thing to grow with the company ….. but the company has to be growing (or at least stable) when they get there, and not just presenting a promise of growth or stability at some indeterminate point in the future.  There are, however, differences of individual risk appetite, and so this factor may still vary.


Where the employee has accepted the culture and has the right SACK, then the only remaining questions are – (I) can he or she demonstrate an ability to coordinate these in delivering for the employer; and (II) at what level can he or she do this, and with or without additional training or supervision.  There are four levels: Planning, Leading, Undertaking and Understanding, and Managing (PLUM), and we will consider them out of order.

(a)          Understanding and Undertaking:

This is the résumé or covering letter excerpt that speaks of undertaking tasks with minimal supervision.  Can the employee understand simple instructions and undertake the work to deliver a satisfactory (or preferably above satisfactory) end-result?  This is at the basic level.  For the intermediate level, the question is can the employee understand the results of a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis and independently apply his or her individual effort to capitalize on opportunities and strengths (product placement or service excellence), or address weaknesses and threats (brand recognition, market penetration, or negative publicity).  For the advanced level, can the employee both plan and conduct a detailed SWOT analysis, and then coherently communicate the results to others?

(b)          Planning:

This is the capacity of the employee to plan or co-plan any combination of events, projects, compliance programs, or succession.  It would clearly include the planning of a program to address the results of a SWOT analysis at an advanced or intermediate level, or the planning of a discrete employee initiative – such as a training seminar, a new product presentation or service rollout, or a packaging concept or promotional design competition in an environment where the employer had initially encouraged such collaboration and input.

(c)           Leading:

Of course, these factors are presented in no particular order, and so the employee may be given a managerial role (over strategic projects, such as social media outreach) before a purely leadership role (of a shop floor team, for example), and at a multitude of available levels from front-line supervisor, through middle management, to executive assistant.  Specific roles will be determined by the available talent, and the organizational need for leaders of change, projects, teams, events, or training, amongst others.

(d)          Managing:

Some people have natural interpersonal skills, whilst others will have to be coached or trained.  The “naturals” will be easily and speedily recognized in those environments where management is alert and open to its in-house talent, and additional opportunities will be presented to further hone and apply those innate skills as and when found.  Employees can also be or become skilled at managing resources (finance, logistics, human resources) or compliance (legal and regulatory affairs, or shareholder communications) through education and training, and past or current work experience.


Committed, Conscientious, and Connected are still valid macro-level descriptors of ideal employees.  However, “Committed” is dynamic, with its own micro-keys of culture, competence, and coordination.

Constant growth, constant learning, and constant expansion of the SACK (skills, abilities, certifications, and knowledge) that one possesses and brings to the job negotiation table is mandatory – because everyone else is doing the same thing and competition is only becoming more intense.  Rent-seeking is also a new constant, as the worker should be constantly seeking-out and plucking the juiciest and most demonstrable PLUMS (planning, leadership, understanding and undertaking, and management) as assignments and means by which to deliver value to the employer, and further fill-out the proprietary and portable sack on the employee’s back.  “As I help you, I also help myself”, but in a non-selfish way!!

For the prospective and current employer, the key to recruiting and retaining the “right fit” is to have and communicate the right culture, seek-out (and actually use once onboard) the right competencies, and have enough “plums” in the air to offer:

(i) sufficient;

(ii) meaningful work; and

(iii) personal growth opportunities; with

(iv) job satisfaction; and

(v) benefits and work-life balance;

to keep people (and the sacks on their backs) around.  I refrain from saying “the right people”, because everyone who wants to and is given the opportunity, is capable of growing into a series of increasingly responsible roles.

It has often been said that the more things change, such as the “committed” employee, the more they remain the same.  Do you agree?



Ekundayo George is a sociologist and a lawyer.  He has also taken courses in organizational and micro-organizational behavior, and has significant experienced in business law and counseling (incorporations, business plans, contracts and non-disclosure agreements, teaming and joint venture agreements), diverse litigation, and regulatory practice.  He is licensed to practice law in Ontario, Canada, as well as in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., in the United States of America (U.S. business advising, outsourcing and cross-border trade, technology contracts, and U.S. financing).  See, for example:  A writer, blogger, and avid reader, Mr. George has sector experience in Technology (Telecommunications, eCommerce, Outsourcing, Cloud), Financial Services, Healthcare, Entertainment, Real Estate and Zoning, International/cross-border trade, other Services, and Environmental Law and Policy.  He is a published author on the National Security aspects of Environmental Law, and enjoys complex systems analysis in the legal, technological, and societal milieu.

Mr. George is also an experienced strategic consultant; sourcing, managing, and delivering on large, strategic projects (investigations, procurements, and diverse consulting engagements) with multiple stakeholders and multidisciplinary project teams.  See, for example:

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