As the world is evolving so is career management. Many factors conditionthe employment relationship. These factors are; Change such as outsourcing, Flexibility,such as training employees to handle many tasks, and Organisational structuring.The term “boundaryless careers” appeared in 1996 and covers 5 aspects. Thefirst aspect is that traditional boundaries are no longer relevant, they arebroken. The second aspect is that the employee has more than one employer,called a portfolio of work. The third aspect is to draw validation from all thedifferent employers.
The fourth aspect is external networks in gender, age,class, culture etc… Finally, the last aspect is that the individual has agency1.Even though the term boundaryless career is new, the main idea of It emergedabout 60 years ago with Gouldner2.After the appearance of neoliberalism allowing money to dribble down tothe people at the bottom with more privatisation and globalisation in the afterwar, boundaryless careers emerged.
The idea of a boundaryless career is thatthe individual takes charge of his own career path by allowing himself to differenttypes of employers and by taking advantage of many experiences. The boundarylesscareer puts itself in contradiction with past social ideologies. A career wouldtake place inside a same organisation “bounded” by a position, organisation etc…3,whereas a boundaryless career would require the input and experience of differentemployers from different organisations. Indeed, before the 1990s a person wouldget a job in an industry and would probably stay there for the rest of therelife. Employees were evaluated on a single skill and would perform this one fortheir entire life.
Most people could eventually evolve in their career insidethe organisation, they would maybe have different employers4.Today, with boundaryless careers many employees develop during their career differentskills and become therefor multi skilled.Multiskilling also comes from flexibility inside organisation. This flexibility iscan be found in diverse forms. An example could be Company A has various platformswhere workers go every day and a supervisor for each platform.
One day toreduce there cost they decide that one supervisor per platform is not necessary,so they decide to merge them and assign one supervisor for platform 1 & 2.After a while Company A would like to reduce their costs even more. For that,they decide that instead of paying extra employees for things such as, evacuatingthe platforms in case of a fire, they will train their supervisors to give themthe knowledge necessary to be able to do this specific task. Flexibility is amajor key to boundaryless careers, it is the first step to obtaining moreknowledge. In their paper on boundaryless careers, Sherry E.
Sullivana and MichaelB. Arthur, discuss about two aspects of boundaryless careers: Physical mobilitywhich the most commonly known and Psychological mobility. Psychologicalmobility is “the capacity to move as seen through the mind of the career actor”.What they put in light in this paper is the fact that boundaryless careers canbe found not only by physically moving from one organisation to another but alsoinside our minds. An example of psychological mobility would be, an individual Aworks in a company for a certain job. Though in his company there have been nointentions from him or the organisation to enter physical mobility, individualA has in mind a growth in his career and is anticipating how his career willevolve.5This analysis gives us a wider perception of boundaryless careers. Although boundaryless careerscan be perceived as a step forward in our societies it has many constrains.
Regardingcareer management practices in different countries, traditional careers and boundarylesscareers could be divided in different ways. For example, in the French context,age still seems to be a determining factor even though lifelong learning isstarting to be on the agenda. For expatriates, nomadic careers seem to prevail.
They combine international mobility with personal development, skillsdevelopment and career advancement. Even though the opportunities for growth inthe company that has expatriated them maybe unsure, they are ready to considertheir progression outside. Differentnations can also impact mobility whether it is psychological or physical.
For example,individual cultures will be more focused on personal development with equity,promotions and networks. In contrary collective cultures tend to directthemselves towards group satisfaction and will refer to the group/organisationfor gratification.6 Collective nations do not alignwell with boundaryless careers as they are based on the group success and notthe individual7. Forexample, Individual A is part of an ethnic minority in which they have alwayswork in the same factory. Individual A was able inside the factory to obtainnew knowledge and had various trainings.
This individual has been on the sameposition for now 10 years but would not see themselves anywhere else. They are satisfiedwith their work position and relationships inside the factory. This is atypical example of an individual that has earned knowledge inside a bounded environment.Although this individual would not prosper in a Boundaryless career but has succeededwithin its collective family. Individuals like this one find success in theircareer in a secure employment.
Low masculine cultures seem to be more incline toput themselves into psychological mobility and are less affected by physicalmobility. Indeed as seen with Hofstede low masculine cultures tend to be moreturned to relations and work quality. In contrary in high masculine societies,individuals are more competitive and would therefor be more focused on physicalmobility. This wold imply that high masculine societies are more nomademployees8. Low power distance societies also show moreincline towards boundaryless careers.
They want to build their own career andauthority has minor impact on them. Boundaryless careers as shownhas given the possibility to employees to be freer to decide their own careerand they have the power, the personal autonomy to choose the career path thatthey want and how they want to take it. In 50 years we have gone from the traditionalhierarchical career with employees mainly one skilled to a boundaryless careerwith multi skilled employees. In this paper we have seen how boundarylesscareers can be described by physical mobility but also by psychologicalmobility. This gave is a wider view of what boundaryless careers could be. Althoughthe boundaryless careers seem to be the new “must have” they are someconstraints to it such as: Gender, sex, cultures etc… Here we focused oncultures with the help of Hofstede. We saw how different aspects likeMasculinity, Collectivism and Low power distance affect negatively boundarylesscareers.
Indeed, in these societies individuals would not succeed in suchenvironment. They satisfy themselves with the organisation or group they arepart of. In that regard, Boundaryless careers does not place squarely freedomand agency in the hands of the employee.
Other factors come into account, likethe society or nation you have evolved in your entire life. Family pressure canalso take away the freedom of an employee who would like to break free fromthese society norms. Overall, boundaryless careers may be the future of employmentbut as to the freedom and agency of the employee in regard to this one there isstill constraints to slow it down.
It could be interesting to see the linkbetween the uprising of expatriates and boundaryless careers as they seem to beintimately close.