Last week at the end of the highly entertaining Smartworking conference organized by Quora Consulting in London town, where I was pleased to be a speaker, I proverbially shat it. A young-looking millennial type came up out of the blue and asked me some probing advice about his own forthcoming career. Whilst I didn’t have the heart to tell him he had another 79 years to work and 39 new (and probably piss poor) on-boarding experiences to experience, it did dawn on me 1) how little we focus in the corporate world on building the workplaces that will appeal to my new mate in front of me and 2) how outdated my own experiences are now to pass on my worldly wisdom.
In the rearview mirror I could sell him the life experiences I was exposed to many moons ago when the 20th century was nearing an end and the world was a simpler place. And as a fresh-faced, wide-eyed youngster at the time, I lived in a 2 dimensional world of work :
- I was an underling and had to learn to know my place for the first few years.
- Respect the fact that the people with longer tenure in my organization had by virtue a more valued opinion (and a bigger office) .
- Listen to older HR people talk about themselves endlessly being distinct and separate from ‘the business’ to feed their own inferiority complex and allow themselves the narrative that ‘they’ (the equally awful internal client) never want x, y and z policy and process.
- The CEO was the all-knowing, hairy male bhudda, sent down from whatever God you worship, to keep us profitable. When it all goes wrong it’s culture’s fault and that usually means the HRD ‘gets it’ (and not in a good way).
Ever thought of what you are achieving day-to-day in the context of shaping an organization my new young friend would enjoy?
Think for a second that so many of those shaping the organization have a working universe populated typically by the generation Xers and from time to time the baby boomers of the board. Sometimes you get to walk past the office junior (aka the millennial) who has made it past the 2 year graduate programme without resigning or without the gumption to be a start-up CEO themselves. But in the main, that’s it.
In short, Big business, FTSE 100, Fortune 500 etc are, in the main, struggling to be attractive to the millennial generation by taking the necessary bravery to think longer than a day’s trading or a quarterly performance period or god forbid the annual budget. CEOs, deserving the HR teams they’ve created, are short of answers to multi-generational organisations after a career of business school teaching fixed on Taylorism and the enduring legacy of the silo and hierarchy in business. Let the next guy sort out the VUCA thing.
Now back to my dilemma last week. Had I not felt the eerie silence of the above hitting me between the eyes or the need to sing out the lyrics to the Specials ‘A message to you Rudy‘, my reflective side would have said to the young man to learn the ability to adapt, remain eternally curious and seek out the ‘opportunity’ no matter how small that seems. Keep up the good fight to keep simplicity at the core of your thinking and be comfortable with not knowing – that’s what the knowledge sharing community is there for. Oh and keep learning new skills as they become obsolete quicker than the time you’ve filled in the course happy sheet.
If there is one thing about the complete dislocation of work and society we are going through at the minute is – we’re all in it together and to resolve the disconnection with the rising millenials I’d encourage signing up to a bit of reverse mentoring though the excellent MyHRCareers or the CIPD’s Steps Ahead scheme if you can take a day off work to get through their paperwork. It’s a small step to reconnect.
Who knows, for the time it takes to sit through another meaningless presenteeism weekly justification of your existence meeting that we do so well in HR, you could begin to take seriously and practically the understanding of what our organisations need to adjust to stay relevant to the growing numbers of young people in work. Who knows, you might just be surprised what you learn.
Until next time.