“Generation Y are looking for an experience, not a career”

In the US they tend to use the term “Millenials” to refer to those aged between 18 and 33 – what we call Generation Y. There is a huge amount of research available but what leapt out at me in an article this week was a statistic that said 50% of Millenials would rather have no job than a job they don’t like.

The implications of that single statement are huge. In particular for how we organise work.

According to a recent article in The Guardian UK workers output 21% less per hour than workers in the other six G7 countries – the US, France, Italy, Canada, Japan and Germany. The gap, it is claimed, has increased noticeably since 2007 when it was about 10%. So the UK has to focus on improving efficiency – or does it?

Ever since Frederick Winslow Taylor the focus in many businesses has been on efficiency – ie working in a way that maximises productivity. That permeates everything from job design to workplace layout. For example the mantra for years has been that open plan offices improve communication, collaboration and productivity.

However last year the University of Sydney published research based on 42,000 US workers in 303 locations. Its findings were that far from boosting productivity, open plan offices suffer from ‘uncontrollable noise and loss of privacy’. The researchers went on to quantify that those in private offices were significantly more productive. What is perhaps more important, is that two-thirds of workers expressed a dislike for open plan.

Which leads me neatly to what matters most at work: is it efficiency or happiness? For Generation Y it appears happiness wins hands down.

I have a theory about why UK productivity has dropped so much. It is people stuck in jobs designed around efficiency rather than humans, working for bosses they don’t respect, in environments that may be paragons of space planning but do little to energise or motivate people. Oh and objectives that are all about local expediency rather than contribution to overall business goals. In short: Corporate Prisoners.

The solution is a holistic approach to employee engagement that has little to do with annual “satisfaction surveys” and everything to do with creating an environment where people are energised to do the best they possibly can – not the least they can get away with. You see the only engagement that really matters is behavioural engagement: people voluntarily doing the right things for the right reasons.

The critical ingredients include:-

  • Designing jobs people actually look forward to doing
  • Creating work spaces that people want to spend time in
  • Developing leaders of people not allocators of tasks
  • Championing managers who grow not consume talent – including encouraging mobility across the organisation
  • Creating a coaching environment that allows people to realise their potential
  • Putting in place reward and recognition strategies that reinforce achieving the right results in the right way – not results at any cost

It’s a big agenda – but then that’s talent management for you.

Ian Gooden
Chief Executive

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