I never thought I would say this, but it’s just fascinating to look at the new generation entering the business world. Smart young people with great education that have seen at least half of the world at an age of 22 already. Not only have they studied abroad or interned with a company on another continent, most of them have taken time off after having achieved their university degree in order to prepare for working life. Many of them are well aware that they will have less freedom and less time off once working, so they do what the generation of their parents dreamed of for the time after being retired: They take off for a few months in order to travel through Asia, Australia, South America, you name it.
Other than the generation of their parents, today’s young people don’t really fear not finding a job or not being able to earn their living. They have been growing up in a world where everything is possible and available. They don’t really fancy possessing things. For them it is more important that things are available for their use at the moment they need them without having a real intention of buying. So the need of earning a lot of money is a lot less. Apart from that, money seems to be earned very quickly these days. You can sub-rent your apartment when you are away. You can sell all kinds of used stuff online. You can swap things. And you can literally go and work everywhere with a student visa for a few weeks in order to let you bank account recover.
“This young generation
entering the business world faces their own,
very different challenges…”
Different to us, they start their job search wondering which company is willing and able to contribute the most to their career, development and work-life balance. Please don’t get me wrong – they are willing to work hard – but they want to make sure that they are compensated for it. The compensation they are looking for is not necessarily money, it is more about time, freedom, flexibility, trust and contribution. Especially at the beginning of their career when they might be asked to work on some less sophisticated tasks they start doubting quickly about what they are doing and if this is what they have been studying for. The thought that you just need to start somewhere in order to gather experience before you are asked to do the more heavy-weight stuff doesn’t easily come to their mind. They quickly experience work as being busy with something that makes no sense and not really contributing a lot.
“The main thing that young people want
is to do meaningful work!”
Asking young people what makes them feel being successful generates one common top answer: Doing meaningful work by contributing to the society and solving the major problems of our times. Wasting time by sitting around or working for companies that are still old-fashioned when it comes to structure, culture, management styles or even business model is the worst for them. Young people start their jobs with a lot of enthusiasm and motivation and have a certain imagination about a company they are going to work with. But often enough they find themselves disillusioned just after a while, because even the most innovative company run processes that might not be certified as ‘making sense’ by the young employees.
So more than any other generation our young people today demand to be taken serious from the first moment on. They are going to spend their precious time for a company so they want to be sure that it is not wasted. Being busy with something not making sense in their perception or doing things the way others want them to be done frustrates them tremendously. Also the old-fashioned model of being in the office for certain working hours – being busy or not during these times – is actually asked too much. They would rather work through evening hours or in the weekend, if necessary instead of sitting in the office during official working hours having nothing to do. They seem to be born with a distinct sense of efficiency.
In terms of employee satisfaction and retention it is important to understand the young generation’s way of thinking. They live according to a different value system than we are used to. Money and a steep career are less important. Meaningful work and being able to truly contribute is most important. Freedom, flexibility and independence are the main values for them. This is one of the reasons that many young people think about becoming independent or founding their own business even before they accept their first job. There is an unusual high number of students nowadays that is busy with their own little side business or with their business plans for the time after they got their degree. Some other young and bright people try “the old-fashioned way” and accept a job with a well-known company after university only to quit highly frustrated after a year or two. Most companies seem not to be able to adapt quickly enough to the requirements of the young people.
We are facing a generation of independent workers and entrepreneurs. A generation that doesn’t want to accept the former rules of work life but wants to create their own business world. As much as this is fascinating, it is a huge challenge as well. Many of them will not be available on the common job market in the future anymore which means that companies will face an even worse war for talent and will need to accept that even young talent will need to be hired as independent consultants on temporary basis.
Brave new world…