By Thornton May
Nov. 11, 2016
In the recruiting business, there is a rule of thumb: “Millennials are not that hard to attract, but they are hard to retain.” It is true that 70% of millennials, embracing the mantra “Work doesn’t have to suck,” leave their first job after two years. But that seems like a sensible motto to me.
Millennials do set themselves apart from earlier generations in the extent to which technology plays a major role in their identity. They tend to insist on the right to self-provision. This is a feature, not a bug. Wow, a generation that wants to use tech to get work done? Some of us remember having to beg employees to put their hands on keyboards.
YouTube University and the democratisation of knowledge
Everyone talks about the skills shortage, but is that really the problem? What if what is seen as a skills shortage is actually a result of employers’ addiction to Industrial Age work credentials such as college degrees and work experience? Autodidacts have discovered the power of “YouTube University,” but employers have been slow to recognize the potential. Workers wanting to learn a new skill or to pivot or accelerate their career can spend hours searching YouTube and engaging in various social media communities to develop competencies. It has never been cheaper or easier to learn new skills.
Instrumented shame campaigns
Optimism extends beyond the executives I talked to. The Dalai Lama is also upbeat about the future. The Tibetan spiritual leader is heartened by the emergence of global consensus on climate goals enshrined in the Paris accord on climate change, as well as by the emerging ability to measure the willingness of nations and politicians to get along with one another. In the future, it is more likely that people not able to play well with others will be punished politically and corporations that do wrong will be punished commercially.
HR becomes strategic
Historically HR was viewed as part of the problem. In 2017 and beyond, it is going to be part of the solution.
The “problem” is workplace dysfunction. According to Cy Wakeman, a therapist-turned-HR-guru and author of Reality-Based Leadership: Ditch the Drama, Restore Sanity to the Workplace & Turn Excuses Into Results, the average worker loses two and a quarter hours every day on the wasted emotional energy of workplace “drama.” Lynne Zappone, chief people officer at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, frequently tells colleagues that a communications “canyon” exists between the CEO, line managers, employees and the chief HR officer.
The good news is that via informed and courageous HR leadership, workplace drama can be significantly reduced and communication canyons bridged. Back in 2002, Christopher A. Bartlett and Sumantra Ghoshal told the world that strategy — typically focused on products and competitors — had shifted to talents and dreams. The HR leader, historically occupying the lowest rung of the senior management hierarchy, is about to step up.