Freud rightly said, “Love and work …work and love, that’s all there is. Today there are a lot of managers who overwork for survival and success. People slogging for 12 hours every day need the weekend to recoup. For some like Elon Musk work is love and they are most happy being there ( if possible 24×7 ). Their life is the work they do , their passion and purpose come alive at the work place …unfortunately not many of us are in that space . Over skilled managers are generally unhappy as their roles are more and more rigidly defined. Being busy is something that most people have chosen (knowingly and unknowingly) as it seems safer than being free. Doing nothing or even less work is scary for most of us as it’s seems unsafe . For some still stability and long tenure is what matters . Each to his own yet quality time that can be spent with self, family and friends could do with an upswing.
Especially, millennial generation does not seem to be more into life time employment ideas. For them it’s about alignment to purpose that seems to work better. Issues of job security, marriage, house etc. are less important than the earlier generations. They are more open to exploring and having a better quality of life. I hear a lot them say that I don’t need job security or bondage of marriage or the burden of an EMI for fixed assets (a borrowed lifestyle has its demerits) – I want to work at my pace in an environment wherein I enjoy working, have relationship wherein we cherish each other and exist together with love and care – happy to part when there is too much pressure, no need to OWN a house that takes away my peace of mind/ lifestyle for future security. For this generation, its meaningful work that matters and more importantly, the freedom to do other things for themselves apart from work.
What can organizations do?
Organizations need to broaden their perspective to come up with innovative solutions to keep their millennial employees engaged. It’s time to be a little more flexible and allow them to redefine and refine their roles and responsibilities such that it benefits both the employer and employee. Leaders need to stop the short-term focus on reducing head count and increasing productivity, rather they should start with allowing rejuvenation of people so that innovation starts thriving in small ways. A lot of them are yearning for a break or want to shorten their workload. It’s not about the stars which are shining, it’s about the stars which are not shining and need to be given an opportunity to shine. This can happen only when there is less competition and more time with people to commit for a deeper cause / purpose larger than themselves. It rejuvenates employees when they find time to work towards their larger purpose and a happy employee is beneficial to the company.
There could be several other approaches too. Say a shared services centre was created and people who were suitably qualified were enrolled on contract to work maybe 2 days a week. The manager who wanted to take some time off was encouraged to outsource some work and part with 30 % of her/ his pay. This must come with imposition of a rigorous process where handover and takeover issues are dealt with and long-term quality is not compromised upon. A new class of professionals would emerge, fresh thinking would come in, health would be better and societal inequality would get reduced. Work from home would in a way reduce energy costs for company, society ensures healthier and happier employees. Community working wherein there is ease of learning and contributing at one’s own safe space is required.
There is also a class of professionals who have become too comfortable in their jobs and don’t have much upward movement. They have been with company for life and have years before they can officially retire. In their minds they are already in semi retirement mode, fully in command and control of their territory. Always working to keep their turf safe and protected they have become bottlenecks in progress for themselves and others. Bright young mangers find them a pain as their boss and see them blocking the career path, so they explore and move to competition. Companies need to take stock of this and maybe explore dealing with this issue by dealing with the reskilling and reorientation of a survival mindset of long-term employees, using them as mentors or new project leads or by offering them part time work with assured benefits.
Organizations and governments should also start looking at policies that reflect the changing times, like guaranteed minimum wage for life, medical care for life or an alternate channel to use the employee/citizen’s experience and energy. The CHRO needs to think deeper, not only for the present, but also for the future. Say that the life expectancy is about 75 years and the retirement age is 60 years. The younger “freelancer” population wants to retire from full time work at around 40+ years. There is a 15-20 years gap on both sides that needs to be addressed.
Employee policies must take into consideration some new thoughts of lifelong employment/ connection. These can include mental support, active / passive engagement options, office is the new home (as maybe a lot single people will not need to rush back), post retirement assistance to remain active in a meaningful way, community service initiatives etc.
- Organizations also need to radically change for the benefit of their employees. A change in culture, mindset and ways of working (for example, implementing a new shared services model) will drastically change the way employees think and work. Old guard needs reverse mentoring for better mutual appreciation and understanding of a shared common language.
- Professionals too need to wake up and take up learning new things / ways of working so that they become energisers for themselves and others rather than being bottlenecks to change and growth of people below or around them. Being Comfortable with Ambiguity and Discomfort is needed.
We need to start sowing and nurturing the seed today for Rejuvenation of the work place and work force of the future. Leaders, you may agree or disagree but don’t be Disagreeable beforehand.
Naveen Khajanchi is an Alumnus of INSEAD. He is CEO of an Executive Search Service, an Executive Coach and a Family Business Advisor. For more details, visit: www.naveenkhajanchi.com and twitter@naveenkhajanchi
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal observations and have no semblance to any event or meant to hurt any individual or communities on their personal beliefs. The article contains references to publicly available material for which due credit goes to the originator.