Youth Employment and the Future of Work, Part 2 – Collective Mentality

In my last blog Youth, Employment and the Future of Work, I discussed youth today, millennials, their outlook and their readiness for work now and into the future, and what companies, organisations and training institutes can do to steer and better prepare these groups for the workplace and future careers.

In this post I want to explore another phenomenon I came across in my increased and intensive time with youth of late, their collective mentality. On the whole I’ve found they think in terms of we and us instead of the me, I and my that I largely hear in in the Gen X bracket. It’s not just youth and millennials however; there are many indigenous communities the world over who live their lives collectively, communally from a social and work perspective. Here in New Zealand the indigenous Maori people are a prime example. They care about the wellbeing of the group as opposed to the individual and identify more with cooperation over competition, interdependence over independence. I note too, the massive rise and fall of labour unions, from the peak between 1940 – 1960 and the steady decline ever since. So is collective mentality and thinking in the workplace cyclical like so many other things in life or are we about to see a massive shift in the world of work?

In my HR career to date countless times I’ve had individuals (Gen X!) complaining of workloads, managers (also Gen X!) who say to collaborate and share the load – but has this ever really eventuated? In some cases yes, but in most it’s paying lip service to a problem and quietly ignoring it and the individuals struggle on regardless. Certainly more of a collective mentality in the workplace, more we and us, would improve workloads for many individuals especially as these seem to be increasing at an alarming pace of late. So is this a solution? Real collaboration? Caring about the wellbeing of all? A more tribal attitude when it comes to workplaces?

I note that conscious capitalism is on the rise, I wonder if this is being driven by the increased number of millennials and youth in employment. This was a hot topic at the Festival for the Future I attended recently; over 100 youth/millennials whose voice was loud and clear about wanting to make a difference, wanting more equality for all, shifting wealth and changing political policies to benefit the wider community.

I’m wondering what effect this is going to have on the future of work – especially given there are ever increasing examples of collective thinking being demonstrated in organisations and many of these are or have been start up organisations run by millennials, our future leaders and the future of work. I predict more collective working examples of individuals coming together and working across platforms, disciplines and geographical distances on projects and pieces of work. I predict more collaborative working spaces, where individuals and organisations share not only workspaces, but ideas, clients and development opportunities. I predict organisational structures changing as people work more within large corporates, but without the restrictions of specific job descriptions, in areas where they can specialise and utilise their expertise. I predict hearing the terms holocracy and meritocracy with much higher frequency. I predict more contracting and less permanent employment, ever more start-ups and small to medium sized organisations as technology changes and continues to evolve and develop. I predict more mergers of larger corporates as they compete on a global scale and not just in local markets.

I could go on and on with my predictions, but I’d love to hear what you think. Both about collective mentality in organisations, youth employment and the future of work.

Conscious Capitalism – a force for economic and social good?

This is a diversion from my usual HR focused posts, but it’s a topic that keeps popping up in my life over the past couple of years, which is why I guess that conscious capitalism feels like something of a fad topic to me at the moment. A ‘buzz’ word or phrase of sorts – but in saying that I don’t in anyway mean to take away from the seriousness of it, and in fact it’s largely why I’m writing on it now. There are an ever growing number of respected business leaders and therefore companies globally subscribing to this phenomenon, this higher purpose in economics. But rather than focusing on what’s behind the growing momentum or where it all began, I pose the question what does it mean to you?

There are a myriad of definitions for conscious capitalism out there, so using all I’ve learnt from such avenues ranging from university to blogs, tweets to articles, to what just feels right, I’ve come up with what conscious capitalism means to me. Which is, being mindful of all stakeholders in the capitalist process. It’s bearing in mind all those direct or indirect stakeholders in the pursuit of economic profit, and ensuring there are no adverse effects. Businesses can, should and do have the power to affect greater positive change in their pursuit of profit.

And for me I break it down further. I believe it’s not just the businesses and those guiding and steering them that have a moral obligation to act in a “consciously capitalistic” way, but also the employees on an individual, everyday level. What are you doing towards conscious capitalism?

For me and my place and time in life it started with small easily managed changes and an honest attempt to persuade those within my circles of influence to do the same in their lives. This has meant such things as helping to introduce collaborative teams at work, working together to raise money and awareness, and to donate their time and available resources to a chosen charity. It’s meant a dedicated year to only purchasing or trading second hand clothes and shoes – no mean fete for a shoe loving, self-confessed, fashion lover! I’m happy to report that whilst I had a few slip ups during that year, it’s also become more of a way of life for me, and influenced others in my personal and working life to also hold regular clothes swaps and the like. It’s about teaching my daughter the value of food and material objects; about people and communities who aren’t as lucky as she and to give back, to always be mindful of her actions. It’s about supporting local, sustainable enterprises where possible, about giving back and being mindful of what we consume on a daily basis.

From here I believe as individuals we work up. By this I mean that by starting small, but affecting “consciously capitalistic” change in everything we are capable of doing, we all have the power to affect change in big, even global proportions. And I don’t mean to panic anyone with my grandiose statement. My examples are small; I sat and actively thought about what I could do at my level to make a difference. To start with I volunteered time and energy to very local causes that needed help – prime example many years ago when a Kindergarten was built down the road from my house, and despite being years from even thinking about having a child, I gave my time to build retaining walls. It started small, but once I started I continually saw ways to further and continue the path I was on. The more I look, the more I still pay attention, and therefore the more I can do. I guess this is where the mindfulness comes in. What can you do today? By starting in our personal lives, we will consciously or unconsciously affect the change in our working lives also, on a daily, weekly, monthly, annually basis. And so on.