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.

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Where have all the Millennials Gone?

I’ve been posing the same questions to most of the Agency Recruiters I’ve met with over the past couple of months (they are many) and it goes along the lines of “Are you finding a skills gap in the post university, couple of years’ experience under their belt, mid-twenties (ish), talent market?” and “Is it industry specific or across the board?”. The answers…yes and across the board.

I found this somewhat relieving in the one sense. As whilst I’m recruiting in the media industry the breadth and depth of roles is vast from sales & marketing to creative, IT, editorial, accounting, events, call centre, production and machine operators to name a few. So it was nice to know it wasn’t just us. I’d kind of already worked this out given for most of the role we advertise we’re (thankfully!) inundated with quality candidates and haven’t had much trouble finding talent to fill the roles.

However, when it’s come to those roles that are not entry level, need qualifications and a certain level of skill set, the next step or two up the ladder from graduate, it feels like a ghost town with tumbleweed blowing through. Now this is something of an exaggeration and I realise that – we’ve hired some awesome people in this bracket, but they’re hard to find, tough to convince, know their worth and where they’re going – and rightly so. I’m not sure what we should be calling them so forgive the broader term millennial in the heading!

I’m blaming it on the all-important OE. Something of a Kiwi tradition and coming of age, not specific to New Zealanders, but an ongoing phenomenon of our society none the less. I’m also blaming it on the OE not being the same as it used to, and the group we’re seeing in this stage of their lives now being somewhat more on to it than those who’ve gone before in terms of what they’re getting out of the OE. What was once a one to two year stint in London where you took whatever job you could get because let’s face it, the job was necessary to fund the ongoing partying in the likes of the Church and the Walkabout, house parties where 14+ Kiwi’s and Aussies were all dossing down together and jaunts around Europe whenever and wherever the funds allowed. And they were undoubtedly fun, character building and an opportunity to make friends for life and create memories you probably won’t tell your grandchildren about; but they weren’t about career. As a result when returning home to NZ these people were there to fill the gaps they created when they left in the market, and as everyone was doing it there was a continuous churn in and out.

This generation though are doing it different. They’re going over to do the partying, see the world, build character, relationships and memories; but they’ve also got career in mind. They’re arriving in London and the likes with jobs lined up in specific, strategic industries and organisations to ensure it’s a career building and development/growth exercise as well. And it’s working. Smart. These people are coming home far more experienced than when they left; they’re getting international exposure to markets much bigger and in some cases more advanced than ours (some cases not!) and on return they are no longer at the level they were when they left. In most instances they’re considerably further ahead than that in terms of skill set, experience and salary level. And here’s where the gap in the market becomes evident.

I don’t know what the solution to this is. I commend this group on their foresight and career planning. Not just career planning, they’re life planning too – coming home able to buy houses in the Auckland market which is something out of reach now for so many, but that’s another story.

I wonder what effect Brexit will have on this phenomenon, if any? A couple of people I’ve spoken with have ventured that it may strengthen the somewhat dormant Commonwealth and see a resurgence there. Others have suggested with travel getting harder for those on British passports the OE’s won’t last as long. I wonder whether we should be doing more to grow and develop these people within NZ and our organisations? Will we revert to careers here with overseas travel as holidays as opposed to the extended terms of one and two years? As I say I don’t have the answers, but I’m looking for them, so I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, experiences…..and potential solutions!

What’s the Point? Finding Your Purpose.

I’ve stolen the first half of the title for this blog from Jonathon Hagger, after reading his post “What’s the Point?” directly after I read David Cullen’s #NZLead tweet chat recap “Why do we work? Meaning in the Workplace”. Both struck a chord.

It’s no secret that work’s been pretty busy for me of late (always if I’m honest!), but the coming together of three of NZ’s biggest media players has definitely been a game changer and one that’s been incredibly exciting to be a part of. The values and purpose of the three individual organisations have changed somewhat, but also remain largely intact within the new, larger group company. We have a new shared sense of direction in our vision and mission as a group. But how has this worked for individuals? Sure, there have been changes and therefore the why has changed for some people and in the course of this I’ve had some very frank conversations with numerous talent within our organisations and asking them similar questions to those posed in the posted linked above has yielded some interesting outcomes, situations and realisations.

For some people their drive and their purpose is to affect greater change. They may not align and be in utmost harmony with the wider group at this point, but they see an opportunity to make a difference and are striving towards that – these are the people who think big, the disruptors, those that will change the face of workplaces in the world. Then there are those who do buy in to the company “way we do things round here” and are if not 100% behind the purpose of the company then they’re close to it. This is something of a seamless alignment in thinking and an ideal, most people would be striving to find in life.

The opposite end of the scale from the descriptions above are the actively disengaged, or aligned and those who are indifferent. A complete disharmony between employee and organisation is a dangerous situation to have in play as these people may be actively working against the organisational purpose and/or attempting to persuade others’ away from it. Those who are indifferent will do less damage internally and externally to the employer brand and culture, but from a productivity perspective are equally bad for business. Hopefully there aren’t too many of these in a business, but if so it’s in these instances that organisations should be able and brave enough to have upfront conversations with people to help them find their point, purpose, why – whatever you choose to call it. Help them recognise where their strengths lie, where their skill sets are better suited, where they will feel happier and more fulfilled in their work. It may be that these people were once “on the bus” – but as technology, business, and the world around us changed they may be surprised to find that they no longer “fit” with the organisation they’re in. They may need help in recognising this, and in finding alternatives and seeking out their point or finding a new environment where their point aligns with company purpose.

If done well people will thank you for these difficult conversations. It may not be straight away, and it may take some considerable time before they’re ready to make a move or to try something new. But in the end it benefits both them, the original and the new organisation.

I’ve found through these processes too, that sometimes people may be unsure of their purpose, but realise in having a conversation with another that they do share the vision or direction of the organisation; so managers, HR and the like need to ensure they take the time to have open dialogue with talent within the organisation. Many times I’ve had people walk into my office feeling uncertain, or unclear, worried about change and the like, but having vented and received feedback, or a different perspective on the situation they’ve left feeling happy and clear in their future direction.

And to answer the questions???

My purpose is people. Communities within workplaces. Open conversations with real feedback. Finding meaning in work. Creating thriving workspaces. Showcasing, developing and attracting talent. Working smarter, utilising technology. Successful change. Growth & future. My purpose is people.

Following the Fashion Pack

It’s Fashion Week in NZ at present meaning Auckland city is abuzz with fashionista’s, designers, models and the rest, donning their up to the minute threads, partaking in shows, bubbles and commentary and generally entering the who’s who world of fashion. I don’t for a second claim to have any authority on fashion, however I like to have fun with it and every year take a keen interest in the way the city changes for this one week, the way all of a sudden it’s more vibrant and people are taking more care with their looks – and their attitudes, and it feels like something of a celebration. I’d love it to feel this way all the time as I love the diversity it seems to bring with it.

Another thing Fashion Week brings with it is coverage and commentary on my desk this morning arrived the “Viva Daily”, The NZ Herald’s guide to NZ Fashion Week, and one such advice article caught my attention: How To Talk the Talk at Fashion Week by Dan Ahwa, describing eight ways to sound like you know what you’re talking about in and around the shows. It’s funny, witty and in a lot of ways true though I wonder what the true fashionista would think of it?! It also got me wondering about buzz words, phrases and actions in HR.

Are you an HR person or department who’s following the pack? Are you ticking boxes, dotting i’s and crossing t’s because that’s what you’ve always done? Or because that’s what you’re being told to do or say? Are you working inside the square of what’s expected of an HR department keeping to the routine? Recruiting through newspaper ads and job boards, inducting through scores of policy and paperwork, completing bi-annual performance reviews that are time consuming and cumbersome, offering the same training and development courses as you have for the past five years or more? Because if you are I have a Fashion Week challenge for you. Stop. Stop what you’re doing, sit back, look at it objectively and honestly answer to yourself whether it’s really adding value. Because I’m not saying there isn’t value in all of these activities, but I am challenging you to be sure of it. If they’re not, scrap them. Change them up. Do something differently. And if they are adding value – could they be better? Simplified? Could you improve process through technology?

I notice people are braver in Fashion Week. They wear more colour, they pull out those pieces in their wardrobes they usually deem for “best”, they take more time with hair and make-up, coordinate the outfit, shoes and bag. They’re not afraid to try new things or wear items way outside of their comfort zones. So there’s my challenge to you HR folk, get out of your comfort zone. Try something new, try not doing something or try changing something up…what’s the worst that can happen? If it doesn’t work you can always try something else. But you just might find you like the new, simpler or more dynamic ways of working – and no doubt your teams and organisations will too. People love change when it’s done right and communicated appropriately, so bring them on the journey with you and encourage them to do the same.

Be one of the leaders of the brighter future for your organisation and blaze your own trail for other people to talk about. Don’t sit back following the fashion pack, get involved, and create your own fashion (HR) movement.

Book Review: THE HUMAN WORKPLACE; People, Community, Technology. Amanda Sterling.

The culmination of a weekly tweet chat into a tangible resource for future learning is a credit to Amanda, her dedication and hard work in pulling it together  is exceptional and that’s not to mention the incredible breadth and depth of the international community she’s built up in the process. But back to the book. When Amanda first mentioned she was curating, compiling, writing and researching to pull together two years’ worth of the #NZLead chats into a book, I have to admit part of me thought she was mad (afterall she was originally planning to write as part of NaNoWriMo, which just seemed too huge), but another, larger part of me respected and admired her for it.

These tweet chats are real. They’re on-going, they get messy and way off track at times. There are some incredible lightbulb moments, a massive amount of learning, sharing of ideas and likeminded attitudes. But there are also challenges, at times debate and through all of this courtesy, camaraderie in many ways and a common desire to see a better world of work. Amanda has sewn all of this into her book. Using the real language of the tweet chats, and explaining the jargon, new concepts and the like in a manner that will ensure those inside and outside of people related roles will have no problem in following through the themes of the book. It’s as real as being in the conversation, yet structured in such a way as to lead the reader on a journey.

Overarching themes for me in the book are Culture, Collaboration, Leadership, Authenticity and Technology; all being at the essence of any “humane workplace”. And here are some quotes from the book that particularly resonated with me on these constructs:

“Leadership is not a one off event, a package or a methodology”

“Keeping people involves good old challenging, meaningful work, and a positive culture”

“Organisational Culture can become the most powerful piece in your recruitment arsenal”

“The kinds of organisations we need to create have to reflect the technology itself: open, collaborative, inclusive and connected”.

This book is a must read for anyone in the people professions; HR, OD, L&D, Recruitment and the like. In particular, those looking to develop and grow these roles into the future. You may be challenged, you may be nodding your head in agreement, you may encounter new ideas and concepts. And best of all if you’re not already involved you may feel encouraged to contribute to the #NZLead community now and into the future, for here is an on-going, evolving conversation for the better of future workplaces. And I use the term conversation loosely – as it’s my hope it’s more than that, not just a conversation but an action.

If there’s one takeaway I could possibly give you from the book and everything #NZLead has taught me it’s “Get Social”. For professional development, networking, conversations, collaboration, support, practices and learning, be brave, get out there – if you haven’t already you’ll be amazed at what’s waiting for you. If you’ve dipped in and skirted the edges, get involved; you won’t regret it. Search. Sort. Share.

To quote the book again “Information is no longer power: now it’s about networked intelligence” think on this for a moment in terms of my takeaway themes in the book: Culture, Collaboration, Authenticity, Leadership and Technology, then keeping these in mind, I leave you with this final thought “ The new workforce is a community, not a corporation”.

The Humane Workplace can be purchased here.

#HRLeadersSummit

I was lucky enough to be invited along to the HR Leaders Summit in Auckland this week, by the wonderful team at Drake NZ. Described as a high impact day addressing the changing face of HR, there were four speakers who were highlights on the day from me.

 Steve Tinghe, Business Futurist, opened with three key concepts for working back from the future – reimaging business and HR.

  1. Awareness of the emerging change.
  2. A broad and flexible sense of strategic identity. Senior Leaders need to take care to have a broader than internal sense of corporate identity, don’t become too introspective.
  3. A process for strategic design. In the information age we’re acquiring more data to make sense of the changing environment for competitive advantage; firms don’t need more information, just help applying and optimsing what they already have

He further discussed the need for strategy to be seen as a resource that needs time and energy and encompassing five key elements: Future, Creativity, Collaboration, Learning and Process.

The three words left with me after Diane Edwards, Ports of Auckland’s, address were Challenge, Culture and Courage. Entitled Change management and using HR to promote sustainable values, her session described the changes at PoA that enabled them to achieve a five year plan in only three years with some incredible profit and people results. Key strategies included:

  • Leadership courage; large scale restructuring, taking on the unions and chaining the culture.
  • Working together, reinventing relationships through communication, alignment, centralisation and integration. Show consideration and create partnerships.
  • Address poor behaviour head on; including the likes of zero tolerance on bullying and a focus on health and safety.
  • Breaking down hierarchies; such as getting exec’s out working on the wharf monthly.
  • Doing things better; competency frameworks challenging improvements and innovation, weekly WIps in place of annual PDRs and a customer focus on diversity of thinking.
  • Diversity and Progression; focus on moving women up, on progression through merit and job fit, aptitude testing and increasing flexible contracts.

Their results spoke for themselves, in turns of productivity and dividends returned to rate payers.

Kate Nuttal, Air NZ, though from a completely different perspective and starting point also told a pretty impressive story of the transformation Air NZ has been through in the past two years. Her five key takeaways were:

  1. Give people a sense of purpose, and connect to the vision. Small actions can make a big difference to the bottom line.
  2. Measure performance in a meaningful way and clearly differentiate high from low. Stop, start, continue mentality coupled with real conversations and staff development.
  3. Build great leaders and a robust talent framework. Leadership builds culture, creates engagement, promotes performance. Talent matrix hugely important.
  4. Truly collaborative with people (high performance engagement), connect with your people.
  5. Building employee capability in those areas that are a priority for the company. EG: sales capability – reward & recognition, sales cycle, capability model and collaboration.

The points Kate claimed made all of this work for Air NZ were: leadership by example, transparency, having difficult feedback conversations and coaching.

The final speaker also resonated strongly with me; Kylie Holton of Woods Bagot Australia on redesigning the workspace – a creative vision for the future. Kylie described building architecture and interior design in HR terms:

The main trends discussed were:

  • Culture & Brand; be original based on drivers of the business. Be authentic, show who you are and what you do.
  • Flexibility & Agility; re configuring spaces for project based work through furniture & infrastructure. Creating choices over when, where and how you work.
  • Model Shift; hierarchical to project based. Flexible furniture and walls (spaces that move and change).
  • Connection & Collaboration; people come into buildings for different reasons, and want to connect with the building differently, so creating scenarios for people to bump into each other. More break out spaces and virtual tools for engagement. Formal and informal work zones.
  • Innovation; spaces supporting productivity & innovation through freedom of choice and customisation.
  • Health & Wellbeing; natural light, planting and more sit/stand workstations.

It was interesting and incredibly positive to see so much alignment between our future working spaces, and evolving ways of working.

Something else interesting about this conference was that despite the references for leaders, HR and employees to all be more involved with social media, there was extremely little engagement with this during the conference. Chris South, Prominence, even encouraged it at the end of his session on Attracting the very best talent: The latest tips and tricks (which by the way was excellent and I got more tidbits that I missed from seeing him at IT18NZ), but to no avail. Hopefully attendees will take this on board, and hopefully those in Amanda Sterling, NZLeads’, session on HR in the Cloud – Changes and benefits of collaboration were encouraged also, so that next year we might see more sharing, conversations and networking as a result.

The Only Constant is Change

As with most of us working in the HR and related realms I’m regularly involved with and talking to people about change management. Change management is an ongoing and ever evolving beast reflecting one of my favourite quotes, whose origin I’m unsure of (but please enlighten me if you know) “The only constant is change”. Given the way the world is moving and the speed with which technology is continually shaping and reshaping work and work practices it pays to be open to change, and in roles such as ours to get change right.

I hesitate to say get change “right” because in this rapidly moving world with its constantly changing facets can we really get change right?  I propose taking practices from currently popular methodology such as Agile, Scrum and Lean principles and adapting or implementing them into our change management process would go a long way to achieving the desired result. By utilising continuous communication and integration, a feedback loop, specified time frames for decision making and implementation, remaining flexible and having a “right” for “right now” approach Change Management has the ability to transform from a phrase and situation many employees fear to one they can understand and work or be lead through.

This is where the human aspect comes in; by remaining mindful of individuals and stakeholders, treating them with respect and dignity throughout the change management process along with suggested methods above would, I believe see a successful outcome.

A successful outcome for most organisations is one whereby employee engagement and corporate culture is maintained (assuming these are not the targets of the change!) and where there is little to no impact to resulting productivity.

I started this post some time ago, and have been prompted to finish off and post it after two things that crossed my path yesterday. First was Anna Russell’s article The Silence of Suffering which discussed a recent workshop on leading teams through change – a constant in a corporate environment. She related her experiences in the workshop to those of a professional athlete with some insightful suggestions and solutions for teams and leaders.

Second I participated in the tail end of a weekly twitter chat with a fantastic community of contributors lead by @lizardvanilla, the recap of which can be found here. The discussion was around leadership through uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, the styles and values needed in leaders to do so and how they might foster organisational agility. Some fascinating points of view, all largely reflecting my post above.

Final thoughts…change management and transformations within corporate environments need to bring the employees on a journey, get them on board and include them from the outset through communication and genuine feedback. Lead and teach employees to become agile thinkers, to accept change as a constant and an opportunity. Encourage leaders, employees and those in transformational roles to remain flexible and make the best decisions possible with all resources and information available right now – and be prepared to change tack!

Reading List…

I’m wondering why it is that of late (and I’m talking the past year or so here) that I’ve stopped or almost stopped reading books? I used to average at least a book a week, meaty, thought-provoking books; both fiction and non-fiction with a massive array of subject themes and subject matters.

So what’s changed?

A couple of things I’ve concluded. SoMe to start, I threw myself into learning the likes of twitter and Google+ last year, both of which were goals of mine I feel I can now reasonably successfully tick off (reasonably because I seem to have slowed down on the Pinterest front!) and have been making a point of reading a lot more blogs etc every day. Secondly work’s kicked off in a major way with the integration of three big players in the NZ media game. And thirdly life! A now five year old, moving house, numerous conferences, overseas trips (yay!), friends, family, exercise…that’s probably more than thirdly! But as a result there are a number of books I’ve been meaning to read and so here begins my reading list, in no particular order as some I’ve been physically carrying around for months and others I’m still waiting for:

  • Reinventing Organisations; Frederic Laloux
  • Robert Plant; A Life – The Biography; Paul Rees
  • Training Bites; Angela Atkins
  • The Humane Workplace: People First – A Book Project; Amanda Sterling
  • Putting Social Media To Work: A Practical Guide; Gemma Reucroff & Tim Scott

What else should I be adding to my list? All suggestions gratefully accepted! To help you with this I love old rock, HR, L&D, new & developmental thinking, autobiographies, over coming the odds, Wilbur Smith and the odd trashy “chick lit”…not too broad I hope?! 🙂