Last week a report from Age Wave and The Concours Group concluded that a growing number of young Americans are dissatisfied, disengaged and unproductive, to the extent that many constitute a negative influence in the workforce.
The same theme cropped up again in an excellent piece by David Batstone on worthwhilemag.com, in which he explored that fact that workers in their 20s are not willing to sacrifice their lifestyle and personal identity for a paycheck – meaning that the old carrot-and-stick approach to management just doesn't work like it did with their parents generation.
He hits the nail on the head when it comes to identifying the root cause for the collapse of the traditional work ethic.
Younger workers are less likely to channel their passions into a job. They are apt to see work as a means to an end. The work week gets them to the weekend, and that's when the fun begins. They are wise to the transitional economy. They know that employers will not show them loyalty over the long-term - they have watched their parents pass through an uncertain career. So they see the job as a short-term contract that can be renewed, by both parties, as long as both parties are satisfied. This generation serves as its own free agent.
In other words, organisations are reaping what they have sowed. After all those years of restructuring, downsizing and corporate scandals, is it any wonder that 20-somethings feel pretty cynical about the entire 'working contact' ? Employers have demonstrably failed to deliver to their people, so why should they expect unstinting loyalty in return?
And as recruiter Steve Huxham pointed out here recently, most employers still don't seem to grasp the momentous challenge that this poses to them because they forget that technology has given today's young (and not-so-young) workers the opportunity to make a distinct choice between corporate life and working, in whatever capacity, for themselves.
The upshot is that attracting talent no longer requires just selling an organisation as a good employers. It demands re-evaluating and re-packaging the entire notion of what it means to work 'for' an organisation in a formal capacity.