How a corporate mission can drive young workers away

Firms that don’t live up to their corporate values risk falling foul of their millennial workforce, writes Sydney Finkelstein.

A former student of mine called the other day. She’d worked at a major global company in the food industry, with primary responsibility for sourcing a key ingredient needed for a particular product.

Concerned about the environmental damage that came from traditional methods of cultivating the ingredient, and in light of this company’s professed mission of protecting the environment, she decided she would take the initiative and find an alternative source that was grown more sustainably.

But things didn’t go as planned. It turns out that the alternative ingredient was 25% more expensive than the traditional one, and her boss’s boss was not pleased. Despite countless company communications initiatives about sustainability and the environment, when push came to shove at this business, reality surfaced and it was not pretty.

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She was so disillusioned that she started looking elsewhere for an opportunity more in line with her values, and it wasn’t long before she had moved on. The episode marked the beginning of the end for her work at the company.

Transparency between what you say and what you do has never been more important.

In this case, not only did the company in question lose a good employee, but this former student of mine has friends, and ex-professors, and a social media presence, all of which could cause real damage if she chose to speak out about her experience. While she chose not to go public, many others do.

In fact, any firm with the temerity to lie to millennials, whether directly or indirectly, runs the risk of falling foul of its customer base and compromising its corporate image. Bending the truth, or not putting your money where your mouth is, is just a bad idea.

The dilemma

Here’s the dilemma. Every company knows that these days they need a compelling mission to justify why they do what they do. This is standard practice for most businesses and leaders. And more so than other generations, millennials are particularly mission-driven. So far, this sounds like a great match, a great way to entice millennial workers and customers alike, while striving for something meaningful.

But it may also be a trap, and certainly a double-edged sword.

The problem is that most mission statements (same for company documents, internal memos and speeches by senior executives on corporate values) make claims that are often not true. United Airlines is “warm and welcoming” according to their CEO, but it didn’t seem that way for the man who was dragged off one of their planes in April. Or, in the way the incident was handled by the company in the days after. And don’t get your Kiwi friends started on the kerfuffle with Adidas and New Zealand’s beloved All Blacks rugby team several years ago. It seems the company whose mission was “to be the best sport company in the world,” evidenced by what “consumers, athletes, teams, partners and media will say about us” were selling national rugby team jerseys cheaper in the United States than they were in New Zealand.

The only thing that millennials care about more than mission is transparency, integrity and accountability. If you tell millennials that you will do something, they actually expect you to do it, as opposed to earlier generations who may have understood that saying something and doing something are not always the same. Or, who may have understood that sometimes reality gets in the way of even the best intentions. In contrast, millennials are much more literal. You better back up the talk with the walk.

When this doesn’t happen – and let’s face it, modern business is complex and not everything works as advertised –  millennials react personally. And when you lose the trust and confidence of millennials, they are very unforgiving. So, now you have these millennials in your company, who joined because of what you promised, and it turns out that you were lying (or such is the verdict of millennials). Now you’re stuck.

Millennials, in particular, are adept at searching for information on things they are interested in, from all sorts of sources, and don’t always entertain old-fashioned notions of career loyalty. All of this makes it potentially very risky to adopt a lofty mission and not be able to back it up.

The answer

So what to do? The best answer is to have a powerful mission that you truly believe in, and to follow the implications of that mission when the tough decisions need to be made. Pretty much the opposite of what happened to my former student. Remember, people are watching, and they are watching more closely than you may think.

I won’t be the one to advocate for a weak mission, or a meaningless mission, or a vacuous mission. But there’s a risk to holding yourself out as superior to other organisations. That’s asking for trouble.

Perhaps corporate leaders should spend more time on creating a culture that brings value to employees – via opportunities to learn, via transparent progression programmes, via accomplishing something difficult or something important.

More than ever, career mobility abounds meaning people have more choice in where they work. Meanwhile, the boundaries between work and life are blurred, and our employers form part of our online profiles. Arguably, where you work says more about you and your identity than ever before.  Most employees want to learn and get better and want to feel good about where they are working. Millennials more so than just about anyone.

So, spend the time to figure out what makes people tick, what they want at their stage of career, and do whatever you can to help them get there. This is not about coddling millennials; this is about creating an organisation that is so attractive to the most highly educated and technically adept generation to ever come knocking at your door looking for a job that they will want to join, and stay.

Attracting and retaining talent – especially millennial talent – is one of the top concerns for corporate leaders around the world. More so than ever before, the answer has got to come from your culture. Make it transparent, make it about learning, and make it about integrity.

Read the article here.

Source: BBC Capital – By Sydney Finkelstein

Intuit: Gig economy is 34% of US workforce

The gig economy may be bigger than you think.

Intuit, the owner of TurboTax, is seeing the size of the gig workers first hand in its earnings.

“The gig economy…is now estimated to be about 34% of the workforce and expected to be 43% by the year 2020,” Intuit (INTU) CEO Brad Smith said Wednesday on an earnings call. “We think self-employed [work] has a lot of opportunity for growth as we look ahead.”

Smith was referring to freelancers of all stripes — those on online platforms like Uber and Lyft and also more traditional freelancers like plumbers and electricians. He cited an ongoing research project between Intuit and Emergent Research.

It’s the latest sign of the sprawling size of the US freelance economy — a sector the US Labor Department has self-admittedly struggled to quantify. New government data on freelancers won’t be out until 2018.

Specifically driven by the newer online platforms, there are about 4 million quintessential gig workers, research from Intuit and Emergent show. They expect that to grow to 7.7 million workers by 2020.

Related: Millions in gig economy can’t find better work or pay

However, it’s hard to get an official government count to know how many work full time as gig workers or just part-time, or whether they have traditional 9 am to 5 pm jobs and do gig work on the side.

Proponents of the growing gig workforce like to point out that it’s a way for people to earn extra cash on the side while pursuing things that they are passionate about. They say it is a way for people to be independent.

For instance, the global consulting firm McKinsey found that there are roughly 68 million freelancers in the US. They found that gig workers who do it by choice report being happier than in the traditional 9-5 role.

Still, troubling signs are growing along with the independent workforce. Nearly 20 million gig workers do the work because they can’t find better pay or jobs elsewhere, McKinsey found.

The Freelancers Union, which represents freelancers of all stripes not just ones using online platforms, claims employers stiff the average freelancer $6,000 a year.

That trend played out this week. Uber admitted on Wednesday to overcharging drivers in New York City for a commission. On average, drivers will receive $900 from Uber, though some drivers claim they’re owed thousands more.

Read the article at CNNMoney.

Source: CNNMoney (New York)

Infosys, Wipro, other IT companies exploring ‘uberisation of workforce’

PUNE: Pune-based Persistent Systems recently broke away from traditional practices by including several freelancers and consultants in a team that worked on a short-term project, a relatively new idea that’s steadily gaining popularity in the global technology services space.

It’s called the ‘gig economy’ or ‘Uberisation’ of workforce, where talent works on a demand-supply model, moving across projects and organisations as per the demand and their interest areas. “While this (Uberisation) isn’t seen yet at a mass level with services companies, it is starting to happen,” said Sameer Bendre, chief people officer at Persistent Systems.

“There are a few pockets where we are experimenting with it… We believe that there are a lot of opportunities in some areas for us to use it, like women returning to work after maternity leave,” he said.

Other Indian IT companies, including InfosysBSE -0.66 % and WiproBSE 1.86 %, are exploring the idea of an ‘Uberised workforce’. What is driving this trend is the changing preference of the young workforce more than the market uncertainty and political situation in their largest market, the US.

“With a greater influx of millennials into the workforce, all previous assumptions of what works to keep employees engaged and motivated are breaking down,” said Richard Lobo, head – HR at Infosys. “More and more, we’re dealing with a blended workforce, where full-time and part-time employees cohabit the same space, but whose needs are completely different.”

There is an increasing number of people who do not want to be employed full time, Lobo said. “Just as people have become comfortable using shared transport with on demand cars, employers will start looking at on-demand hiring of workforce for specific activities that regular staff cannot fulfil,” he said. Last year, when Wipro acquired US-based IT consulting firm Appirio that owns crowds-ourcing platform TopCoder, CEO Abidali Neemuchwala had told ET, “We believe that the future of work in the IT industry is going to get Uberised to some extent.”

Already, more workers are part of the gig economy in the US than employed by the IT and IT services sectors combined. As per a study done by Intuit and Emergent Research, the number of on-demand workers in the US in expected to double in the next four years to almost 9.2 million.

In India, the number of contract workers is currently pegged at 2.5 million, and may go up to six million over the next decade, according to staffing firm TeamLease Services.

While Indian IT workers taking on freelance projects in their spare time is not new, the big shift has been that Indian firms are opening up to the idea of working with contract workers or consultants.

Persistent is experimenting with a mix of permanent and contract workers on short-term projects in areas such as user interface and user experience (UI/UX) design. Informal estimates put the contract workforce at 29% of the total labour force in India, of which 1% is managed by organised players. Within this, IT employees make up about 18% and this number has been increasing.

Sudeep Sen, assistant vice-president at TeamLease Services, said: “With technology rapidly changing, the cost of reskilling employees is fairly high. With margins under pressure, it’s easier for a company to reskill 90% of their people and let go of the rest, filling those positions through contract workers as and when the need arises.”

To start with, companies are using freelancers in areas where it is easy to carve out work like UI/UX, design, high level architecture and voice/email-based support. Mindtree is using this for talent acquisition.

“We use a ‘gig-based’ mechanism in the form of a third-party interviewing platform for certain skills,” said Pankaj Khanna, head of talent acquisition at the Bengaluru-headquartered outsourcing firm.

“The platform evaluates, hires and monitors (maintains quality) technical panels who take up interviews for the platforms’ clients across the technology spectrum,” he said.

Read the full article here.

Source: The Economic Times

A job for life: the ‘new economy’ and the rise of the artisan career

More people are combining passion with profit in search of their dream profession

Whatever you think of the gig economy, it does throw up some amusingly bizarre jobs. Set Sar, of Providence, Rhode Island, told this paper in 2015 that he earns a crust by looking at videos and web pages on his computer while having his eyeball movements tracked via webcam. The information this provides is valuable to advertisers — and earns him a dollar every few minutes. In its higher echelons, the gig economy has led to an array of jobs with “consultant” in their title, as people find ingenious ways to peddle niche services to the rich. In New York, for example, “play date consultants” charge up to $400 an hour to teach the progeny of millionaires to share their toys.

The bad news (or good, depending on your viewpoint) is that none of this is going to change. Work is going to become even more bitty and insecure. The concept of a “job for life” has seemed outmoded for a while now. In the future, it seems doubtful whether “jobs” as we know them will exist at all. Many, of course, will be done away with by the much-prophesied automated takeover of everything from truck driving to brain surgery. But that is only half the story. Something more basic is under threat: the entire edifice of office-based, nine-to-five employment that has defined our working lives for at least a century.

The bargain employees once struck with their employers was simple: they handed their minds and bodies over for 40 hours or more each week, in exchange for security, pensions, mortgages. But today this model makes little sense. Many jobs — certainly most white-collar ones — consist of a range of different tasks, the majority of which can be performed by anyone with an internet connection. So why employ one person to do them all, when that also involves renting office space, investing in training, paying benefits and employing managers to supervise? Why not, instead, slice jobs up into their component parts, and contract these out to specialists? In many industries — pharmaceuticals, accountancy — this is already happening, as full-time employees are replaced by contractors. For millions of people around the globe, this is what the future holds: each worker a one-person corporation, a droplet in what some are calling the “human cloud”.

Such a future strikes fear into many. And it will, no doubt, have deplorable consequences. Unemployment will rise. Wages may drop. A new model of welfare will have to emerge, to ensure that those pushed out of the workplace can survive. (Universal basic incomes and “digital dividends” are among the ideas being advocated.) For the unskilled and un-enterprising, the fragmentation of work is especially dangerous. Blue-collar workers are already getting a foretaste of what may lie ahead as employers extricate themselves from their traditional obligations by forcing employees to work on zero-hours contracts.

Read the entire article here.

Source: Financial Times