Wall St. and Business Wednesdays: Balancing Life And Work by Brandon White
As the baby boomers retire, some companies are starting to realize that their employees happiness is more important than their salary.
I read a great article on CNN that asked what Generation X are seeking out of their employment. At 23, I am considered Generation Y, but I wouldn't be surprised if the views of Generation X and Y were not too far off. For instance, the researchers (Charlotte and Laura Shelton) found that "77% of Gen Xers say they'd quit in a minute if offered increased intellectual stimulation." I can certainly attest to this desire as I am sure you know of people who feel the same. So what this means for employers is that they have to pay closer attention to their job requirements and finding ways to exploit the intellectual skills of their work force. This is not to say that baby boomers are not intellectual but information technology to the point that younger people can not successfully navigate social scenes without having at least a surface knowledge of current events.
And because many jobs now require people skills and the ability to work effectively in a team atmosphere, the researchers found that "the top three things people want in a job is positive relationships with colleagues, interesting work, and continuous opportunities for learning." So where in the past where baby boomers maybe did not like their boss, the up and coming generation is more attune to the mood of a company and if it does not align with their temperament, they are much more likely to seek employment elsewhere.
Moreover, employers must rid themselves of the Adam Smith philosophy that you keep the same person doing the same thing until they retire or leave the company. This means that employers should provide on- going training for multiple skill sets. And if you are in a situation where you are doing the same thing every day, you should go out of your way to find ways to get more advanced training. Not only will this help you status at your current job, it will help spice up your resume' so that you are more marketable if and when you leave for a better situation.
But one thing that Generation X is not addicted to is status. Power are prestige ranked last out of fifteen items that the respondents ranked in order of importance. At my job, I was surprised at how much a deal people made out of having an office instead of a cubicle. For decades, having an office (especially a corner office) is the most outward display of hierarchy and power. But I made a note to myself that when I open my own firm, entry level employees will start in the office and the cubicle will be reserved for management. This will be my attempt to redefine the way people think about moving up the corporate ladder so to speak. The article went on to talk about how the idea of the corporate ladder itself is changing at some companies in favor of a more egalitarian corporate structure. For example "TD industries has a policy that its highest paid employee can earn no more than 10 ten times the salary of its lowest-paid employee. " This way, as the company grows, it is not only upper management that sees increased pay. And more importantly, every employee has an increased incentive to work together because everyone knows that what is good for the company is good for everybody.
The researchers also found that younger people want their employer to support them having a life outside of work. One thing I struggled with during my job search is going corporate or non-profit. I ended up going corporate and I am trying very hard to get back to doing community service. Which is why I wished I was an software engineer at Autodesk "because it gives its employees paid time every month to do volunteer work." Policies like this help bring balance to people's lives and invariably make them more productive. And Autodesk is really innovative because there is no set work hours. "There's no abseenteism policy, and no one keeps track of sick days. The philosophy is, these are all capable people, so let's assume they can behave like adults." And not surprisingly, "employees respond to that with an unusually high level of commitment." I bet they do!!! I often joke with my working friends that I never thought how valuable I would view my sick/vacation time. And I hate feeling like my job is slowly rationing out my time. I know for a fact that I would be more productive if there were no set work hours. Just think about how you made it through college. When you had to work, it didn't matter what time it was, you got the job done.
And for any employers who are afraid of giving their employees too many benefits for the sake of profits, ALL of the companies listed in the article are highly profitable and turnover is minimal at best. The workforce is rapidly changing and employers need to understand that investing in balanced lifestyles for their employees is just as, if not more important than boosting salaries. Therefore, if you are working and know that you would benefit from the points made in this post, float some of these ideas by your colleagues. I know I will. And even if your firm laughs in your face, just know that there are some companies that are genuinely concerned about the well-being happiness of their employees.
Brandon White is a regular contributor to the Superspade blog. Visit The Superspade - Black Thought At The Highest Level.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006