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The differences between generations – an opportunity to innovate

October 14, 2016

We’re all overwhelmed by the multitude of articles and conferences centered on the differences between generations, especially viewed from the employee-employer point of view. Companies send their managers to take courses or attend conferences, in an almost desperate effort to understand how to work with this important segment of the workforce: The Y Generation. The Millennials. And for good reason.


Meet Daniel, the typical Millennial who will shake your company’s practices to the ground


A couple of days ago I met Daniel, a Millennial, who just completed an employment process for a job at a support center of a big international company. He was contacted via LinkedIn, invited to a phone interview where he answered the age old questions: „Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and „What's your expected pay?”. Afterwards, some online tests were sent to him, tests the completed in about 2 hours. He then attended 5 interviews, each one with a different team leader or manager who had more or less of a connection to his job. Finally, the financial offer came, a bit under what he had asked for. He tried to negotiate, but the answer was „no”, mainly because of their salary policy, and was told that he could increase his salary by 1-3% a year, depending on the performance evaluation made by the 5 previously mentioned managers. Daniel refused the offer and opted to go on with his life as a freelancer.


So far almost nothing new, right? Probably most of us went through this type of recruitment process or, at least, heard of it from others. Because that’s how things have been done for the past 15 years, even when I entered the work force. And, on the other hand, we’ve all most likely met young spoiled people with no desire to learn or take the hard way to a career.


But Daniel is not like this. He’s a young, smart guy, who has traveled the world. He started earning money at a young age through freelancing, making websites. He has even studied abroad. He reads. He loves music and philosophy. It’s hard not to love the life and spark you see in his eyes. From our discussions, I can tell he has the same needs as I have: to matter for something, to feel he’s learning and growing, to contribute. He wants a family and to be part of a community. So, when it comes to fundamental human needs, even though we’re from two different generations, we have the same views.


What is indeed different is the ease with which he expects a superior experience from brands and companies. I might be a bit more lenient (even though, I have to admit, I’m starting to be less and less). But Daniel grew up and formed his personality in a world that overflows with options. The same companies which complain today they don’t know how to work with the Y Generation have been the ones that contributed to „spoiling” them. Every day, they send out hundreds of new products and new offers on the market, one better and more interesting than the other.

Daniel is not afraid of trying new things and he already knows that if he will interact with a product or service that isn’t good, the market will ensure for it a quick death. The reviews system, the transparent world in which we live in, the millions of YouTube tutorials, they all set the expectations of the clients at a very high level.


Companies need to center not only on their consumers, but also on their employees


In this economy of choices, our expectations have shifted from utility to experience. The way we feel when we interact with a brand, a company, is defining our consumption choice. Consumers want authentic brands, with a personality, brands that are playful, responsible, that talk to them as individuals and make their life and their close ones lives easier. Why would they expect different from the brand that employs them?

Companies spend a great deal of time studying consumers and innovating, in order to ensure that their products remain relevant to the market. Only few realize that their own organization must go through this reinventing process. A superior experience offered to clients is directly correlated with the experience they offer to their employees. It’s not random that the most powerful brands in the world are the ones that also lead when it comes to favorite employers.

They are the ones that approach their employees with the same charm with which they approach their clients. They closely study their needs, going past their life at work, and together with them create internal processes, procedures, development processes, career paths or benefit packages. These are relevant and harmonize with their entire person and the many roles they have in life: as proffesionals but also as human beings, as parents, wives/husbands, lovers, sons/daughters, friends, members of the community etc.


Employee experience must be understood beyond the access to sophisticated benefits packages but rather throughout their entire journey and all touch-points. The most attractive employers continuously develop tools to help their employees navigate the complexity in their job and deal with abundance of information. In exchange, their employees reward them with creativity and implication.

Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise us that such a cumbersome and "dry" recruitment process made Daniel refuse the job in that company.


Generation Y is not to blame for their inability to adapt to the environment in the companies of today. They are only the mirror in which we should see the outdated practices we keep alive in our own organizations. In the absence of Millennials our businesses are heading for a slow and sure death as we become comfortable in our own inefficiencies.


So, next time you end up in a so-called conflict between generations, hold on for a second and study it carefully! You have just found a place where you can innovate!

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