Generation-i: Responsible. Social. Entitled?

by Aman Singh Das | April 15, 2011

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"Baby boomers have done a great job of raising kids who are social, want work/life balance, care for their community and have a sense of responsibility. But they also feel entitled and expect their employers to communicate with them and listen to them."

That was Thomson Reuters' Manager of Community Relations Martha Field at the recently concluded Charities@Work conference in Chicago.

Let's say you work at a company with over 1,000 employees. Can you confidently say that everyone you work with is persistently engaged on the latest innovation across departments and management hierarchies?

In a millennium that promises to test our business survival skills like no other, the challenges ahead for HR, talent management, and community relations can feel endless and mind-numbing—especially when generational change at the management level is factored in.

According to a diverse panel of executives at the Charities@Work conference, however, these quandaries need some perspective and a dose of realism.

The panelists were Martha Field, manager of community relations with Thomson Reuters, Gretchen Korf, director of finance and social responsibility with UnitedHealth, Mary MacDonald, director of business development and managing director of EarthShare, and Jillian Walsh, director of corporate giving and community relations with Zurich in North America.

After offering insights on some specific organizational successes, the panelists identified five distinct challenges that promise to test every skill, and ounce of willpower to keep your team committed, motivated and energized.

1. Technology

Whether you are a millennial, a Gen-Y or a Gen-I, technology has been a part of your life like no demographic before you. You’re the high-touch people, the harder-to-engage-in-person crowd. (I don’t blame you; I'd rather text too.)

Can we expect a future devoid of spreadsheets, detailed project briefs, and time-consuming expense statements? With several startups already using the iPad to take care of these tasks, it seems imminent that larger organizations will succumb to the temptation of technology, especially as generations change hands at senior management levels.

2. Social Media

We are constantly connected. The tools available are endless and many more continue to pop up every week. Welcome to the age of 24x7 connectivity.

But what does this mean for the traditional office work culture? How can management ensure employees are consistently engaged, involved and empowered to work for the business' growth when there are distractions aplenty and the distinction between personal and professional continues to diminish.

Of course many companies are responding by imposing strict social media policies. Others are hesitant and most are unclear. Facebook and Twitter have offered uncharted territory for organizations who are used to functioning under regulation and a black-and-white canvas of right vs. wrong.

Enter the millennials who use social media in every small decision, personal or professional. They use these networks to engage, advocate and protest. This generation tweets and likes each other to efficiently crowd-source, innovate and solve. The regimented traditional workplace with limited access to the world outside their company's immediate operating territory just won't cut it for much longer.

And for those of you in HR, ethics, talent management, legal and compliance, this is going to mean adapting or losing out in the battle for the most talented jobseekers.

3. Globalization

How many times have you heard the phrase "We are a global company?"

Today that doesn’t necessarily mean the organization has employees outside the U.S. In fact, many companies with a global footprint operate virtually beyond this country's borders, making our interdependence across regions, demographics, and interests, much more crucial for survival.

[READ: WE'RE ALWAYS CONNECTED. AND IT'S MAKING US A LITTLE MAD]

4. Climate Change

While the panelists didn’t add much here, the message is pretty clear. If you still belong to the camp that believes global warming—or cooling—is a hoax, you're hurting yourself. The changes in the environment coupled with an almost continual cycle of natural disasters are already forcing new immigration patterns and a re-analysis of business obligations.

In the context of organizational competency then, these changes are sparking new concerns about job security, safety and business sustainability. Just three weeks ago, Goldman Sachs bankers in Tokyo were told they could move to southern Japan where radiation levels posed less risk, but that if they did so, they'd no longer have a job. Needless to say, the news was not welcomed by the staff, with several leaving the city despite the ultimatum.

5. Recession

The last three years have left everyone—save perhaps some of the investment bankers on Wall Street—a bit more cynical about life and work. What do we value most in our jobs, where is the meaning, the purpose? How can we make sure we learn from the mistakes of 2008?

Answers to many of those questions remain unclear.

Charles Ferguson, director of Oscar-nominated Inside Job recently told Dealbook, "The problem is that in finance people can get enormously wealthy by causing enormous damage to many other people. And that hasn't been stopped." Ferguson also said that he wouldn’t be surprised if there was another financial crisis in the next 10 years.

What has this meant for students, the unemployed and recent graduates? A new, value-based approach to job hunting—something that was less of a priority in recent years.

Or as CSRwire's CEO Joe Sibilia recently put it during a panel discussion we co-presented: "What we are witnessing is a shift in consciousness. And it's here to stay."

Filed Under: CSR

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