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Enterprise Environmental Factors - Trump Card

Posted by beyondexecution on March 15, 2012 at 7:10 AM

I had an interesting question posed to me a few weeks ago in one of my classes. One of the younger participants asked me for my opinion on the younger generation - how productive they would be in projects and what kind of methods a PM could use for motivation (we were in the HR section of the course :) We are talking about what's called Generation Y - those born roughly from 1980s-2000 (the last group born wholly in the 20th century). Those born around 1985-1991 should be entering into the workforce around now. I was curious about this topic before, although more from a next-generation-as-PM perspective, but I hadn't thought too much on the topic. As I tend to do, I started talking out loud as to what I think might occur.

 

My opinion is that the corporate culture will push many on the Gen Y's to conform, whether they like it or not. Now, I'm not saying that every company's culture is highly militant, but there's generally structure, there are performance evaluations and there are repercussions for not performing. Companies are not going to be like Google, which has a lot of employee empowerment. But Gen Ys will fall in line within the company, or leave.

 

(As an aside on Google, it's not all milk and honey over there. Yes, you get very flexible work hours, but people tend to be communicating 24/7 via email/instant messaging/others. The hierarchy is incredibly flat - approx 100 direct staff per manager. If you thought it was hard to get feedback before... Pay and benefits are generally regarded as lower than industry. You do get free food, but that makes you stay at the office longer. And yes, people do complain about bureaucracy, even at Google.)

 

Gen Ys have a stereotype that they are inattentive and easily bored, they have little or no loyalty towards a company and that they do not spend much time on tasks, thereby producing low quality work. These are things I have heard but I don't believe all of them. I will make a bit of a generalization with Gen Ys on two specific traits: they are more entrepreneurial in nature, and they are more likely to quit an organization in search of another. The latter may in fact be a symptom of the former. The entrepreneurial-ness may in fact come from changes in wealth than from demographical change. Gen Y parents have accumulated more wealth, and as a result there is more of a safety net for them. They may search around more in the first 8-10 years of their career for that perfect company, but they will find the grass is NOT greener on the other side. As a person who has worked for 8 different organizations (and volunteered with another), I can attest to that. Corporate culture usually undergoes significant change if a company has a catharsis or life-threatening event; otherwise culture changes in small increments.

 

So where does that leave us? I look back on my time with Accenture as a good indicator. Accenture has a HR strategy of hiring people right after university. Even when I was there back in 2004-2008, we had some folks coming in who would be Gen Y'ers. What I found is that these kids were very motivated to perform in the beginning. They would spend far more than a regular 40 hours a week in performing work as well as other "extra-curricular" organizational duties in order to get ahead. For those that didn't work out, this phase would generally last about 2 years. In 2 years time, they would either be promoted to the next level, or start to fizzle out. They would likely leave here. Some would stay to the next level for a while (about 3-4 years) and leave again. Keep in mind that Accenture has an up-or-out model, as do many other consulting companies. GE is also similar.

 

So I saw conformance, even though there was a different generation in place. They want to see results, through salary and promotion, and even if it is good feedback. But it will work to a certain point before trying something else. And the workforce society nowadays affords them that opportunity, to be able to have multiple companies on their resume.

 

The last piece I will end this post with refers to the title - The Trump Card. It overrides much of what we do, both positively and negatively. We conform, whether we like to or not. I always explain this whenever I teach as well, which is why my philosophy is to try to increase skills in thinking, not techniques or process. Process lies within an organization's control - you can't change this as much as you'd like. Take the learnings from the course, try to identify new skills, practice different techniques, but don't try to change your company's processes, it won't work. Change happens little by little, take the Kaizen approach.

Categories: General Project Management

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