Is the death of long service greatly exaggerated?

One of my team hit 20 years’ service a couple of weeks ago. This isn’t anything new where I work; at a mere seven years I am practically a probationer. What got me thinking though was that she had started with our company as a teenager.

If you read a lot of what is said in the media about Gen Y and Z, you would believe that this sort of long service will soon be gone from our working culture. There are articles that suggest this generation will demand everything from different office environments to leadership styles. According to various articles I have read, they are more interested in a company’s approach to CSR, want to know about your social media policy before they will take a role with you, and are more interested in life/work balance than salary.
We are told that this group of people won’t want to stay with one employer, they will want portfolio careers and shorter service will be more typical. However, at the same time we are seeing large companies who once recruited tons of graduates now including school leavers in their target market, putting them through their degree with a long term incentive to stay. So how do the two square up?

There have always been students who took things seriously at a young age. When I was a university they were the ones who joined the Law Society, entered mooting competitions and worked for free at solicitors during the summer holidays. Then there were the rest of us. When I got to the end of my final year I realised the only Bar that I would be called to was the one in the student union and I promptly became a recruitment consultant. A recruitment consultant that did all manner of things that I now would consider to be a disciplinary offence. The point I am making here (there is one I promise) is that there have always been generational differences and attitudes about work. Young people have often had different attitudes to and at work then those before them, as I did, but as you get older then something changes. Like having a mortgage. I either matured or conformed, depending on your point of view.

Predicting the future is a notoriously tricky business. Just ask the producers of Back to the Future (I’m still awaiting my hover board). I do wonder if we are in danger of stereotyping Gen Y et al too much. It will also be interesting to see how what impact, if any, the current economic situation coupled with the high cost of going to university has on the predictions about the wants and needs of this generation and the next. Large tuition fee debts might impact significantly on the salary v WLB issue. How important will it be for an organisation to have a BYOD policy when you’re relying on the bank of mom and dad? On the converse, this might make job offers for more money more tempting, adding to the possibility of short tenure.

Whatever happens, it’s a given that Gen Y and Z will also face competing for jobs in an increasingly global talent market, will probably work for considerably longer than their parents, as well as work with a vast array of technology that will change the way we learn and work on a daily basis. Employers will need to make some changes; for example a one stop benefits shop simply isn’t going to cut it when you have five generations in the workplace.

Gen Y will make up around half of the workforce by 2020, so HR practitioners need to get preparing. The question for me is how much do we need to do; will Gen Y bend to the workplace, or will the workplace bend to Gen Y? I’m at the Future of Work Consortium this week, so I’ll update………..

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