I've been reading a lot lately about people who are trying to figure out ways to connect with and engage the Gen Y demographic (I've been reading even more about "consultants" that are "available" to "help" with this). Managers and business leaders (certainly HR people) are worried about recruiting, creating effective working conditions, making them happy, etc. There is a projected shortfall of millions of teachers with more than 40% expected to retire in five years (other industries have similar data); Harvard Business Publishing posted an article on low-cost approaches to motivating employees.
I wasn't around then, but was this type of thing discussed (albeit not blogged or twittered) when the baby boomer generation was about to hit the workforce? Were employers at the time worried about how that generation would be recruited, create outcomes and be happy? Were they worried at that time about potential staffing shortfalls in some industry? I think so.
In the end, what happened to all the Gen-Hippies? Did they fundamentally alter the work environment or recruiting or employee morale?? Not so much.
If you're employed (like I am), there is only ONE reason you go to work every day. This one reason is universal to everyone who is employed - whether its is at Microsoft or GM or McDonalds or the White House. And we all know for a certainty that if this one thing stops, we stop working - no ifs ands or buts.
We work because they pay us.
I don't care whether you are Gen Hippie, Gen X, Gen Y, or Gen Purple - if you don't have money and want to earn some, a job is required, and money is conveyed in exchange for work done. That's the bottom line.
If I were "consulting" employers on how to lure any candidate (irrespective of demographic) to come work for me, I would offer this employee perspective:
We go to work because we're paid. We enjoy work because we care. We thrive in the workplace because you care.
If you have the cash flow to make payroll, the first is easy. The second is self-selection combined with a belief that good work is being done. It is about the purpose of the organization and how it is conveyed - a barista at your local coffee shop has purpose, as does the assembly line worker at an auto manufacturer, as does a software engineer at a high-tech firm. It boils down to having a clear link between the mission of the company and the actions of each employee; it boils down to clarity about each job and its contribution. If a company is well run, one of the signs is employees that care about what they do.
Seth Godin said you have to watch the money to gauge a person's belief in the work they do - that's a great "indicator" of genuineness. When you're a leader, you have to go further.
The third sentence is about management's authentic commitment to greatness. You can smell that a mile away, and you can absolutely tell when it's being faked. You know when it's proxied through HR practices, and you know when the "all-hands" communications sent out by the leader are crafted by HR and PR.
Authentic commitment to greatness requires leaders to care - it requires leaders to be transparent and accountable, and it requires absolute integrity.
If you need HR and predatory consultants to "help" you understand people - perhaps it's because you've stopped being one yourself.