From organization to community – Millennials and the future of work

We started a project with the University of Vienna, Faculty of Business and Economics: an international group of students conducted qualitative interviews with a diverse group of co-students: “What kind of organization would you like to work in? How do you imagine the future world of work?”

We started with a kick-off workshop to prepare the students for the interviews, practiced interviewing right away and derived the questionnaire from the first results.

Over the course of two months, the students conducted the interviews. All (international) students invited to the interviews (25) were eager and happy to participate. Last week, we met again to look at the results, and together we distilled the main findings of our “new world of work” project:

  • Relationship and working with “friends”: good spirit and a working atmosphere in a friendly environment is of highest importance.
  • Trust and fairness are highly rated: Trust and teamwork, as well as fair pay.
  • Work and life quality is more important than high pay.
  • A steep hierarchy for career development: people want to move on and develop over time.
  • Big and international corporations are valued over small/medium and start-ups for their possibilities to travel abroad, meet other cultures and offer multiple career opportunities.
  • Start on a lower level with less responsibility and climb up to medium management. Top management and CEO positions don’t seem desirable: too much work and responsibility.
  • One assigned personal mentor/leader who gives feedback and “teaches us how the work works” – at least in the beginning.
  • Open space for better and open communication but own desk for privacy. No playground needed in the office.
  • Training and education provided by the company: technical training and personal development.
  • Clear distinction/separation between work and private life: home office as an option, but not necessary “difficult to focus at home.” Still flexible working hours are wanted.
  • “We work to live and not like our parents, who lived to work”: students don’t want to fully devote their life to career.
  • Paternity leave equally important for men and women (“this is how we measure how developed a corporate culture is”) AND to continue the career with/after children.
  • High standards of IT infrastructure and technology
  • CSR, sustainability, social and environmental concerns have a strong focus: no fake CSR

The professor and myself were kind of amazed by these results. Is this “new Biedermeier”? We still have more questions than answers.

Is this the “we want it all” generation? Is this a generation of people looking for new stability, security and leadership in the midst of a world in turmoil?

We still have difficulties rating these results: are they modest or the want-it-all generation? Are they just smart and react to the “always on and never done” society? Are they old-fashioned or very forward thinkers? Are they unrealistic with very traditional expectations from a stable work life, or are they reacting to inhumane expectations from 120% flexibility and reactivity? But if we take into consideration that almost all of the respondents already have work experience, it seems they are building on experience, too.

For sure, they do not have difficulties in wanting seemingly contradictory qualities at the same time:

  • Competition AND community/relationship/friends
  • Career development AND extensive free/family time.
  • Leadership AND freedom.
  • Career yes, but not too much
  • Responsibility yes, but not too much
  • Working overtime – well yes, but as an exception
  • Working with friends like in a community – but clear division between work and private life.

And they certainly don’t seem to be a generation striving for autonomy, self-organization, hierarchy-free organization and full self responsibility – the story we generally hear when it comes to the future of work. Nothing about starting their own companies, going the extra mile or working in start-ups, at least not in the beginning. Maybe they have seen their “always on never done” parents or Generation Y friends and are not turned on by the thought of working day and night for little money without any stability. Are they anxious or smart? Is it about the sample?

It is still too early to draw final conclusions, as we are in the stage of a pre-study. The next step will be an extensive online study to verify and deepen these first results, conducted with by a Master student and the Institute for Organization & Planning. Results can be expected by March 2018.

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http://opim.univie.ac.at

 

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