Redefining Employment for the 21st Century

Pepper de Callier

Recently, I was invited by the Czech and Slovak chapter of The Young Presidents Organization and Forum 2000 to hear a speech by the well-known and highly regarded international pollster, John Zogby. Zogby’s company, Zogby International is based in New York and conducts polls and surveys in 70 countries around the world. I was particularly interested in hearing Mr. Zogby’s presentation because of his reputation for the quality of his data and the accuracy in his predictions. I was also fascinated by the topic, “The First Globals”. Zogby coined the term, First Globals, in his book, The Way We’ll Be, recently published by Random House. As a group, these are the 18 to 29 year olds who are the vanguard of a whole new way of thinking about life—a way of thinking that may surprise many.

First Globals, according to Zogby, have a much more cosmopolitan view of the world. Because of things like Internet networking sites their “friends” are not only people who live in their neighborhood, but also people in Asia, Canada, Mexico, Belarus, Turkey, Israel, and everywhere in between. They view themselves more as citizens of the planet as opposed to a more limited definition of geography. He describes First Globals as secular spiritualists—they are shunning the materialism of their predecessors and are more interested not only in careers that offer alignment of values and personal fulfillment, but they are also more interested in volunteer work for the same reasons.

They are also more demanding about transparency and authenticity in their lives in everything from advertising to politics—more importance is given to the truth than to past practices or ideology. Here are some predictions, though, that I think will redefine the world of employment in the 21st century: this population cohort will have 4 different full-time jobs by the time they are 30 and 8 different jobs by the time they are 40. If one carries this out further, it would not be unlikely that someone would have 15 to 20 different jobs during the span of their career. As Zogby jokingly said, “In my generation, we would call this the career trajectory of a ‘loser’, but tomorrow it will be normal.”

As a leader this evolution will bring about significant changes in every facet of your interaction with an employee from recruitment to retention to separation. While I think there will be much less title and compensation inflation with this generation, I also feel that recruiting will become much more individual and driven by value alignment as opposed to status and monetary considerations. This generation will be much more interested in how their employers can help them grow as human beings and professionals. Offering someone “equity” will have a whole new meaning. It will have more to do with being just, fair and balanced, than stock options.

Think about how this will impact employee retention. Employee retention in the 21st century is not going to be about how long you keep an employee, it will be about how you get the best from them while you have them.

As the succession planning process becomes more compressed and takes on a new sense of urgency, and “farewell” parties become serial events for the average worker, employers are going to have to take a long look at their brand in the marketplace and come up with creative ways to keep the pipeline of talent full. Here’s what I mean: My mother was a senior executive in charge of a large sales force. In sales meetings she would remind her people that the best source of names for new customers was a current or former customer who was satisfied with the quality of the product and how they have been treated. 50 years later the message is the same. As the workforce begins to reshape itself in the 21st century, the organizations who best adapt to addressing its needs and channeling those needs into productive solutions for the company will create a brand as the place to work, the place to further develop one’s self and so on. Oh, and there is a “hidden” benefit to the employer in all this.

Aside from having a high quality workforce that works for you and a steady flow of high quality applicants, you might be interested in the result of a survey conducted among recent graduates of top MBA programs. The overwhelming majority of respondents stated that they would, on average, accept 14% less in cash compensation to work for a company with high standards for corporate citizenship, integrity, quality, customer service, and professional development. Now, how’s that for redefining the workforce?