The Millennials are coming – who cares

Unless you’ve been studiously avoiding them, you will almost certainly have come across articles quoting HR consultants, futurologists and even PR folk, on the rise of the Millennial.

Hot on the heels of previous generations, I have read, Millennials have very different outlooks and wants when it comes to the business of work. Consequently, the received wisdom tells us, working practices are going to have to change.

Sure they are.

Just not any time soon.

If, like me, you fall into the Generation X category you may still coming to terms with the recent news that (here in the UK, at least) you might have to wait until you’re almost 70 before you receive you retire.

So, I’m left pondering the following question… if 20 year old Millennials (for whom the workplace *must* be changed or else) will still have to wait until they are in their 50s before Gen X-ers are no longer above them in the workplace hierarchy (or are at least sharing the workplace with them), who are we kidding that the world has to start beating to the Millennial drum?

This is one of those occasions when the phrase “all in it together” might actually apply truthfully.

We need to stop polarising the issues. All of them. It’s not helping anything.

What we really need, now and in the future, is a more flexible outlook to work, personal life, success, fulfillment and more besides.

Whether it’s adjusting to the (constant) influx of a younger generation of workers, making sure we retain the knowledge and skills of an ageing workforce, or doing something to genuinely address issues like gender inequality, we all need to drop the me-opia and start empathising with others in pursuit of real, lasting improvements.

See things differently
See things differently

The recruitment mistake agency heads will make in 2012

There are too many young people chasing too few job vacancies in the UK.  It’s been that way for a few years, but youth unemployment is currently running at its highest rate since comparable records began almost 20 years ago, with more than one million 16 to 24 year olds out of work in the UK.

For any business with vacancies to fill this is, quite simply, a buyers’ market.  And while, broadly speaking, this can be a good thing, like so many things in life it doesn’t take much to make a mess of a golden opportunity.

A few weeks ago I met with one of the UK’s more successful and respected PR practitioners (no names, after all I didn’t ask their permission to refer to them in public).  Our conversation turned to the issue of attracting and retaining new people into the PR sector.

My companion expressed the belief that PR agencies should be restricting their recruitment to graduates from top universities, and only those with good degrees in solid academic subjects, and who have impressive A level results too.

Buyer’s market, you see.  Why bother hiring kids who don’t have degrees, or who have degrees in flaky subjects from tier-two institutions, when there are Oxbridge graduates desperate for work too?

Why?

Well, because intelligence and ability come in all shapes and sizes for one thing.

Not to mention that we’ve probably all met someone with a first class degree from Oxford or Cambridge who also happened, bizarrely, to be catastrophically stupid and lacking in any sense of instinctive intelligence.

Why else?

PR agencies, in the main, have teams.  The best teams are made up of people with different outlooks, backgrounds and skills.  The points of conflict, debate and interaction in such teams don’t just keep everyone on their toes but can lead to excellent results, well-structured campaigns and a more interesting working environment.

But what about the impact on the agencies who decide to fill their ranks with as many Oxbridge graduates as they can?  Surely this is a canny move on their part.  Cheap excellent new hires who, a few years ago, would probably not have considered working in PR.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, if this is how your agency has generally recruited then chances are nothing will go wrong.  Nothing that hasn’t already, anyway.

But if you are about to turn your back on the way you have traditionally recruited then you might want to ask yourself how you got to where you are now without such shining stars.  Where will it lead you?  What will your agency look like in a few years?  Will you have a shiny new company culture (mono-culture even) based on the über achievers club?  Is that what you always hoped for? When the market picks up, how will you stop the recently-arrived high-achievers from leaving?

What of the AEs and SAEs currently in the PR sector with degrees from universities like Bournemouth, or no degree at all?  In this brave new world they wouldn’t have stood a chance.  But they can’t be all that bad, surely?

I have a problem (actually it’s more of a chip on my shoulder) about this narcissistic outlook that says you should only hire “the best” now they are available.  There are bigger forces in play, frankly.

One of them is the mess the current government is making of higher education.  By stifling university funding and allowing institutions a free hand to increase their fees, the government has to all intents and purposes made going to study for a degree considerably more expensive at the stroke of a ministerial pen.

Fees of £9,000 per year at a time when (see above) youth unemployment rates are disgustingly high, is making some of the brightest and best turn their backs on university education.  And who the hell can blame them?  The prospect of graduating with £30,000+ debts and a dearth of job opportunities must be very dispiriting to say the least.

Going to university is a good thing.  Of course it is.  But it’s not right for everyone and it’s not always the right option.  Even while there many students simply don’t make the most of it.  It’s an experience that should broaden your mind, not just your book collection.

There are young people who could, quite easily, do fabulously well at any one of the UK’s top universities choosing not to bother at all.  Should we rule them out?  What do we value most – their potential or their pieces of paper?

Whichever way I look at it, I cannot help but think that the idea of only hiring Oxbridge graduates and eschewing all other candidates is a very bad idea indeed.  The kind that will eventually come back to bite you in the arse.  Well, here’s hoping.