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When I was a teenager, many households had to add a phone line because my fellow teens and I spent so much time talking to each other in the evenings.

Housewives stereotypically (we are talking about stereotypes) spent hours during the day gossiping with friends over the phone.

Now that we’re old enough that geezing is becoming a hobby, we know deep in our bones that the ETG (embedded technology generation, aka Generation Z, Digital Natives, or iGeneration) are unhealthily glued to their smartphone screens, which is leading to the deep and distressing decay of our society.

Because nothing encourages self-righteous indignation so much as guilty equivalence.

Meanwhile, in another part of Equivalencytown, back in the ’60s the youth of America expressed their distrust of the government by dressing funny and participating in protest marches. That’s in contrast to the Tea Party of the late ‘2000s, whose members (the same generation only older) expressed their distrust of the government by dressing funny and participating in protest marches.

And before you go there, don’t: The January 6th insurrectionists had no equivalency other than the dressing funny part. And anyway they have nothing to do with this week’s topic, which is about recruiting, hiring, leading, and promoting members of the ETG.

From what I’ve been reading, this is hard to do, because [insert negative ETG stereotype here].

Maybe I’m missing something. It’s entirely possible, because I’m not hiring anyone any more. On the other hand …

A favorite ETG stereotype is that its members are “entitled.” What do they feel they’re entitled to? Stuff they want but haven’t earned.

For example?

Here’s something. From what I’ve seen, heard of, read, and imagined your typical ETGers think they’re entitled to pleasant working conditions, supportive leadership, compensation for 100% of the time they’re on the clock, and the sense that what they do for a living contributes to something important.

Maybe this is unreasonable and entitled. On the other hand, the stats say about half of working adults have left at least one job because they figure getting away from their manager will improve their lives. It appears there’s a lot of entitlement going around.

Jumping to the punchline, you can expect lots of ETGers to prefer the gig economy and remote work to traditional employment, because it puts them in better control of their financial situation and working environment. Gig work is also, in their eyes, a more honest account of their relationship with their clients – arm’s length, transactional, and with loyalty limited to pay they receive.

Think of it as the level of patriotism you’d find in a mercenary army.

So if your workforce is underpopulated and you’re having trouble finding people, look to contractors whose responsibilities can be handled remotely as an alternative to traditional recruiting.

Meanwhile, to the extent a contractor/client relationship with your workforce isn’t a satisfactory solution, the supply side of the equation isn’t likely to improve very much, at least not in the short term. The math of it says f = c + r – d, where f, your future workforce population, is equal to c, the current population, plus r, the number of new workforce recruits, minus d, the number of defections.

Yes, I know, and I’m sorry (no, I’m not). I’ve asked you to wade through what really is the day-before-yesterday’s news: reducing undesired employee attrition by making sure you provide a great place to work is as good an investment in your organization as you’re likely to find.

It looks like, in this respect at least, the future is going to look a lot like the present only more so.

Bob’s last word: I was tempted to provide a bulleted list of concrete steps you can take to reduce undesired attrition. I decided against it, on the grounds that the KJR community doesn’t need one.

If you do need help getting to the starting gate, try this: start by removing everything that makes employees’ working environments unpleasant.

Bob’s sales pitch: It’s summer! Time for some light reading. And what could be lighter than the novel Dave Kaiser and I wrote … inspired by a true story! … about a woman who was killed by an elephant in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.

It’s titled The Moral Hazard of Lime Daquiris, and, no, it isn’t one of those business theories that’s packaged into a novel so as to slip the author’s ideas into a digestible form.

It’s just light reading. I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy it.

Now playing on CIO.com: The Edison Ratio: What business and IT leaders get wrong about innovation.

They get (and brag about) their responsibility for the 1% inspiration but often miss the remaining 99% of what’s needed.

Comments (7)

  • And I’m certainly generalizing as not all organizations treat their employees as fungible.  But I think back to when ‘Personnel’ became ‘Human Resources’ as the inflection point. 

    Employees no longer had an expectation of starting with an org and moving up as their company helped them develop their experience and knowledge.

    My sense is companies started looking to hire skills to drop into a box in the process flow.

    I’d also postulate that training, succession planning and promoting from within took a huge hit.  If you post a position with a list of required skills and then automate the hiring process to screen out any resumes that don’t include those specific keywords/skills then you’re not looking for a long term employee. You’re looking for, and getting, a contract employee.

    Again, I generalize, but this mindset, on both sides of the employment relationship, does seem to be the norm rather than the exception.

    And I’m not saying that’s wrong. 

    Maybe it is the new relationship.

  • I think that many companies learned these past 2.5 years that they could operate remote with many workers happy with the convenience.

    This conflicts with the management by “ass in chair” where an employees worth is judged by time in their chair at work. It was assumed that the longer someone was at their desk, the more they worked.

    The enlightened know this is complete rubbish. Creativity and productivity come in many ways. The pandemic proved this out. Yes there are people that struggled working from home, but many more did well.

    Note I am a reformed baby boomer who is tired to those that cannot let go of the past. I do not consider workers who want work-life balance, less commutes, and better child care options as “entitled”. I think us boomers just followed the rules and took pride in getting to work through brutal commutes. It was a badge of honor.

    For me the future is improved HR that helps build remote-based cultures, days where teams come together to socialize and get to know each other, and improved mentoring for a remote workforce. All of that will attract and retain talent.

    As Bob notes, the math doesn’t work if companies think this will all blow over. Change is needed to retain and attract top talent.

  • Ah the future

    It will be somewhat better,
    it will be somewhat worse,
    It will be somewhat different,
    and yet somewhat the same.

  • I absolutely loved The Moral Hazard of Lime Daquiris, and highly recommend it. All the more because I am a Wisconsinite.

  • “Gig work is also, in their(ETG) eyes, a more honest account of their relationship with their clients – arm’s length, transactional, and with loyalty limited to pay they receive.”

    I can see that perspective from a highly paid consultant. I wonder, however, about how many companies are outsourcing jobs to reduce expenses, like parental leave, paid time off, minimum hours paid and to reduce risk since a lot of equipment, insurance, employee HR issues then become someone else’s responsibility. How many of those jobs are attractive if you add in all the additional risk the gig worker has to take on?
    Chapter 6 of “Invisible Women – Data Bias in a World Designed for Men” by Caroline Criado Perez has some interesting statistics and places where data is missing relating to gig work.

    • Just to be clear, I was trying to describe what I understand is a common thought process regarding gig work, not whether that thought process is justified. The actual equation is, as you suggest, quite complicated.

      But of course, a gig worker who decides they don’t like these trade-offs is free to seek more traditional employment.

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