Lifestyle Employment: For Millennials, It May be the New Career Prototype

From the HR blog at TLNT.
From the HR blog at TLNT.

To Our Readers: This week, TLNT is continuing our annual tradition by counting down the 35 most popular posts of this past year. This is No. 29. Our regular content will return Wednesday January 2, 2013.


Remember back in the 1950’s when people had employment for life?

Now we’ve been promised 5-7 careers in our lifetime, but is that really what our Millenials (those entering the workforce now) can expect from their employers?

In the mid 20th Century, the majority of people had a single employer for life, or at least a single career for a lifetime. However, the Baby Boomers and the Gen Xers among us have had to be agile, and there are not many today who have been untouched by redundancy or the need to re-skill themselves to retain their employment.

The blurring of work and life

These are the generations that will experience multiple careers, but I am not so sure about the Millenials that are entering the workforce today. This generation is witnessing a major shift in employment dynamics, and the educated among them may have a radically different experience to previous generations.

This generation, who increasingly will be Knowledge or Service Workers, may witness the return of the lifetime employer, particularly with the organizations that have clued on to what I call the “new lifestyle employment proposition.”

With the advent of the talent shortage and the dramatically shifting workplace demographics, employers are increasingly focused on talent retention.  However, this seems to be a somewhat myopic reaction of trying to retain critical talent or high potentials, while the truly innovative organizations of our times are creating “lifestyle” or even lifetime employee models.

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Organizations such as Facebook and Google are creating workplaces where work and life are so blurred that you can work day and night (or whenever you feel like it) but with every lifestyle need being catered to — whether it’s roller hockey interludes, ski holidays, anytime access to gaming at work 24/7, or handling those other life considerations such as doctors, dentists, massage therapists and even a constant supply of great, free food. All together, it results in every life need being catered for, from physical to social needs and beyond, meaning that your work can be your life.

Even the professional services firms such as Deloitte and PwC are critically aware of creating lifetime career paths for their employees. These traditional firms are creating alumni programs through social media, facilitating career breaks, providing mentoring from the first career touch-point.

Ingredients for lifestyle career success

These firms are even leading global thinking with Deloitte’s radical Mass Career Customization (Benko & Weisberg) whereby customised career propositions are presented to each employee designed to retain talent over a lifetime, allowing plenty of flex and stretch over the lifetime to provide ongoing challenge and opportunity ensuring the retention of that employee over their  lifetime.

This is happening now, but the majority of organizations are still myopically focused on compliance based practices, restructuring, and redundancies as short term strategies to improve profitability and productivity. Meanwhile, the very smart organizations out there are stealthily focusing on unleashing individual productivity with flexible work practices that allow individuals to contribute day and night, to stay and play at work, to take career breaks, and return to productivity quickly.

This new “lifestyle” career proposition has a few essential ingredients for success:

  • Performance focused on productivity – radical new performance measures are required based on output and trust;
  • Blurring of work and life – ensuring great social connection at work that translates equally well across real and online worlds. Whether it is roller hockey or ski weekends, the best firms are blurring these boundaries regularly providing a social connection at work;
  • Leveraging social media to support connectivity — this generation is being dubbed the “hyper-connected” (according to Meister & Willyerd in The 2020 Workplace). Embrace it and love it because this generation will work differently as a consequence, and we need to now switch our expectations for workplace behavior from compliance and attendance to productivity, creativity and performance. The Googles and Facebooks of this world have people so passionate about what they are doing, that they work day and night.
  • And most importantly, individualize the career proposition – understand what is going to light the fire of each and every contributor and then look at what you need to do to enable that contribution. You need to understand the talents, motivators, and values and career-lifestyle expectations of each employee and then tailor the career experience to meet that individuals unique wants and needs.

Anne Fulton, is author of The Career Engagement Game, and founder of Fuel50, a company that which provides innovative career pathing solutions in 28 countries across the globe. Personally she is a “wannabe” marathon runner, and triathlete who only turns up for the scenery and camaraderie with friends and family.


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