Austria     Belgium     Brazil     Canada     Denmark     Finland     France     Germany     Hungary     Iceland     Ireland     Italy     Luxembourg     The Netherlands     Norway     Poland     Spain     Sweden     Switzerland     UK     USA     

I’ll work when I’m happy: New generations and talent management

The biggest challenge in modern HR today is to design, transform, and develop talent management. In professional discussions at any level and location, sooner or later, this topic will come up, and it has been said by some of the best HR professionals that it will certainly not be successfully managed by them alone or by in-house HR resources. Strategic thinking has therefore started, with a focus on attracting and retaining key people to the company. But as the strategic workflow moves forward, smart professionals are realising that this is now a complex issue that requires a combination of disciplines. Moreover, the challenges of talent management cannot be solved without building an elevated level of idol management. And this is ultimately where modern HR is seriously stuck.

I am not saying much that is new when I say that over the last quarter of a century, the labour market has been turned upside down in ways that were unimaginable. There are so many components to this rapid change, with Internet-driven globalisation, social media, and the generational changes that go hand in hand with it all having such a powerful impact on the labour market that it would be enough to deal with them one by one. And we haven’t even mentioned the consequences of our latest test, COVID-19. We have learnt for some time now that there is always something happening, and experienced HR professionals know that there are always more characteristic problems that come to the surface and that need to be addressed. If you ask organisational development professionals today what the biggest challenge facing companies in general is, they will unanimously mention talent management. After all, even before the pandemic, most companies were already struggling with a lack of qualified staff, low numbers of people applying to their company and employees leaving the organisation, often without any reason. Many people were wondering how the pandemic would change the situation, which has now lasted for more than a decade, but I think that what we are seeing today is something that nobody expected. Staff shortages are continuing to grow, retaining the right level of colleagues is harder than ever, and at some point, even the best HR professionals are starting to lose the logic and can’t find the right solution. It’s not easy to understand the situation, which requires a combination of professional research disciplines. The application of sociology, social research and generational research – and at the most modern level – is a basic requirement for assessing the subject. But theoretical research alone is worthless without concrete data collection, because events have taken place in the world that no one has been able to analyse and draw conclusions from, so only those who have been on the front line know the real background. The importance of experience in organisational development has increased greatly over the last two years, as we can talk about the impact of the pandemic, but it had to be experienced not only by one organisation, but preferably by several, with different economic sectors, locations and mechanisms, in order to be able to establish any kind of general system of rules. But this is the catch-22, because it was precisely the organisational development projects that were stopped first, when the COVID crisis really broke out. Both the lack of clarity and the impossibility of physical contact drove the clients to abandon their organisational development tasks for a while. Only those firms were able to get work where the partners were not solely geared and contracted to organisational development but to more complex business development, or where the level of trust between client and expert was so high that they survived the damage caused by the pandemic.

I don’t just work

The biggest change is in the employee’s attitude. It can be argued, but there is a whole range of evidence to support the fact that, with the emergence of younger generations, the thinking that work is a duty or that work ennobles is increasingly disappearing. Whereas for older generations, it was quite natural to have a particular job where I had to meet expectations and work because it was the right thing to do, this has changed. The younger generation will work if they can benefit from it. You shouldn’t immediately think that everyone is money hungry. By profit, I don’t just mean money. In fact, when I think of the youngest generation, the Followers (born between 1997 and 2008), this statement is not true at all. And I have mentioned only one of the many factors that drive the generation of attitudes towards work. But when you think about it, why should it be considered normal to work your heart out for an employer and earn enough to just about make a living? It is a good thing for young people to ask such sensitive questions, such as “I understand why it is worthwhile for the company to employ me, but how does that benefit me?”. Of course, many people will say that all young generations have been through this, and it will pass, but even those who thought this way when the crisis began in, say, 2008, can see that they were very wrong. These young people are entering the labour market with a completely different drive and tone, and the competitive environment is not at all comparable with, say, 30 years ago. It is true to say that there is a huge struggle for good labour, and good labour knows this, and the young generations are making perfect use of this situation. We have seen the start-up era, when ping-pong tables lured workers who were tired of the constant work to the company, when they tried to make a good impact with very extra income, but their power has worn off. Today’s talent management is not just about simple gimmicks and transparent, generic solutions, but about really getting to know the people you want to get results from. It’s no longer enough to pretend that the company cares about their personal future, it’s necessary to pay specific attention to them, and it’s essential to understand their true motivation, mindset and decision-making processes. Without this, we can no longer talk about talent management. Moreover, talent management is never a challenge in itself, because if there is talent, it is essential to have an idol in the company. And the biggest pitfall of modern talent management is idol management. Either it doesn’t exist within the company, or it is in its infancy. And it must surely be ahead of talent management in terms of knowledge, skills, and professionalism if we want to be successful in recruiting and retaining staff.