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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Resources From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 10, Issue 2
The future of work, London UK, 6 September 2010
There may be nothing new in the concept of “generational divide” but the main discussion at the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising’s (IPA) Future of Work conference was whether the generational divide currently occupying the minds of HR directors in advertising and communications agencies was different or similar to previous ones, and whether it would have a lasting impact on the way we all do business. What certainly is new about this is that it’s the first time we have looked closely at such issues in “Adland.”
Generation Y to reshape work
The conference opened with the launch of new findings from an IPA member agency study of three perspectives on work and work life balance, looking at the significant differences in attitudes, beliefs and behaviors between Generations Y and X and Baby Boomers. In the words of conference and IPA people management group chair, Liz Nottingham, they were “enthusiastic idealists” (Gen Y); the “juggling generation” (Gen X); and “brow beaten pragmatists” (Gen X and Baby Boomers); with a mismatch between expectations of work and delivery at every level. The study advocates a balance of all the generations including the return of the over 50 brigade to offer balance, perspective, strategic insight and mentoring.
In Gen Y’s view, businesses of the future should be less corporate and more creative, providing much greater flexibility in their ways of working. There should be less micro-management, more trust and freedom for self-organization. Career progression should be viewed less as a “ladder” – the traditional “up and out” approach – and more as a “lattice” – a complex web of work experiences providing breadth and depth of personal and professional development. Some in the audience believed that these strident opinions would mellow, as Gen Y became more established in the work place. However, most of the speakers were not of this view, and believed that the influence of Gen Y would reshape work forever.
A vision of the future
Dr Norman Lewis, a former innovation director at Orange, and now managing partner of Open-Knowledge UK, explained how Gen Y-ers could teach business leaders how to embrace the power of informal social networks online for problem solving and decision-making. Using relationship maps, he demonstrated the business benefits of adopting an open systems approach, which was more results-focused, knowledge-based and opportunity-driven. He said: “The motivation is different. Access to knowledge at the point of need, not limited by physical or geographic boundaries, nor by status or familiarity.”
WPP global recruitment director, Frances Illingworth, focused on Gen Y’s call for lattice careers and proactive people management. She agreed, for example, that “a career in client management is as important as a career in general management.” Looking forward, she envisaged London as a global center of innovation and learning, with employees recruited in London being expected to relocate at some point in their careers. She argued: “International markets are a great learning curve and retention tool.”
The biggest take-out from this stimulating day was making the business case for investment in the following:
Open systems technology to enable virtual collaborative networks.
HR expertise in proactive lattice career management.
Work as an activity not a destination.
Lettie HannonDirector of Resources, Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).
For more information
The Future of Work is the fourth in a series of IPA reports on workplace issues produced over three decades. It is based on workshops and roundtables with 150 people across the advertising industry including clients, agency CEOs, HR directors, new recruits (Gen Y) and middle managers (Gen X). For more information visit www.ipa.co.uk/Content/The-future-of-work-the-challenges-for-adland-in-2020