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Twitter Drains Brains to Entertain

Or – Why Industry Leaders should wake up to the growing competition for best STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) recruits.

I was recently allowed to share my thoughts on the developing role of industry leaders in response to the changes in the marketplace for recruits from Gen C ‘the Connected Generation’.  Coincidentally I had just had ‘pushed’ at me by LinkedIn a report of an employee survey, and clearly, since LinkedIn knows my profile, and the people with whom I am connected, and it also knows in which groups I have an interest, then this survey must surely have been relevant to my opinion. I read it with interest…

The report featured the Glassdoor, Employees choice awards for 2014, ‘Top 50 Best Places to Work’. Apparently the researching team found that a handful of themes emerged among the most beloved companies. These were:

Mission: a sense of purpose in coming into work [People feel most satisfied with their work when they find it deeply meaningful]

Collegiality: working with awesome people

Challenging work: being stimulated by the work to be done [People want to expand their skill-sets on the way to ‘mastery’ – something mentioned in our own survey on ‘Leading the Connected Generation’]

Meaningful advancement: the promise of growth

Confidence in senior leaders: a sense of trust–and transparency–with management

So, people want to work on meaningful and challenging things, around other talented people, people want to have opportunities for advancement and recognition, and they want to have transparency from upper management. We’d heard much the same demands from ‘Gen C’ at each of our four ‘Leading the Connected Generation’ (LCG) conferences in 2013.

So, how many of these Top 50 are ‘industrial’ companies? I counted 5 contenders, but of these only 2 could claim the distinction of having genuinely ‘4D’ workplaces, a phrase by which we have come to recognise ourselves following the input to our Geneva conference by Roel Van Doren, European President of Emerson Process Management. (By the way 4D stands for dirty, dangerous, dull and distant for those who were wondering).

One implication from this might be that Leaders in other companies and sectors have mastered the art of creating employee satisfaction better than those in our 4D industries, and remember, these employees want what Gen C wants – meaningful and challenging work surrounded by other talented people etc. etc..

The survey quoted one employee’s enthusiasm about her work “It blows my mind that with the push of a button we push out products that affect hundreds of millions of people. I can’t explain the fulfillment that gives me as an employee here.“

The italics are mine, and I was curious to know what she meant by ‘affect’? Could it be ‘cure’? or perhaps ‘clothe’? Maybe ‘feed’? or ‘shelter’? or ‘transport’? or ‘power’?

Passing through Brussels airport today I saw adverts from three giants of our industrial workplace. Did she work for ABB (strap line ‘power and productivity for a better world’), or perhaps Bayer (‘science for a better life’), maybe Umicore (‘Materials for a better life’ with one employee’s proud child declaring ‘my daddy helps us breathe cleaner air’)?

No…. This quote is apparently from a Vine for Android Software Engineer, Twitter.

A Google search showed me that the Vine software allows people who download the app (88 k of them, rating the app at 3.5 / 5) to ‘create short, beautiful looping videos in a simple and fun way for your friends and family to see’. In short, to ‘entertain’… And with the sort of publicity provided by such quotes about the ‘meaningful’ work they do, who could blame the brightest STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) graduates from following this software engineer into the exciting careers offered by Twitter, Google, Intel and their like.

Our industrial companies’ marketing people clearly know their ‘meaningful’ messages. They stress the societal value of the company to appeal to stakeholders such as customers and investors. But it is Industry’s Leaders, at all levels in their organisations, who need to make these messages resonate with their employees so that they can express them with the same level of enthusiasm as Twitter’s software engineers.

What is the role of industry leaders in response to the changes in the marketplace for recruits from Gen C ‘the connected generation’? Well certainly one role is to make their, no our, industry as challenging and meaningful, no, as exciting, as the entertainment industry. So that it can attract the best recruits, to be surrounded by awesome people, then maybe, just maybe, the pipeline of their successors will continue to come from the same top drawer that they used to, and our industry will continue to provide us all with ‘…a better life’.

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