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The enterprising spirit of next generations can usher in a new – and better – normal


By Manuelle Malot and Genevieve Houriet Segard, EDHEC Business School

Unprecedented Covid-19 crises have confirmed the relevance of the term ‘VUCA’ for an increasingly Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world. Although the pandemic is not yet behind us, the global economy is showing some signs of recovery and companies now have the opportunity to restore value creation in a way that serves the wider interest.

Favourable job market for young graduates

The job market, which has been very favourable to young graduates in the recent years, has made attracting, retaining and engaging talent one of the major priorities of managers. In the last 10 years, companies have been deploying considerable resources to recruit valuable candidates.
In the meantime, while there is economic uncertainty today, demographically nothing has changed: higher education is not producing enough graduates to meet the operating needs of global economies.
In addition, stop-and-go policies in recruitment have shown their weaknesses in the long run. It is therefore not in the interest of companies to curb their relations with higher education institutions, nor to stop hiring.

Youth looking for meaning more than ever

It is true that by contracting, the labour market has partly resolved the issue of the attractiveness and retention of young professionals in companies, but the problem of commitment will be conversely more acute:
– Young graduates who feel that they have had less freedom to choose their employer may not be as committed to their assignments, especially if their expectations of social impact are not met;
– The aspirations of these young people will remain the same, or even increase, and recruiting in tense times should not exempt companies from reflecting on their societal role beyond simply running their business.
For this new generation, success is no longer associated with remaining loyal to one’s company (only 3% think so), but with being consistent with one’s values (58%) and ambition (16%) [source: Survey Management students’ professional dreams, 2019].
The economic crisis will therefore not exempt companies from the question of meaning for the younger generations. In their criteria for joining a company, diversity and inclusion come first, followed by social and environmental responsibility. Moreover, the lack of contribution to the general interest is one of the biggest disappointments for young employees in their first job.
While the crisis reduces the risk of ephemeral commitment, it may be less sincere. This is the challenge for tomorrow’s management: to cultivate the commitment of young employees around values and a shared objective.
Oct 9 - EDHEC

Young people aspire to be part of a collective adventure

Over the years, the attractiveness of large companies has fallen, indicating – above all – disaffection with the complexity that these types of organisations represent. The craze for start-ups, but even more so for SMEs, structures on a human scale, reflects the desire of young people to better measure the impact of their work, to feel like collaborators and actors rather than employees.
The desire of young people to be useful, to have influence in their jobs, to participate in decisions, to have an impact, to make a difference, is an opportunity for companies, whatever their size. This need for graduates to be useful, which translates into a concern not to take up a “bullshit job”, has sometimes had to be muted in today’s much more difficult job market.
Far from the stereotypes of a young generation disenchanted with business, *91% of young people in their second year of management studies have a positive view of it and trust the power of business to change the world. In fact, they often trust it more than political power.
But while they find the company exciting, open and collaborative, they are not naive in their assessment: it is not always fair, often complex and vertical. It seems to them to reflect an old world, a complicated, overly hierarchical and restrictive organisation, without these elements always being a guarantee of efficiency, collective performance or individual fulfilment.
Today, the company is asked to be the provider of meaning, in place of the others – school, army, church, politics – which have been somewhat erased.
The company is considered by young people as a driving force for innovation, but it is, above all, a place of collective adventure that allows them to surpass themselves. And this is a chance for economic recovery.

*Statistics from the survey “Management students’ professional dreams”, 2020

Views of the authors are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.

Manuelle Malot - EDHECManuelle Malot has been Director of Careers and Prospective at EDHEC Business School for over 20 years. In 2012, she founded the NewGen Talent Centre, a centre of expertise on the motivations, behaviours and skills of new generations. She is the expert on graduate programmes in France, on which she has published several studies, articles and books, and gives lectures in France and abroad.
Genevieve Houriet Segard is a senior researcher at the NewGen Talent Centre at EDHEC Business School in Paris, France. She earned her Ph.D. in Population Economics from the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), France and a Master Degree in CSR management at University Paris-Est Creteil. Her work focuses on next generations’ employment behaviours and competencies, and organizational practices that favour inclusion and diversity.
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The CSR Journal Team