Author: Luis Suarez Posted: October 01, 2011 742 views

Gran Canaria - Valsequillo in the winter ...If you have been reading this blog for a little while now, you may remember how there have been numerous ocassions where I have discussed how I am one of those folks who doesn’t really buy into both the whole generations or digital divide arguments. Gen-Yers, Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers, etc. etc., to me, are all part of the knowledge workforce and, if anything, instead of talking about different generations at work, I always tend to think that it is mostly about embracing and facilitating different working styles within the workforce. But what happens when each and everyone of those work styles don’t have a meaning, nor a purpose, for what they usually do? Well, we have got a crisis. A crisis of meaning.

That’s the main premise that Roger Martin, Dean at Rotman School, talks about at the Big Think Web site under a thought-provoking, and rather evocative, short video clip under the title “The Crisis of Meaning in the Millennial Workforce“, which lasts for nearly three minutes and which I would strongly encourage you all to have a look in order to find out a bit more on the state of things within today’s corporate environment, which surely would sound as a key issue of why we are potentially going through the current turmoil with this financial crisis.

Now, Roger talks about that crisis of meaning for the younger knowledge workers, i.e. that generation of millenials. But, like I mentioned at the beginning of this blog entry, I don’t think it’s just a problem with millennials themselves, but more with the knowledge workforce in general, and with each and everyone of those working styles I mentioned above. So if you go ahead and scratch the word millennials and, instead, you put there Gen-Xers or Baby Boomers, or whatever else, you would still obtain a very similar result: an urge for each of those working styles to define a larger purpose or meaning for what each and everyone of us do in our day to day work.

We could probably say that one of the common themes permeating throughout the short video clip is that one of employee motivation, engagement, or participation in today’s corporate environment; or the lack of, better said, something that seems to be a rather popular topic at the moment, and which I will be covering shortly as well in a separate blog entry, as it really heated up a fantastic conversation over in Google Plus earlier on in the week on corporate culture(s).

But here is a good definition of that lack of motivation from the general workforce that Roger mentions in that video:

“Okay, so let me get this straight.  I’m supposed to come to work for you and work every day with the singular goal of maximizing the value of faceless, nameless people who can blow us off in a nanosecond if they had a bad hair day?  Am I right thus far?”  The truthful answer is, yes.  And the millenials are just saying, “Like, you got to be kidding me.  Seriously?

Like I said, scratch millennials and insert there whatever other moniker and it would still be spot on! Employee engagement and motivation are really two hot topics within the workplace at the moment. They always have been and will probably be. But perhaps that’s because we may have been looking into this crisis of meaning issue from the wrong end and we could probably very much need to apply some fresh thinking that would help us address the issue in a much more profound way to finally find that solution for it. And in this case, I do believe that Dave Pullin (Wish I could find the right Dave Pullin links to point you to him, but alas I couldn’t find them out just yet…) pretty much nails it as to put on the table what the real issue is at hand and what we, each and everyone of us!, could do to address it and fix it for those younger generations who have already started to enter the workplace. To quote:

You have the problem 100% backwards. It is NOT “How do we motivate people to devote their existence to the interests of business”, it should be “how do we motivate business to devote their existence to people”.

Business has become the problem.

People want jobs but no business regards itself as having an obligation or objective to create jobs. People want rewarding jobs but business wants to pay the least they can get away with. People want fulfilling jobs but business couldn’t care less whether jobs are fulfilling.

People want healthcare, but we have HealthDontCare Businesses that want profit but couldn’t care less about people’s health. People want as much health care as they can afford, or to be healthy at the least cost, but we have Health “Insurance” businesses whose objective is to maximize the cost and minimize the healthcare[Emphasis mine]

Etymologically speaking, some people say that crisis means change, decision, choice, judgement, etc. Well, perhaps we do need to go through this crisis of meaning to really evaluate, once again, whether knowledge workers need to adjust to business or whether the business needs to adjust to knowledge workers. Something tells me, deep inside, whether we would want to admit it or not, everyone, that we already know the answer to it. We probably have already made up our own minds, but thing is, the challenge here is, is it *the* right decision, *the* right choice?

Dave, once again, reminds us of what it may well be all about with a final brilliant sentence, extracted from the above comment, that I thought was worth while quoting over here as well:

Business is an artifact invented by humans for a purpose. But now it is humans that must serve the purpose of the artifact

Something tells me that it’s probably a good time now to remember, and to reflect, about where our real place at work is at the moment and where it should well be. Somehow, I think we all know the answer already, don’t we?

Have a good one everyone!

About the author >

Luis Suarez

Hi ! My name is Luis Suarez and I am a Knowledge Manager, Community Builder & Social Computing Evangelist in the IBM Software Group division. I have now been working for IBM for a bit over 11 years, the last 9 of those as a full time employee. Throughout all that time I have developed a passion for everything related to Knowledge Management (i.e. Learning & Knowledge, or Knowledge Sharing, whatever you would prefer to call it). That would include quite a few things that, as you may have noticed already, are part of the theme(s) I will be talking about here in my weblog: Collaboration (Specially remote collaboration), Expertise Location, Content Management, Communities and Community Building -whether we are talking about physical or virtual / online communities (Communities of Practice, of Interest, of Purpose, etc.), (e)Learning, Online Facilitation, Knowledge and Learning Tools, Social Computing, Social Networking, Social Software, Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, etc. In short, almost everything that has got to do with knowledge sharing and collaboration. But with a twist.

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