What is the Meaning and Purpose at Work for Gen Y ?


As I did for Seth Godin’ s speech in Antwerp, I have collected some interesting points today at an event  organised by Success 121 and supported by AmCham Belgium, BritCham, The Bulletin and Xpats.com and held at ING Building in Brussels. About 160 people attended this event: Meaning and Purpose at Work, Brussels May, 18, 2010

Quote 1 From the organizers: “For generations, work was primarily a means of putting food on the table. But today’s bright Generation-Y manager (or independent professional) asks more from their working week. And the brighter they are, the more they ask for. It’s not about money. A good salary won’t keep Gen-Y for long. Nor will the occasional office party. These thirty-somethings want to believe in what they are doing. They don’t just want to be proud of the car they drive, they want to be proud of how they earned it.”

Quote 2: From Patricia O’Hayer Vice President of Communications for Europe at UnileverGen Y are the children of the baby-boomers,  they are very educated, and act as part of networks with fuzzy barriers or no division between the different parts of their life. They are socially conscious and activists, they are technology driven. They want to work for companies  who are engaged and responsible for the world they will left for the next generation along the value chain from outsourcing to recycling. Word of mouth has replaced mass media  and 81% of Gen Y says they buy after they receive advice from friends or followers. Gen Y  want  to work for companies who: Do Well, Do Good, Are Innovative, Interactive, Flexible, and Create a Better Future.  Unilever ‘s  mantra is “Small actions  done by  billions of people make a BIG Difference, we work to create a better future everyday”

Quote 3: From Margareth Haffenden, Executive coach and Leadership Team Development at ThirdLevel:Purpose and meaning is very personal but the main drivers for attracting talent  is TRUST, RESPECT, and COLLABORATION. Employees are taking the ownership for the change process.in private and public organizations. They want to be challenged, work in multicultural and stimulating environments. If asked managers want to give the image of people who care and make a difference for individual’s life. Having fun is not about hedonism anymore it is about living a life in full.

Quote 4: From John Niland Founder and Coach at Success 121Research shows that intrinsic motivation is destroyed by external rewards (click to see results of one research on children ). Without intrinsic motivation, people experiment boredom and want to stay “invisible”. Motivated people are willing to be visible, ask questions, challenge the status quo, take conversations to the next level, look for consistency and credibility. Another strong feature of intrinsic motivation is resilience. Motivated people recover from disappointments, are less likely to take things personally, are not frightened of rejection, confident, persistent. Motivated people like to connect to others with strong emphasis on trust and care.

On performance: The antidote to exhaustion is not rest but “wholeheartedness” David Whyte, author of Crossing the Unknown Sea.



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3 thoughts on “What is the Meaning and Purpose at Work for Gen Y ?

  1. Kavita May 20, 2010 at 11:03 am Reply

    Great points. I especially like Quote 3, with the emphasis on trust, respect and collaboration. Employees MUST take the ownership for the entire change process in every organization. The traditional hierarchical structure must be tweaked around a little bit, so that all employees are made directly responsible for all the work they do for the company. This reminds me of a concept I came across in Vineet Nayar’s book ‘Employees First, Customers Second’, in which he explains the principle of the ‘Inverted Pyramid’. There, he says that employees must take the first level of importance in any company, and this transfer of immediate responsibility will make them work better, and ultimately achieve goals for the organization itself. That also would show that the company trusts its employees enough to give them this direct responsibility, and making them feel important about what they do can definitely add more meaning and purpose to their work.

    • Anne Egros May 20, 2010 at 11:18 am Reply

      Hi Kavita,
      Thanks for your comments
      I remember this inverted pyramid concept to explain the Japanese quality circles and Kaizen (ongoing learning process) in the 80′s.
      Which companies today are applying the “Employees First” philosophy ? seems they have been lost in another planet

  2. Kavita May 21, 2010 at 3:25 pm Reply

    Hi Anne. Thanks for your response.

    Companies like HCL Technologies are implementing the concept of ‘Employees First, Customers Second’. It is now one of the best employers in Asia and the United Kingdom. It was also one of the few companies to grow during the recession (2008-2009) The Employees First, Customers Second philosophy transformed it into a $2.5 billion dollar company.

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