By: Rob Salkowitz
Multinational companies used to be able to rely on their prestige and deep pockets to attract highly educated young world elites with world-class skills. Now, increasing numbers of indigenous enterprises offer comparable pay and amenities, plus powerful intangibles of pride and nationalism.
Multinationals and large indigenous enterprises are also competing with the dynamism of working in an entrepreneurial startup, or with the prospect of starting a business oneself, now that the barriers to entry have fallen so low.
In my book, Generation Blend, I looked at some of the ways that companies in “old economy” industries could appeal to the next generation and emerging workforce by embracing more networked modes of communication, both in terms of technology and management.
These same principles apply in young world markets. Young people everywhere want the opportunity to use their education and their familiarity with information and communication technology to make an impact. They also want to be inspired by their work.
Nandita Gurjar said that Infosys, consistently the top-ranked employer for college graduates in India, keeps its preferred status despite offering lower starting salaries than competitors because of three important factors. “We thought it would be things like campus and culture,” she said with a laugh. “Actually, these are the things that come back [from our surveys]. One is the leadership, which is highly visionary. Two is values: ‘You will never make us do things we don’t want to do.’ And third one is, ‘You invest in us.’”
Here are some lessons from the successful young world firms I interviewed:
Align Commercial and Social Missions. When I raised the question of “corporate citizenship” with Infosys marketing chief Aditya Nath Jha, his eyes narrowed and his lips pursed. “Let me choose my words carefully here,” he said. “What is called corporate citizenship, or CSR, corporate social responsibility, is not a practice or a process here. It’s a philosophy. It’s embedded in everything we do.” Of course any marketing executive would try to position their company as inherently responsible, but the evidence indicates that young world companies -- especially ones created by Net Generation knowledge economy entrepreneurs -- make special efforts to create alignment between their commercial goals and the social needs of their community.
This is not because of some superior virtue that these businesses possess, but because the enterprises have identified actual market mechanisms that make the pursuit of social goals (capacity-building, problem-solving, sustainability, and so on) more profitable than not pursuing them.
Surveys of the global Net Generation consistently show that this kind of creative alignment between social and commercial goals is singularly inspiring to talented younger workers, and organizations who can execute on this strategy will be extremely competitive in recruiting even with lower starting salaries.
Promote a Creative, Flexible Workstyle. At Globals headquarters in Bangalore, they dim the lights and play hide and seek. In Argentina, Globant hosts happy hours and social outings for the staff. Ushahidi’s Ory Okolloh, mother of a two-year old child who is already auditioning for television commercials, manages her distributed organization from home so she can balance her work and family responsibilities.
Around the world, Young World entrepreneurs strive to design a work experience rather than a work process, recognizing that young employees [see Gen Y employees] see fewer boundaries between work and life. These kinds of workplaces are already known as magnets for creative class talent in developed economies, but they are seen as especially innovative departures in places where most highly paid work is still highly structured, and most organizations are still rigidly hierarchical and formal.
Provide Recognition and Opportunities for Leadership. Talented young workers aspire to leadership, usually more quickly than their elders think is warranted [see New Workforce Management.] Successful young world organizations have found ways to recognize leadership, both as a matter of management practice and through the adoption of social media strategies that enable community recognition of valued contributors.
Ushahidi, for example, is nearly as committed to raising the profile of African IT talent as it is of promoting adoption of its own product. This is true of most of the African companies I spoke to. Globals founder Suhas Gopinath is increasingly eager to redirect the spotlight away from himself and onto the team members who have built the organization out.
Companies such as Globant and Ushahidi encourage their employees to distinguish themselves through contributions to collaborative projects undertaken by the open source community, building a reputation for leadership through action.
Reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Robert Salkowitz, Young World Rising: How Youth Technology and Entrepreneurship are Changing the World from the Bottom Up, 2010.
Rob Salkowitz is a consultant specializing in next-generation workforce and social technology. He is the author of Young World Rising (2010) and Generation Blend (2008), both published by John Wiley & Sons. A co-founder and partner in MediaPlant, LLC, Rob lives and works in Seattle, WA. Follow him on Twitter @robsalk.