Early April, we launched the Millennials at Work book, sharing insights on how to optimally capitalize on Millennials’ talents and maximize their impact on business performance. In preparation for this story, we approached successful consumer brands such as FREITAG & Beiersdorf. In one of our latest interviews we also talked to Carola Lundberg, Insights & Data Director at Vizeum, a strategic media agency in Sweden, and former Global Research Director at Universum, the global leader in Employer Branding.
Thanks for the interview, Carola! Let’s kick off with a short introduction about yourself for our readers.
My name is Carola Lundberg, I come originally from Chile and moved to Sweden in 2005. I’ve been working with research and data since 2006, when I joined Universum. There, I worked as an analyst, project manager, consultant and even headed the global research department for a while. After 10 years in employer branding, the consumer world caught my attention. I’m very excited about working in the media industry, learning how consumers interact with brands and helping our clients succeed in the digital economy working more data-driven. A brand-new challenge, as I just started at Vizeum this February.
Just to give some extra background, Universum is thé leader in employer branding?
Yes, they do research in 57 countries, measuring employer attractiveness, what is important to talent and what they associate with their preferred employer brands. Linked to that, we did a lot of research on how the different generations in the workplace are changing and what their perceptions and expectations are.
Take for instance the Millennial generation, a generation that challenges everything. They want to have a career, they want to learn, but on the other hand they don’t want to work as hard as the previous generations, they want to be home, they want to be good parents, they want to be good cooks, good lovers… This is what we called life careerism: they want to make a career in everything, they want to be good at everything.
Hot tweetaway: #Millennials want to make a career in everything #lifecareerism http://insit.es/2rHYPKN by @Joeri_InSites via @CoolBrands #geny #Millennialsatwork
Is it realistic to be good at everything?
I’m born in ’79, so I consider myself a semi-Millennial. And I believe for sure that it is possible, at least you can be good at the things that matter to you. I’ve never worked more than 45 hours a week and I always try to be there for my kids, take care of myself and have my hobby, painting. So I believe it’s possible. It’s a matter of being efficient and getting the most out of the tools that are available. And here’s where the difference lies: Millennials know which tools are available and how to use them to be as efficient as possible.
More efficient than previous generations.
Exactly. For Millennials, nothing should take time and they expect the same in the workplace, that everything works smoothly. It’s very frustrating when things don’t work quickly enough, or that it takes time to load, or that you need to attach a file and all those things are very frustrating for Millennials, let alone for Gen Z’ers.
This is for tools, software and support in their jobs. But of course, many aspects of work are also related to working in groups and making decisions and having meetings. How are the perspectives for Millennials when it comes to working together? Are they different?
Definitely. As they care for their private life so much, Millennials expect a lot of flexibility, but they also want to take a lot of responsibility. So, what I’ve learned is: you don’t need to force them to be in the office between 8 and 5. When you find the right talent, you can also trust them. Say very clearly what you expect from them, give them goals. And then it does not matter where they are, how many hours they spend on what, because it’s about what they deliver… It’s that credibility that helps them to be happier in their lives.
On the other hand, we read a lot of stories on increasing burn-outs among young people. Sometimes I wonder that perhaps they think they can manage it themselves, but then life catches up with them. For instance: they want to have a sunny Friday afternoon off, and think “I’ll work on the weekend” but then on the weekend family and friends are also important, so suddenly they must work all Saturday and Sunday night to be able to deliver. And yes, it’s their own decision, but for some people it can ask too much of them, because they are not sleeping, they are procrastinating jobs… So, is everyone capable of managing their own life?
Well, according to my experience and our research, people manage to do so; because the opposite is not the answer. When you force people to be in the office between 8 and 5, they will count the minutes, procrastinating jobs, just doing working hours. And in the end, they will be less productive and potentially make no extra effort. They won’t work from home at all. They won’t come home and work in the evening, because they say: I already did my 8 to 5, so now I don’t have any responsibility whatsoever.
What is crucial is to recruit the right people, the right fit for the job. And then to help them succeed by giving them the responsibility, defining realistic and measurable goals together with them and I’m sure they will deliver.
And from a practical perspective, as many parts of the job are done in meetings with other people or via teamwork. But when everyone is working on different timings and at home, then it’s impossible to have meetings.
That’s the beauty about technology, that nothing is impossible. I’ve been working virtually for a very long time. I managed a team in India and at the same time I was working with project managers in the US. And, of course, sometimes it’s difficult to find a time when everybody is available. But if you had 8 to 5 working hours, you would never find a time that works for everyone. So, in that sense, the employer benefits from the flexibility, because someone in India could say: “Okay I will start work later”. And someone in the US: “I’ll start at 7”. And then we find a time.
And with audio & video technology, it works smoothly. You can wear a nice shirt and it does not matter what you have underneath, you could even have your pyjama pants on 😉 And, even better, have a washing machine running at the same time, then you can be even more productive. And that contributes to having a happier life in the end.
I definitely agree! Another question I get a lot is: how much of this thinking is related to generations and will still be there when they are 10-15 years older and moving (up) in organisations, versus being more life stage related and, thus, being the same for other generations? That sort of age you feel you can change the world, until you’ll have been working for 10 years and then you think: “Okay, corporate still has certain ways of working your way up and I’m not changing the world in the end”.
I think it’s a combination. Because also parenting styles have changed over the years and generations. I believe Generation Alpha for instance will be super different, because their parents are Millennials, and Millennials have a completely different view on how to run a family. Parents are more equal. You have the father involved in the children’s lives and getting to know them. When I think of my children versus myself when I was little, it’s like two separate worlds, completely different.
And more related then to gender?
Today’s children are growing up in a more equal environment, with both parents working and dividing the responsibilities at home. You see the household demanding more time from the father and the father spending more time with his children, which affects what children see is normal. So it’s naturally getting more equal when it comes to gender.
Hot tweetaway: Today’s children are growing up in a more equal environment #sharetheload http://insit.es/2rHYPKN by @Joeri_InSites via @CoolBrands #geny #Millennialsatwork
I had the impression, at least in Sweden, that was already the case for the past 15-20 years perhaps?
If you compare it to the rest of the world, you can say Sweden is pretty equal, in general. However, in leadership roles and in boards of directors, you will still see that over 80% are men and native Swedish. So, the gender and ethnical diversity is still not very representative on the management level, unfortunately. And that is the beauty here at Vizeum, we are a very diverse and gender-balanced management team, which was one of the main reasons why I decided to join.
The lack of diversity has consequences for brands wanting to attract younger generations. A company where all leaders are men for example, would have a hard time trying to convince a female talent that she would have great leadership opportunities. If I think about my own children for instance, 20-30 years from now becoming leaders in organisations, they will have a completely different view given the ways they are growing up today. So I’m pretty optimistic about the future being a semi-Millennial. On the other hand, Gen Z’ers are not as optimistic as the Millennials were. And that’s a difference that we see in the research as well.
They are the kids of Gen X of course. And Gen X is a more pessimistic generation. To a certain extent, you copy some values of your parents, just like Millennials copied the values of Baby Boomers, a more optimistic and more social feeling. Gen X is more individual and more pessimistic, also because they grew up in the economic crisis. And now, if you look at Gen Z, they grow up in the same uncertain conditions: politics, terrorism, the economy since 2007 was not that good. So, it jumps from generation to generation. Seems like big cycles.
Yes, that is true. As a matter of fact, when we asked younger generations how they believe future life will be, whether the quality of life will be better than their parents or not, Millennials said: “Yes, it will definitely be better than my parents”; Gen Z said: “Not really, but maybe at the same level or less”.
Hot tweetaway: #Genz is a more pessimistic generation than #Millennials http://insit.es/2rHYPKN by @Joeri_InSites via @CoolBrands #MillennialsatWork #geny
And do you think it’s right?
I think it will be better. If you see the statistics and what has happened in the world in the last 100 years, there is no doubt it is only getting better and better. Despite what we see in the newspapers, they tend to show the worst of everything. But think of the level of education, the share of the population who can read and write in Africa, the economies in the Latin-American countries, the economic progress in the largest countries of the world, India and China…. it is definitely getting better.
In a global perspective, I think I agree.
Do you have one example of a market that is doing worse than 50 years ago?
I think Europe suffered a lot. Perhaps not in the Nordic part… but certainly the Southern part of Europe, take Greece, Spain, Portugal. In the past years I don’t think it was easy for young people to find a job, most of them moved and that’s the advantage of the young generation today, that they are more mobile and they move to markets where they can find a job.
Next to that, if you look at the US, the Northern part of the Americas, students’ debts have never been so high, higher than credit card debts… I think Millennials were a bit too optimistic at a certain point. The sky was the limit and I think reality is between the pessimistic and the optimistic views. But I’m Gen X, perhaps I’m too pessimistic J
I think the world is becoming more equal in general and this is a good thing. Perhaps in some countries like in America, it has been too extreme, in the way they run society with a lot of private education, private everything, which puts a lot a pressure on the individual. There is always ups and downs, but the overall trend is positive.
Think of the UK, you get student riots in the UK, because of the cost of studying and the system in the UK. So, that’s so close to us, in the end.
That’s true. But I think the overall picture is better. This is what we always write about, all the bad things. But if you think of education and advancement in technology, how many children are dying of leukaemia now versus 10 years ago? I think all in all and in average the world is getter better. Despite of all the different crises happening in different parts of the world.
Thanks for your optimism and for the interview, Carola! 😉
Eager for more insights on how to build a Millennial-proof HR strategy? Get your download of the Millennials at Work paper via firstname.lastname@example.org or replay our Millennials at Work Webinar to hear the story first-hand from our NxtGen & Millennials expert Joeri Van den Bergh.