The entrepreneurship of future generations can usher in a new – and better – normal
By Manuelle Malot and Geneviève Houriet Segard, EDHEC Business School
Unprecedented Covid-19 crises have confirmed the relevance of the term “VUCA” to an increasingly Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world. While the pandemic is not yet behind us, the global economy is showing signs of recovery and businesses now have the opportunity to restore value creation in a way that serves the broader interest.
Favorable job market for young graduates
The job market, which has been very favorable to young graduates in recent years, has made the attraction, retention and engagement of talent one of the major priorities for managers. Over the past 10 years, companies have deployed significant resources to recruit valuable candidates.
In the meantime, as economic uncertainty reigns today, nothing has changed demographically: higher education is not producing enough graduates to meet the functioning needs of global economies.
In addition, stop-and-go recruitment policies have shown their weaknesses in the long term. It is therefore not in the interests of companies to restrict their relations with higher education institutions, nor to stop hiring.
Young people in search of meaning more than ever
It is true that by contracting, the labor market has partly resolved the issue of attracting and retaining young professionals in companies, but the problem of engagement will, on the contrary, be more acute:
– Young graduates who feel they have had less freedom in choosing their employer may not be as committed to their missions, especially if their expectations of social impact are not met;
– The aspirations of these young people will remain the same, or even increase, and recruitment in times of stress should not exempt companies from thinking about their societal role beyond the simple management of their company.
For this new generation, success is no longer associated with staying loyal to your company (only 3% think so), but with being consistent with its 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. In addition, the lack of contribution to the general interest is one of the biggest disappointments for young employees in their first job.
If the crisis reduces the risk of short-lived engagement, it can be less sincere. This is the challenge for the management of tomorrow: cultivating the commitment of young employees around values and a shared objective.
Young people aspire to be part of a collective adventure
Over the years, the attractiveness of large companies has diminished, above all testifying to a disaffection with the complexity of these types of organizations. The enthusiasm 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 professions, to participate in decisions, to have an impact, to make a difference, is an opportunity for companies, whatever their size. This need for utility of graduates, which translates into the concern not to take on a “shitty job”, has sometimes had to be concealed in today’s much more difficult job market.
Far from the stereotypes of a young generation disillusioned with business, * 91% of young people in second year of management have a positive outlook and trust the power of the company to change the world. In fact, they often trust him more than political power.
But if 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 organization, too hierarchical and restrictive, without these elements always being a guarantee of efficiency, collective performance or individual fulfillment.
Today, we ask the company to carry meaning, in place of others – school, army, church, politics – who have somewhat faded away.
The company is considered by young people as a driver of innovation, but it is above all a place of collective adventure that allows them to surpass themselves. And it is a chance for the economic recovery.
* Statistics from the survey “Professional dreams of management students”, 2020
The opinions of the authors are personal and do not necessarily represent those of the website.