I’m going to start this post on a negative. Millenials. I really dislike that phrase. It sounds stupid, almost as daft as Generation Y (which I also have an intense dislike for). Thankfully, the LIS profession is clever enough to refer to new entrants to the profession as “New Professionals”, and whilst I realise that the they are not the same, for the purposes of this post the two will be treated as synonymous (read The Next Generation for more musings on Generation Y etc).
The Point of this Post
PWC have just published a new survey entitled the “Millenials Survey” looking at how the next generation of workers are shaping the workplace, and how employers can meet their expectations. This has been done with a view to ensuring super talented people are targeted, recruited, and possibly most crucially, retained.
I figured that it would be interesting to have a nosey through these figures and see how they translate to the LIS profession. I was expecting the results to be roughly similar with how I think (I am a New Prof in the commercial sector after all) even though I imagine very few of the 4,364 undergraduates surveyed want to go into the LIS sector. I was also hoping that the results would be obviously transferable across the whole profession, therefore reinforcing an incredibly important point – the LIS profession is just as competitive and comparative a sector as other, more common, areas of graduate recruitment. For the most part, I think the results carry over quite nicely.
Important note – since this is a blog, referencing and footnoting is a right pain. Therefore all figures etc below have been taken from the PWC survey which can be found here: http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/managing-tomorrows-people/future-of-work/millennials-survey.jhtml [Accessed 22 December 2011]
One of the PWC survey’s findings was that the number of employers a graduate expects to have across their lifetime has increased; over 25% now expect to have 6 or more employers across their career. This is apparently a decrease in expected loyalty to an employer.
Decreasing loyalty will sit very much at odds with the traditional LIS sector, where the usual idea was to stay with a collection to develop it. As hardcopy stock levels continue to decline, the attachment librarians have to their stock is likely to decrease, and a physical bond will no longer exist (that sounds a bit weird. I hope none of you have physical bonds to your stock. If so, please stop now). Moving jobs and familiarising oneself with a new collection is likely to be simpler in the future, especially if current trends in law librarianship continue and large, often identical “bundle collections” are still being farmed out to firms. Instead of collection familiarity, other (more important?) issues with changing jobs will be able to present themselves instead.
This would also fit in with advice that Bethan Ruddock put forward at a recent panel session at ILI2011. In order to progress, it is necessary to look two or three levels above your current position, and then tailor your job search accordingly to develop those skills you need to get there. With almost certain inevitability, this may require several job changes.
Just as an aside, almost comical in its presence, 32% of graduates said they had taken a job with a lower than expected salary in order to get on the job ladder. At least they were lucky to get a job, unlike many others. Unfortunately there was not a box in the survey to check to grateful/ungrateful/nepotistic.
Where the survey results flagged up some differences in the careers of graduates outside the LIS sector was the way in which career progression both within and outside of organisations was discussed. 52% stated that to make an organisation an attractive employer it should have opportunities for career progression. I can think of very few library organisations where this is a likely reason for taking a job. Most structures are simply too small; perhaps national libraries are an exception, or some “information units” (GCHQ possibly?), but for the most part teams will simply be too small to support multiple levels of career progression across a long periods of time. Rather, to gain skills and advance, extracurricular activities will be used, new projects within work undertaken, or a change in organisation needed. It is not uncommon for a traditional career tree to be structured of library assistant – assistant librarian – librarian – head of service. A far cry from the various tiered rankings of business consultancy, law or otherwise.
Thankfully, the profession is more diverse than these traditional structures that I have just outlined above. Rather, the various roles that are available to the forward looking information professional do not fit into the traditional career tree structure, because often the different levels of work that will be undertaken can fit into other teams outside of a traditional service and serve as a means to supplement and broaden this linear structure – for examples of this I point you towards organisations such as JISC, MIMAS, or roles such as knowledge managers and other obscure, yet super interesting jobs.
Managing the New Professional
For me, the most interesting part of PWC’s survey was the final part. Not because it was the end, but rather because it dealt with how more experienced generations perceive how we New Profs should be managed. I’ve outlined my thoughts on these into two sections below…
Things that made me giggle/cringe (*Disclaimer – I’m super-manly, GRRR, so I use Giggle in a loose sense of the word*)
“It’s particularly important to understand and address generational differences and tensions.”
Yes, we have different long term needs to older members of a team. The chances of needing to support a family or have dentures repaired are less likely, but mostly we aren’t that different you know. Some young people have families too – something you will know if you watch day time TV. The statement implies that there are a million worlds between new grads and experienced workers. This is wrong, and will only enforce an “us and them” attitude, possibly leading to grads feeling treated like children, other others feel ancient. As I have said before, mix them together, and hope that new ideas can mix with realistic understanding of how to implement things in order to make something wonderful happen.
“is it time to shift focus from cash bonuses to other things”
Bonus? Made of Cash? Post Lehman? Must be kidding.
Things that made sense to me
“Challenge them to come up with new ways to streamline processes and to exercise creativity”
Yes. Absolutely. We are creative and have been bred in a time of austerity. We can streamline with new idesa, uses of tech and swooshing noises.
“Give them honest feedback in real time — and highlight positive contributions or improvements on key competencies.”
Feedback is good. In a world of uncertain employment and economic downturn, it’s pretty gloomy for new grads. A bit of feedback goes a long way. Pretty sure this is true for all staff though!
“If you know what you want done by when, why does it matter where and how they complete the task?”
Yes. Though sometimes guidelines and parameters can help shake that student mentality of do it last minute at 1am with lots of coffee. Maybe one to take with a pinch of salt.
“Millennials want to experience as much training as possible”
Yes. We like to learn. We’ve been through an education system which examines us every two minutes, and without those exams we may now feel lost. Training can help to keep us on track and make us feel like we are progressing. Plus it’ll help your business too by making us better at our jobs.
“They value results over tenure and are sometimes frustrated with the amount of time it takes to work up the career ladder”
Yes and no. Maybe my above comments about the disparity of career progression between LIS and other sectors applies here.
Any thoughts? I’d be keen to know.