What the best young talent expects

Posted on February 2, 2012

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I was at a conference yesterday and the old among us (you know, the thirty- and forty-somethings) started talking about expectations of those entering companies, mainly in terms of flexibility.

To cut to the chase: If people are doing work in their own time, don’t be a dick about ‘office hours’. Even that glance at work email on a smart-phone on a Sunday night should translate into a glance at Facebook on work time. In fact, allow plenty more than that.

This is nothing new. Some companies, when I was a kid, used to get really funny about ‘personal calls’ from or to the office. I guess at least they were progressive enough to allow phones on a staffers’ desk. Trust me, plenty didn’t see the point of that. Don’t even ask about personal computers. You know which companies survived.

So even taking the companies that were enlightened enough in earlier rounds of this struggle, we find those who prefer to constrain and constrict, devoid of trust and any semblance of freeing their workforce.

I have sat with lawyers before who think it wise to tell everyone in a company how their every creative utterance (think social media posts) are officially owned by their employer. Imagine how that sounds to a bright 22-year-old. Sounded bad enough to me.

Companies have to allow flexibility. The most talented staff won’t put up with anything less. They will walk and start their own, better businesses. Or they will simply not join.

A little while ago I wrote about The rise of the side project. At the best companies in the world this is a given. At the best universities in the world it is too.

I had a meeting with a young internet entrepreneur about 18 months ago, who had rushed to my office in London from Oxford. He demoed his software, software already working impressively on several large consumer publishing sites.

I didn’t quite get why he had to rush back. Only a few hours later I realised he wasn’t rushing back to his office. He was trying not to miss his next tutorial at the university.

Do you think that kind of talent will ever join your company?

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Posted in: Social media, Work