NEWS The times, they aren't through a changin'- The Age
I REMEMBER vividly seeking my first full-time position as an articled clerk. The interview was predictable — the senior and elderly partners fired off the questions and I, the interviewee, answered them. One only spoke when spoken to. And apparently the key to success was to present oneself as a willing, competent and loyal slave.
Halfway through my first year, my position was almost terminated when the senior partner overheard me complaining to another articled clerk that one could not reasonably survive on $100 a week. I was permitted to stay but only after being lectured that in his day, his parents had had to pay for the privilege of their son serving articles.
How times have changed. In an era of relatively low unemployment, the scarcest resource is frequently human. Businesses prosper or stagnate according to their ability to keep turnover low and have a healthy hit rate in attracting new staff.
And the recruitment process has also changed. Generation Y has been educated to question, to challenge and to have an expectation of not waiting too much, especially for the assumption of responsibility.
We still have an interview process, but it is now typically two-way. Employment has become more of a partnership, and both prospective employer and employee use an interview to understand each other.
Indeed, for the outstanding graduates, it is the employer that tends to be interviewed. And the questions are typically about prospects for advancement, freedom to take time off for extended leave or working overseas.
Little wonder is it that BRW has no difficulty in populating its Young Rich List with self-assured, self-made successful entrepreneurs in their 20s and 30s. And, equally, it is not surprising that our Young Australian of the Year (indeed, Young UN World Person of the Year), Hugh Evans, a mere 22 years old, has created the Oak Tree Foundation; which is, for all intents and purposes, an international aid agency actively supported by and engaging with thousands of generation Yers.
And all of this assists us in understanding why, after years and years of talk, we stand on the cusp of an era in which large numbers of Australian companies will become very seriously engaged in corporate social responsibility. Yes, we have had a few celebrated examples over the years but, in truth, the corporate sector as a whole has had but a modest impact in the community.
Our new generation of employees is making it plain that it wants to know what businesses stand for, what their values are.
And in the scramble to secure the best talent, the promises of an enlightened corporate existence will have to be delivered. Generation Y won't be fooled by spin.
One inspiring generation Y-driven organisation is Ampersand Network, which promotes student volunteering. In the publicity material it circulates at tertiary institutions, it imagines a time when generation Y is taking over the reins of responsibility. It predicts that in 2025 the impact of the Ampersand Network will be "visible in the Australian social and political landscape".
"Students who volunteered between 2005 and 2010 are leaders in their chosen professions and apply their social conscience, acquired through volunteering, to all personal and professional decisions. All Australians support and further develop a culture of social reciprocity."
Fantasy? I don't believe so. Roll on generation Y — make your mark!
Simon McKeon is executive chairman of Macquarie Bank and chairman of Melbourne Care.