A couple of days ago I was speaking at a conference in Vancouver to a conference of HR professionals about how to measure the fairness of workplace conflict management systems. The topic of the conference itself was how to attract and retain staff in a war for talent. I was fortunate to hear a presentation from a major Canadian telecommunications company about different demographic groups and what motivates them. What I found confirmed my own research in this area - that younger employees (i.e. those born in 1982 and later - who are refered to as "millenials") have a very different attitude toward work and authority in the workplace than their older counterparts (i.e. the baby boomers 1943-64 and Generation X'ers 1965-1981). According to the marketting research of this firm Millenials:
- have a realistic outlook toward life;
- are oblivious to authority;
- are committed to success;
- believe in decisions that are for the good of the world around them; and
- look for meaning in the work that they do.
(source:"Employer of Choice: Talent Attraction and Retention. Insight Conference, Vancouver November 2006)
Implications for this in the fairness of conflict management systems are clear. Millenials - especially the more talented and sought after professionals)are not afraid to leave an employer who they consider to be "unfair" whether it be in the way they treat the outside world, or the workplace itself. In fact they would choose to move to a new employer rather than have their reputation tarnished in any way by a negative conflic in the workplace. Success is important to them. But they are much more interested in work-life balance than their earlier generations. Moreoever, they are realistic. They know that unresolved conflict can lead to a very negative work environment. They do not believe that authority will fix the problem.
Therefore, if your company seeks to attract younger staff and retain the staff you have, it is extremely important to ensure conflict is managed fairly and efficiently. Conflict is a distraction that will simply not be tolerated by those who have options and are motivated to succeed.