Sunday, January 22, 2012

Generation Y: Russia is Not Ready

Today I was a guest speaker at Moscow School of Management Skolkovo, trying to convey the Executive MBA students the importance of Change Management and why it should or should not belong to the area of responsibility of HR. One thing struck me as hard to believe: those heads of large departments and directors of companies have never heard about the Generations Theory, do not know anything about the Millennials, Boomers or that they belong to Generation X, and they give no cognisance to the fact that the nature of their workforce is changing.

I shared just a couple of slides to rest my case on changing demographics and Russia's total unpreparedness for that shift. Let's begin with some numbers. These are the projections of the State Committee of Statistics for the demographic picture of Russia 10 years from now - in 2012. The chasm (words fail me to come up with a better definition for what's looming in a very near future) cannot be negated: in 10 years the number of 20-24 year olds who form the core of the future potential of a company or of the entire nation will be half of what it is now. Given that we are already struggling to resource the business and the war for talent is rampant, I fear to imagine what it is going to become in the years coming. Should there be no strategy for talent import in place pretty soon, the business will be facing a collapse situation. A basket case of a country...

But that gap will become everyone's headache in a couple of years. Right now everyone seems to be relaxed and laid back, watching listlessly the revenues from the natural resources Russia is so lucky (or unlucky) to possess. We are so content with the situation that no heed is taken that the workforce is changing and that Generation Y is voluminous enough to make its statement in the world of business. The European businesses have recognized the needs of the new generations and have taken the necessary steps to make sure that they are able to attract and retain the top performers by providing the so-much-valued flexibility and the opportunities for self-actualization that characterize Generation Y. Below is a slide from Top Employers research done last year across Europe:

What do we see in Russia? The business (nor the Government) could care less what type of people will be shaping the nation's economy or are shaping already. Why? Let's take a simple example of working from home. Across the world, it's a reality. In Russia,
  • if you don't come to the office, according to the Labor Legislation it is an absence;
  • there are provisions for home work, but if you decide to go that way, the employer will have to attest the working conditions and certify that your apartment is fit for working - can you imagine conducting an exercise like that?
  • if you work from home and an accident occurs, is that an industrial injury and the company is liable?
  • etc, etc, etc.
The legal hurdles to such a seemingly simple issue are tremendous, and everyone is keeping silent: the unions (which is a joke in Russia right now, really), the business, the government, the civil society (which is maybe even a bigger joke than the unions).

Thus, what I left the students with were questions and problems. Hopefully, they left the classroom with more questions than they had come with because that definitely was my intention. Skolkovo is supposed to nurture crème de la crème of the Russian busines elite, so if they don't start asking the right questions at the highest levels, who will?

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