First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Eduardo Estellita and I’m from Generation Y.
Born and raised in Brazil, I’m an engineer and mathematician with a double degree in Brazil and France. From my early days, I’ve dedicated my energy to a wide range of projects (often simultaneously), driven by the wonder of discovery and a thirst for the acquisition and transmission of knowledge.
Not surprisingly, my career debuted in Education. For 5 years, whilst still at university, I was a private and group tutor to high school students, a university assistant teacher and a volunteer teacher in a community preparatory school. Weekly, I’d see myself animating classes up to 40 students and would take great pleasure in having an active role in the learning process.
The following 5 years, I’ve held several functional positions in France and Benelux within big multinational organizations: from purchasing and logistics to sales and business development. The common point between each of those experiences was change management. I was that guy moving across departments, locations and hierarchical levels, gathering colleagues and external partners towards a common organizational goal: “the future”. This future was invariably translated into change and I couldn’t wait to put it into practice.
Soon enough I’ve realized that my company leaders did not envisioned the future in all its details. To them it meant a series of new routine activities, a customer reaction, a deadline, and (if I was lucky enough) a budget. A crucial element was usually left out: the people.
The people were the ones who would acquire and apply those new routine activities (and absorb its impacts), who would comfort and explain the changes to each customer, who would free up their agendas and open their spirits in order to reach the deadline, and who would put to good use the budget invested in it. Over and over again, I was surprised not by the technical challenges, nor the complexity of cross-functional and cross-cultural project management, but by the immense resistance on individual level. Under such conditions who wouldn’t resist?
In my experience, a project manager receives a very concrete frame and is entrusted to invite each project member into creative painting of what the tableau of future will look like.
His first role is to welcome different painting strokes and desires for the final outcome.
His second role is to organize the group so they combine the strokes and designs that best fit into the frame.
His last and most ignored role is to accompany in their mourning those who had to adapt their stroke, give up their own original design and were invited to paint within the frame against will. A successful change project will advance as fast as the last person mourning.
Enriched by those projects I have arrived to two conclusions:
1) Like in my story, Generation Y has a very special role as catalysts of change in businesses and society at large.
Gen Y grew up learning to adapt to waves and waves of disruptive changes and were often raised in consensus-driven and collaborative environments. On top of that, thanks to the communications and transport revolution of the last decades, they’ve had the luxury to be early on in contact with different cultures and have acquired the skills to welcome and combine diverging viewpoints.
2) Generation Y and HR have the potential to create a powerful strategic alliance if only they stop treating each other as enemies.
I cannot imagine that someone would want to go into HR because they don’t care about people. It just makes no sense! Then how come have we arrived into a situation in which HR is generally viewed by employees (especially those from Gen Y) as a powerless “payroll and compliance” function? When did companies decide that more than 50% of their assets (their people) would be seen as 40% of their cost? When did we start looking at the glass half-empty and how could we start seeing it otherwise?
By constantly issuing “unrealistic demands”, questioning the status quo and insisting for change, Gen Y will challenge HR out of their support function into a more strategic role within the company. In turn, HR has the power to hire and develop the kind of people that will bring the human back into the center of business.
Show me a company with a strong Y culture and I will show you a powerful, strategic HR team with a long talent pipeline.
If a partnership between Generation Y and HR is the key for change, my next concern was to define my role in all this. This question led to a series of transforming decisions.
To keep accompanying people in their crossroads and approach both sides of this partnership in a co-creative manner, I’ve enrolled myself in a training to become a certified coach.
To lead an unbiased quest for the steps into this partnership, I’ve given up on my own prejudices against HR. I’ve admitted how little I know about HR’s challenges and opportunities within companies. I’ve stopped complaining and became part of the solution by listening to what HR has to say.
Finally, to gather a significant and varied sample of Gen Y and HR experiences, I’ve quit my job and decided to dedicate a year on this research.
The results of this newfound passion shall be seen in the months to come. It is with absolute conviction about the importance, timeliness and impact of those 2 conclusions that I embark on this project. Most of all, I believe that the successful integration of Gen Y in our companies is an essential piece to the puzzle of our current economical, educational and environmental crisis.
Whether my endeavor plants enough seeds of change, it depends as much on my efforts as on your valuable contributions with your own stories and opinions. To get the ball rolling, I’d be thankful to hear from you:
How does your life story weaves into the story of changes bigger than yourself?
In which aspects are you and Generation Y alike?