I recently read an article in Optimum Online– Generation Y Challenges the Public Service by David Eaves, who is an expert in negotiating and public policy, and works with leading companies across North America, helping them develop and implement strategies for maximizing value from partnerships, alliances with customers and suppliers. In addition, he works with non-profits and government agencies, consulting on various public policy issues.
Eaves’ article, which is taken from a speech he gave to senior executives in the federal public service association (APEX) highlights the challenges the INTERNET GENERATION have adapting to the public service which is run by baby boomer’s who “don’t totally get the transformation the Internet is bringing to society , including Web 2.0 and other new techniques and media.
One of the lessons I learned as a senior executive in the public sector (and as a professor at a Business School where our students work on projects with government and non profits and are totally stunned at the lack of knowledge of contemporary marketing and business skills in these sectors) and still follow today is to make sure that you have young people on your marketing and communications team. More importantly make darn sure you listen to what they have to say. This generation looks at how to do things in a very different way and are always shocked and surprised at how “backward” my generation is at getting things done. They are right in most cases ! What takes my generation hours to do ” the old fashioned way” these young folks can do in a micro-minute.
So if you are a manger in the public service or non profit sector make a New Years resolution that this year you will hire someone who is part of Generation Y , preferably a recent marketing/business graduate and most importantly listen to them. It could be the best decision you make in 2008.
To all my readers, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy holiday and good marketing health in 2008.
Here are suggestions from Eaves:
So what can you do?
First, symbols matter. So you may have to change the symbols. One of the best articles I’ve read on leadership was by the president of Scandinavian Airlines, who talked about how, after much reflection, he flipped his organizational chart upside down so as to place himself at the bottom, understanding that his role was to support everybody above him, so they could, in turn, support the front-line workers who actually touch the customers. Maybe you could flip the pyramidal APEX logo on its head?
Second, remember the centrality of connections. I’d love to see a public service that connects employees and allows them to search each other out by areas of interests, experience and knowledge. And then to have all public policies on wiki’s so that anybody in the public service can read and comment, and make anybody else’s work better. A networked, open-sourced public service – now that would be exciting!
Third, where are the leaders? I want to come back to one of the best things Jim Collins says: “Leaders model the values and set the culture of an organization.” Since APEX represents the leaders of the public service, you are empowered to model the values and set the culture for this organization. That is real power.
Fourth, mentoring is crucial. People who are successful didn’t get there on their own. They had others looking after and helping them. One big problem with the public service is that nobody has any incentive to coach and mentor anyone else. I know that when you invest time and energy into someone, they’ll probably end up entering a competition and getting a job elsewhere, and so someone else will benefit. I know that must be frustrating. But mentor someone.
Fifth, change the culture. Make it less hierarchical, so when someone who works for you has an idea that gets airtime, make sure they get into the meetings with the higher-ups. When I worked as a consultant, it was unimaginable that a partner would meet with a client on something I was working on and I wouldn’t be in the room. How was I supposed to know what the problems were if I wasn’t hearing it from the horse’s mouth? Not only did I work better, but I learned a ton.
Sixth, it is all about teamwork. Young people are hungry and want to work, especially if the work is interesting. Larger teams usually mean there are more senior people who will take the sexier files. Smaller teams may have to work harder but a) they generally are more motivated because everybody gets to do more interesting work, and b) they collaborate more easily because everybody wants help. This type of environment can be intoxicating and fun.
Seventh, get out of your islet! Almost everybody in the public service is permitted to take a sabbatical, so do it! Try a job at a non-profit or for-profit organization. Learn something new: some new skills, some new management techniques, get a new perspective, and bring it back to the public service. The public service will be richer for it and your team will learn more from you!