I don’t think any generation has been exempt from some kind of economic breach of faith — which, as these things tend to roll downhill, always results in some kind of domestic devastation. For the purposes of this article, I’ll skip the details of the bleak picture that’s currently before us. You’ve heard them all before, if you haven’t lived them yourself.
Right now, I want to focus on how it will affect our children, the people we’ll be counting on to get the job done in a decade or two. Because right now, we’re bankrupting their work ethic by the way we’re treating their parents.
Right now, these children are watching their parents come home broadsided by unanticipated layoffs and enduring unemployment. They know their parents didn’t deserve to get fired. They have memories of BlackBerry beach vacations to prove it. So a whole generation of the candidates you’ll be counting on before too long is coming to the conclusion: “So this is what you get for working your butt off.” We could be facing a generation of talent drop-outs before they’ve even received their high school diplomas.
Companies that are in the throes of budget and headcount cutbacks are thinking quarter by quarter. I get that. And, I know it takes superhuman effort to think about anything else even remotely positive when you’re assembling layoff packages for people whose faces you see every morning by the coffee maker. I get that, too.
Still, you have to try. You might not be the one collecting resumes from those jaded young adults in 20 years, but someone will. Companies need to take a long-term community relations approach right now to make sure today’s children will grow up to become adults who believe that effort and dedication will be rewarded by good-faith relationships with their employers. Even if the social contract is no longer job-for-life, the way you treat their parents will drive the attitudes their children will be coming to work with a couple of decades from now.
So, treat the parents fairly and right — right now. Give them something good to say about their jobs and their employer when they go home at night. Equip them with the emotional support and insights they’ll need to help their children stay on target with their own dreams and ambitions. Your successors will thank you for it later. This could be HR’s most important legacy.
Image credit, Carasoyn, via iStock