From Work-Life Balance to Work-Life Blend – Google, Twitter and Cisco Join a Panel to Discuss how to Prepare Companies for Gen Y

July 29, 2013 - 9 Comments

Two weeks ago, I was sitting in front of 250 people at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco talking about a subject most Fortune 500 companies are dealing with today: how to prepare for the thousands of Gen Y employees about to descend on the work place. Last Tuesday, July 16th, I had the pleasure of speaking on this topic with Google’s Todd Carlisle, Director of Staffing, and Twitter’s Melissa Daimler, Head of Organizational Effectiveness and Learning. Doug MacMillan with Bloomberg BusinessWeek moderated the discussion.

During the course of the evening, we discussed an assortment of topics around how companies are creating an environment that these new generations of employees will want to work in. It’s clear Gen Yers work and interact in different ways and companies are having to adapt.

For example, all of the panelists agreed that companies must provide lots of opportunities for training and coaching. I firmly believe that the number one predictor of job satisfaction is great coaching. In five or ten years, I may not remember how I was paid in that particular position, but I will remember an impactful mentor and a skill I learned. Todd from Google brought up an interesting Googler to Googler program that they’ve implemented, that connects people to share their skills – everything from debugging a complex piece of code to teaching yoga. Melissa agreed, saying that if there is just one question that managers ask employees every quarter, it should be “what is the skill you want to learn.” After all, people are more loyal to building their skill set and their career path than any type of company.

The topic of work-life balance also came up, and each panelist talked about that in a different way. I believe that what used to be a work-life balance is, for Gen Yers, a work-life blend. This newest generation of employees is used to constantly flipping back and forth from one to the other. As I stated during the panel, while Gen X is tech savvy, Gen Y is tech dependent.  And, in this instance, the role of technology here is to make the work-life blend lifestyle achievable, whether it’s providing high quality video or access to data from any device, anywhere anytime.

Of course, being Silicon Valley, the idea of conspicuous perks and programs was a key point of discussion. Interestingly, we all felt varying levels of value from these types of unique employee perks. With local talent being so competitive, I believe programs that show employees that we’re willing to invest in them are worth it. To that end, we offer a variety of perks at our headquarters in San Jose, from onsite day care to an integrated healthcare facility where you can schedule a doctor’s appointment strategy from Outlook.

Melissa from Twitter agreed that perks such as free food are expected by today’s talent, and to stay competitive companies need to consider meeting these high expectations. However, Todd disagreed that for potential candidates, free perks are what persuade them to accept or reject a job. He felt that it was more about what the job is, and selling that point of a chance to meet smart people and do exciting things.

Overall, the panel was a great opportunity to talk with colleagues from around Silicon Valley and share ideas and perspectives on how companies need to prepare for the needs of this newest generation – from culture to technology. We’ll also be posting a full video recap of the panel in short order. Please let me know your thoughts and question on the future of work in the comments below!

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  1. Long ago I stopped using the term work/life balance because that implies some sort of equality between the two. I found that when I tried for that, I was constantly measuring each day to see if it was ‘balanced’. That just didn’t work.
    I use the term life harmony. Work is part of life and if your work is enjoyable, then it energizes you which means that it is much easier to have your life moving along in harmony. It also means you have plenty of energy for all of the other things in your life. In contrast, a job that is less demanding but that you don’t enjoy can drain your energy, and as a result, you end up with less energy for family, friends, etc.
    And finally, the only person who can judge what works for me is me. What looks like ‘working too much’ from the outside may be fine with me and the people around me.


  2. Sometimes, we just want to go out into the workforce and start working to be paid a salary. Money would seem transient at certain point in life. We need to build on skills that would allow yourself to grow as well. Great mentorship is the best way to start off with.

  3. They still don’t quite get it… Almost though. It is about work-life blend but most importantly about clear goal setting and results delivered. Companies need to adopt ROWE to gain the competitive edge. The problem is many of these companies are not focused enough today to pull off Result-Only Work Environment. Empower your employees, treat them like adults and the ones that dont produce results don’t have a job. It was interesting to see yahoo go the opposite direction.

  4. Great Post! I believe in this and I live it every day. @b2dj

  5. Hey Rowan,

    It’s really nice to know that bigger companies are taking some serious steps for their employees so that they can provide the best talent out of them. Talking about the free perks, I think whatever Todd quite right. Talent doesn’t need such things. They just want to grow themselves strongly and it can be done in any suitable environment.

  6. Congratulations, I am fond of your report. please keep posting, it is very interesting.

  7. Great post. I couldn’t agree more in regards to the need for coaching, and it being a major factor in job satisfaction.

    This is going to be a major challenge in the tech industry where difficult personalities can be more common. Tech companies have to look closely at both technical skill and face-to-face social skills when hiring and promoting into the roles that will be expected to coach.

    I believe the smartest companies will teach coaching, and expect it to play out every day. This can be as simple as requiring the previous new guy to “coach” the current new guy as he learns the company and role he has been hired for. Once that coach/mentor relationship has been established over the simple things like “where is the company gym” it can go deeper into “how would you design around this problem that I have”.

  8. Congratulations for the quality of your post, it is very interesting.

  9. Thanks for reporting – it is great to hear about this panel discussion.