One of the more obvious questions candidates are asked during interviews is: ‘Why do you want to work here?’
However, for many interviewees going after a position in a corporate environment, being able to offer up an appropriate response is becoming increasingly difficult, for a variety of reasons.
“Well, it’s not because of job security, because there isn’t any, and may not be for some time, given the on-going redundancies as large companies continue to restructure.
That’s also created something of a ‘buyer’s market’ when it comes to recruitment, which means that if I get the job the demands on me are going to be greater than I can manage, but if I don’t accept that, you’ll just give ‘my’ job to someone who will, whatever the cost to themselves.
So I’ll have to give up my family life by working late and at weekends. And we all know that eventually this will lead to relationship break ups and stress-related illnesses.
Then as someone who’s quite young and dynamic, I don’t think I’m going to find the corporate environment that much fun, with all those corporate guidelines, hierarchies and bureaucracy … I’m not sure that’s my ‘thing’. Of course, I know you’ll probably pay me more than I’d get elsewhere to start with, which I’d appreciate, but after that I can see myself stagnating. After all, the chances are that my career ladder is only going to reach so high because of more senior posts you’ll just hire someone over me.
And even if I do progress, I’ll just be doing more of the same thing, because I’m ‘pigeonholed’ into a particular role – that’s what I do, so that’s where I’ll stay.
And as you know, the reputation of the corporate world has been tarnished of late, perhaps corroded would be a better word, by events and behaviours that many find unacceptable. People resent companies that are all about ‘the bottom line’. Didn’t Pope Francis even have a go about corporations putting money above people?
So, do you know, I’m not really sure that I do want to work for a corporate organisation at all. Goodbye.”
Such an interview dialogue – even if imaginary – I’m sure gives something of an insight into the thinking of those graduates who once would have been eager to claim their place at the corporate table, and I’m certain it will bring a wry or jaundiced smile to many corporate workers still in post.
But more than that, I think it highlights the increasing difficulty that larger organisations will have in attracting and holding on to talent – those they may once have relied upon to be their ‘company men and women’ of the future.
If that’s not to happen, what’s the answer?
Simple. It’s the practical implementation of a way of working that recognises that there are many factors involved in the success of an organisation – maybe less tangible than bottom line figures, but equally important.
Other characteristics of a corporation need to be brought to the fore that reflect its emotional well-being (how good the organisation feels to work for and the quality of the relationships within it – the antithesis of bureaucracy, fear and exploitative working relationships); its mental well-being (the degree of openness within a company, with learning and feedback being two of the biggest determinants in stimulating creativity and corporate ‘self-esteem’ – rigid thinking on the other hand blocks creativity and the growth of talent); and spiritual well-being (the understanding that a business is connected in many ways to others upon which its actions resonate – unlike the ‘us and them’ mentality that’s all too prevalent).
And how are such cultural shifts engendered?
By re-engineering the environment that our would-be candidate found so off-putting. And one of the best ways of doing that is to learn from the exciting ‘start ups’ that regularly burst to prominence in so many sectors of the economy and which will become the first port of call, both for those looking to escape the corporate sector and those who might once have entered it.
Widening employees’ horizons. One of the biggest complaints of those who enter the corporate environment is that in a highly structured world they wear only one hat, while in the entrepreneurial start up business they may where several. Variety is energising.
Promoting from within. Organisations that demand the most from their employees and then cripple their progress by external appointments do themselves no favours. On the other hand, for someone ambitious, the start up enterprise can offer a range of opportunities they can make their own, simply because within the smaller organisation their skill set is probably unique.
Create a ‘fun’ environment. People want to feel that they are part of something, a camaraderie that is easily achieved as part of a small team, but often missing in the vanilla landscape of the corporate workplace.
Help people to learn … and not just what you want them to. Many go through the ‘corporate university’ and then made redundant, find themselves under-equipped in the outside world, without the transferable skills they need. A broad approach to training however, creates more rounded flexible individuals that are of greater benefit to all.
Of course, while corporates can learn from them, they aren’t and never can be start-ups. But, by bearing in mind that the world has changed and that fewer people are willing to allow their lives to revolve around work, and not turning a blind eye to that shift, large organisations can become part of the evolution of work rather than the dinosaur that’s standing in its way.
By Maite Barón ‘The Corporate Escape Coach™’, founder of ‘The Corporate Escape™’ and author of ‘Corporate Escape: The Rise of the New Entrepreneur’. You can download two free chapters of Corporate Escape here.