The capitalist world is increasingly driving the blurring of lines between work and non-working hours of our youth, say Profs Maria José Tonelli, FGV-EAESP, Andrea Oltramari and Rosana Córdova, UFRGS. They deep dive into the branding strategies employed by companies to investigate how companies use youth to drive their business
By CoBS Editor Meghana Kuppinakere Mutt. Related research: Young people’s career choices based on employer branding, Article in Cadernos EBAPE BR · November 2019, DOI: 10.1590/1679-395176652x
All that glitters is not gold
What are the best companies to work for? What makes them desirable – the kind of work they do, the product the company is selling, or the industry? Or, does it have to do more with a dynamic environment?
Profs Tonelli, Oltramari and Córdova’s Brazilian study deep dives into understanding what attracts the younger generation to companies, and in doing so, it brings in a different perspective – companies exploiting employees for financial gains in the name of organizational culture, with the self-indulgent nature of youth used as a factor to bait out employees.
Additionally, young generations are attracted to certain companies because of the influence of social media, organizational culture or the investment these companies make in retaining employees.
As such, companies portray themselves to be a cool place to work for the younger generation via employer branding strategies. The promise of career progression, attractive employee benefits, the guarantee of a popular brand in their resume are many of the trump cards of working in a popular company. But, is there more than meets the eye?
Killing two birds with one stone
“The main lifestyle driver of consumer society is the ceaseless pursuit of happiness”. In this capitalist world, it comes in the form of presence of shopping malls and ubiquitous advertisements. This way of living is so prominent that the boundaries between a “producer” and a “consumer” are blurred. That is to say, an employee of a company can also be its customer. For example, a person who works for a beer company also consumes beer. As a direct consequence of this, it is impractical to differentiate between work time and non-work time.
Subsequently, when companies employ employer-branding strategies, they do so to particularly target the younger generation. The underlying motive here is to see employees as brand promoters themselves, even during non-working time. On that account, the terms “production” and “consumption” can be merged to form the term prosumption – where employees are used to not only work for the brand, but also to brandish the brand in their personal life. For instance, an employee of a lift manufacturing company may start using lifts more often. An employee from beer company A may stop consuming beer from beer company B in order to show loyalty to his/her company.
Under the “intern” lens
Oltramari, Córdova and Tonelli bring in the perspective of young interns who aspire to work in these employer-brand companies. They infer that the young wish to join a company that is known to be a great place to work in terms of compensation, work-life balance or management policies. It is not that the young want to stay in the same company for many years to come. It is rather perceived as a star addition to their resume. Even when the work gets repetitive, some may be okay with it just to spend a significant amount of time in the employer-brand company.
Further, it is also perceived by youth that such companies have immense budgets to invest in the well-being of their employees, even when it is not known for sure. This goes to prove that employer-brand companies invest a significant amount of resources in forming this brand image to attract the young. Moreover, even when interns earn less salary, they are ready to make an adjustment to stay in the company for a certain amount of time in order to get that brand on their resume.
On the contrary, if they are not promoted or challenged enough, then they will start looking for newer roles in other companies. In a nutshell, the younger generation is “mesmerized” by these well-branded companies and are ready to make certain compromises to be associated with them. The deal breaker would be an absence of a dynamic work environment.
Do not judge a company by its employer-branding strategies
In essence, Profs Oltramari, Córdova and Tonelli outline that work life has increasingly become a parasite in the lives of the young – it slowly eats away the non-work period of time. They point out that, for youth, work is perceived as more of a self-indulgent reputation-building process for which they are ready to sacrifice their non-work time.
In addition, companies want to take advantage of this youth behaviour by trying to retain them as employees for financial gain. They do so by investing heavily in branding strategies with respect to people management. The end message is that it’s high time for introspection in the intersecting spheres of employees, consumption and work-life.
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