HR News & Trends, Talent Management

Lifestyle Employment: For Millennials, It May be the New Career Prototype

From the HR blog at TLNT.

Remember back in the 1950’s when people had employment for life?

Now we’ve been promised 5-7 careers in our lifetime, but is that really what our Millenials (those entering the workforce now) can expect from their employers?

In the mid 20th Century, the majority of people had a single employer for life, or at least a single career for a lifetime. However, the Baby Boomers and the Gen Xers among us have had to be agile, and there are not many today who have been untouched by redundancy or the need to re-skill themselves to retain their employment.

The blurring of work and life

These are the generations that will experience multiple careers, but I am not so sure about the Millenials that are entering the workforce today. This generation is witnessing a major shift in employment dynamics, and the educated among them may have a radically different experience to previous generations.

This generation, who increasingly will be Knowledge or Service Workers, may witness the return of the lifetime employer, particularly with the organizations that have clued on to what I call the “new lifestyle employment proposition.”

With the advent of the talent shortage and the dramatically shifting workplace demographics, employers are increasingly focused on talent retention.  However, this seems to be a somewhat myopic reaction of trying to retain critical talent or high potentials, while the truly innovative organizations of our times are creating “lifestyle” or even lifetime employee models.

Organizations such as Facebook and Google are creating workplaces where work and life are so blurred that you can work day and night (or whenever you feel like it) but with every lifestyle need being catered to — whether it’s roller hockey interludes, ski holidays, anytime access to gaming at work 24/7, or handling those other life considerations such as doctors, dentists, massage therapists and even a constant supply of great, free food. All together, it results in every life need being catered for, from physical to social needs and beyond, meaning that your work can be your life.

Even the professional services firms such as Deloitte and PwC are critically aware of creating lifetime career paths for their employees. These traditional firms are creating alumni programs through social media, facilitating career breaks, providing mentoring from the first career touch-point.

Ingredients for lifestyle career success

These firms are even leading global thinking with Deloitte’s radical Mass Career Customization (Benko & Weisberg) whereby customised career propositions are presented to each employee designed to retain talent over a lifetime, allowing plenty of flex and stretch over the lifetime to provide ongoing challenge and opportunity ensuring the retention of that employee over their  lifetime.

This is happening now, but the majority of organizations are still myopically focused on compliance based practices, restructuring, and redundancies as short term strategies to improve profitability and productivity. Meanwhile, the very smart organizations out there are stealthily focusing on unleashing individual productivity with flexible work practices that allow individuals to contribute day and night, to stay and play at work, to take career breaks, and return to productivity quickly.

This new “lifestyle” career proposition has a few essential ingredients for success:

  • Performance focused on productivity – radical new performance measures are required based on output and trust;
  • Blurring of work and life – ensuring great social connection at work that translates equally well across real and online worlds. Whether it is roller hockey or ski weekends, the best firms are blurring these boundaries regularly providing a social connection at work;
  • Leveraging social media to support connectivity — this generation is being dubbed the “hyper-connected” (according to Meister & Willyerd in The 2020 Workplace). Embrace it and love it because this generation will work differently as a consequence, and we need to now switch our expectations for workplace behavior from compliance and attendance to productivity, creativity and performance. The Googles and Facebooks of this world have people so passionate about what they are doing, that they work day and night.
  • And most importantly, individualize the career proposition – understand what is going to light the fire of each and every contributor and then look at what you need to do to enable that contribution. You need to understand the talents, motivators, and values and career-lifestyle expectations of each employee and then tailor the career experience to meet that individuals unique wants and needs.
Anne Fulton is Director of the Career Engagement Group, a provider of innovative career solutions to leading organisations such as Coca-Cola, Westpac, ING and AMP among many more. They are the developers of the innovative online careerCENTER, an SaaS-based enabler for engagement and retention, facilitating powerful career conversations. Contact her at
  • John A Bushfield

    Anne – Wonderful article!  You are singing my song:  employers need to radically change their views about work and performance, including nomenclature, systems, processes; heck, just about everything.  What hasn’t changed is the workforce need for connection, feedback, being valued, personal and professional growth, and the desire to contribute to the greater good, be it environmental or social.  Smart employers will figure all this out and connect the dots; most will continue to scratch their heads wondering why they are becoming less competitive in the marketplace.  Eventually the change will occur; it will have to because business success will require it.

    My only issue with your proposition is the notion of a lifetime employer, as defined by working for somebody else for your entire career.  I believe lifetime employment means workers will become more independent and take control over how they earn a living; the focus being on what they do rather than who they do it for.  Their priorities will determine how they spend their time, and organizational loyalty will last only as long as those priorities are aligned.  

    It’s an exciting new world out there, and we are in the early stages of a transformation that will change our lives.  I hope I last long enough to see it materialize.

    • Anne

      Hi John,

      Absolutely agree that values and goal alignment will be the key to success of lifestyle employment along with flexible work practices.

      We believe in great conversations where those alignments are explored and those other needs you mentioned like career growth, connection are explored with transparency.

      Supporting mutual responsibility for the alignment with the right tools and resources is critical.

  • Patti Johnson

    Anne, great article. I think some of the choices & flexibility are desirable to all generations, but it’s been more recently that there is the awareness of its importance.  So glad to see that there is some awareness – which is a start. Thanks.

    • Anne

      Hi Patti,

      You are so right – our Career Agility Research earlier this year showed that as many Baby Boomers are looking for Flexible Work practices and an opportunity to “dial back” their careers right now, but want to continue to use their talents.
      Organizations will get greater loyalty and retention if they can make it work for all.