OPINION: More than just a job

Ebony Beaton
By Ebony Beaton | 7 November 2013
Mi9 communications manager Ebony Beaton.

Understanding what people are looking for from their job is something we’ve put a lot of thought into at Mi9 in recent times.

The media industry is living through a period of unprecedented change and it’s hard to see clearly where things will ultimately end up. What we do know is that for the Australian adult population one of the greatest sources of stress is work. We are 43% stressed, 40% anxious, 13% depressed and an estimated 2.9 million of us are losing sleep at night because of work.

Trust in brands is declining. Trust in advertising is declining. There's increasing pressure on staff, employee attrition is high and the stereotypical values of 'Gen Y' mean we’re at risk of decreased loyalty and high disengagement.

A good chunk of Mi9’s 350 employees fit into the Gen Y category. We openly admit we’ve got some work to do on age diversity, but for the current workforce the average age is 30 or younger. Up until this point in our careers we’ve been playing what’s traditionally quite a simple media game. But with the world is changing so fast that what this means for our people, our culture and ultimately where media as an industry fits in the broader world is being questioned.

Is buying and selling media space, developing apps and reporting the news enough for this generation? I speak not as an outsider but a classic Gen Y who spent years pursuing a career only to reach a point where I wasn’t trying to get ahead anymore. I just wanted ‘more’.

As a generation we recognise we have a role to play in the world – and feel a responsibility to play that role well. We’re motivated by something more than just profit or high performance alone, even if it takes a while to figure out what that motivation is. We think differently about what we do and how our industry can create change.

I’ve read loads of studies trying to measure and compare the attitudes and beliefs of the different generations. Some say X and Y are more environmentally and socially conscious, more community-minded and less cynical than the Boomers – while others say the total opposite. Just last month The Future Leaders Index trumped the populist view of Gen Y living large and fancy-free, in a report that said Gen Ys are sacrificing their care-free days in favour of long-term savings plans.

In my experience, 20- and 30-somethings are often looking for 'more than just a job' – and at Mi9 we’ve been able to provide that by partnering with a couple of pretty amazing organisations in UN LTD and KidsXpress.

[And if you're the sporty type, sign up for the AdNews Challenge to help raise money for UN LTD. –Ed]

Some dismiss it as charity, but that’s a fairly one-dimensional view of social enterprise these days. True, the fundraising element is a big part and despite some of the awesome events we’ve pulled off in the name of raising money – it’s also the hardest part. But the opportunity to raise funds is not what motivates us. If you look at the fundraising as the pay cheque, it’s also not the sole reason most of us come to work every day. We all need money, but it’s not what really fires us up. We want to be part of something bigger.

It boils down to is the broader question of purpose and why, in this era where choice abounds, people choose to work where they do – and then, why they feel that pull to get involved with a good cause.

We recently published the Mi9 Manifesto – a public declaration of the culture we aspire to – which outlines our purpose “to create the future of media” to the world.

Creating the future of media is pretty exciting, but we’re also not living in our own bubble. We recognise that there are other problems out there where our skills, energy, expertise, networks and time can make a big difference.

That’s why we formed a partnership with KidsXpress, an organisation that provides children with therapies that help them to cope with trauma.

That’s why we created the media industry’s own version of the World Cup, The UN LTD Cup. In only its second year, this indoor futsal tournament raised $50,000.

That’s why we’re thinking differently about how all of this actually fits into people’s wider connection with their job. But what we’re finding is that people don’t just want to just give their time. They want to be a part of something bigger and they want to do more than just hand over some cash.

They feel a connection and want to get truly involved and invested – and we now think big about what we can do for KidsXpress and UN LTD.

As a digital company we house a set of skills that are actually highly valuable to the not for profit sector. By nature our people are: ambitious, savvy, commercially minded and rarely take 'no' for an answer. Add humble enough to call out where the weak spots lie, but smart and brave enough to go and source the right expertise when required, and you’ve got a pretty powerful mix.

In return for this investment of time, money, skills or expertise – we’re looking for two things: trust and flexibility. Interestingly, this doesn't just mean flexible working hours. It means personal development opportunities, mentors, access to inspiring people, a flat structure that enables giving and receiving direct feedback from people at all levels, the freedom to be open about being involved with good causes and to see how that complements, not competes, with day-to-day work.

Oh, and we also want: career breaks, all the latest perks, and the ability to be honest with our bosses about having the occasional raging hangover on a weekday, without anyone questioning whether we’re still awesome at our jobs.

So what does Mi9 get out of all this? Simply put, when people are doing stuff they believe in – the more they just.plain.do.better.work.

Whether access to corporate social responsibility programs is factor in the war for talent or having a direct impact on staff retention at Mi9 remains to be seen (we haven’t measured this directly), but what I can say for sure is that those who choose to get involved are definitely the ones who feel the greater sense of attachment to the company.

Who we’ve partnered with is another important factor. The emotional connection with KidsXpress is not something we could ever have forced, but there’s definitely a sense that they’re unique (like us) and a really important organisation to support. A sense that they’re not just another charity linked to a corporate. The same relationship is being built with UN LTD based around our shared belief that the industry can really make a difference.

At the end of the day – all we’re really doing is translating people’s personal commitment to the social good into a positive work experience by creating development opportunities.

The rest is up to the individual, but from what we’re seeing at Mi9 – this is what Gen Y wants. The chance to follow their own path and give something back while they’re at it.

Ebony Beaton
Communications Manager

*References: Australian Psychological Society Study 2011; The Australian Institute 'Hard To Get a Break?' 2013 survey; Beyondblue ‘Get to Know Anxiety’ 2013 study; Black Dog Institute; Commonwealth of Australia National Mental Health Report 2010; The Co-op Future Leaders Index Whitepaper 2013.

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