Wireless And Fancy Free, “Generation Y” Shakes Up The French Business World

Members of the so-called Generation Y look very differently than their elders at working life and careers. This creates new challenges for traditional French firms, which must find ways to keep young talent in their ranks.

Young business school graduates differ from their parents when it comes to careers and work habits
Young business school graduates differ from their parents when it comes to careers and work habits
Laurance N'kaoua

They both have blue eyes and graduated from the same European business school. Their résumés both contain numerous top positions. But they are father and son, born 27 years apart. Emmanuel Le Portz is a 56-year-old consultant who climbed the corporate ladder to become commercial manager for Unilever Europe in the Netherlands, and then division head for Rentokil Initial, a major British services group. "I entered a multinational to make a career for myself," he explains.

This mentality is light years from his son, Alexis, a member of the so-called "Generation Y." At 29, Alexis is the co-founder of a startup called Clubdeal. Before this project, he had already worked for three different employers, including one in London.

Alexis works far outside the protected environments of the world's leading companies. He does not always have an office, but is well-equipped with Internet tools like Skype, Wiki, and chat rooms, allowing him to work with partners scattered all over the world. "I have never worked like that, but for him it is the only way," writes the senior Le Portz in a new book he co-wrote with his son.

Emmanuel is confused. And he is not the only one. Young graduates disrupt the habits of the big firms that are forced to try to woo them in search of new talent. And if younger generations have always disorientated their elders, it seems that as the 2008 crisis appears to finally be ending, the gap between young people and traditional companies has widened. The specter of unemployment, endless internships and financial crisis have disabused them of any prospect for a linear career path.

"At school, we were told that graduating would guarantee us job security. This is not true anymore," says Alexis Le Portz. "Whether or not a company is prosperous, redundancy schemes, reshuffles and changes are bound to happen."

These disappointments have led young people to stop associating "being an employee in a firm" with "peace of mind." "Most young people see working for a big company as a career springboard," explains Alexis Le Portz. "But none of them dream of working forever in a firm. Many want to be their own boss. All the more so since it is now possible to launch a business at lower cost."

But most of all, this economic context completely changes young people's perception of time. "Our parents waited for retirement to enjoy life. Nowadays, young people know that retirement will arrive much later," explains Nathalie Choux, human resources director at the computer engineering and maintenance company Micropole. "They are eager to enjoy life right now."

But this rush also characterizes the way members of Generation Y manage their careers. The resulting dynamic creates a whole new set of challenges for the companies themselves. "It often happens that young employees consider they have learned everything there is to learn from their job after six months. After that they often refuse to listen to us when we try to tell them that a few months are not enough to really know your job," says Danièle Quantin, head of world R&D for ArcelorMittal.

Anik Chaumartin, a partner in charge of human resources at PricewaterhouseCoopers France, says that recent graduates already aspire to another job before they had the time to consolidate their previous experience. "Before, you needed three to four years of experience to reach management positions," says Chaumartin. "Previous generations accepted unrewarding tasks to learn."

The danger that they might leave the firm is real. "This is a global game. French companies need to be more competitive in the labor market, otherwise young graduates know they just have to cross an ocean to become, for example, the manager of a video-games studio in Brazil," points out Alexis Le Portz.

Missions therefore need to be implemented in the long term. Especially when the firm bets on high flyers with potential that need to develop with time. "A third of these high flyers will not stay more than three years," says Philippe Tramond, CEO of the consulting firm Pilotis.

The Bull group well understood that and created three different career paths: for young graduates, for 40-year-olds and for seniors. "The probability for a young employee to still be here in 15 years is very low. For a 50-year-old employee, it is close to 100%," notes Stéphane Duret, vice-president in charge of human resources and organization at Bull.

Knowing all that, how is it possible to hold on to talented recruits who don't believe in long-term contracts? The appeal of the position is crucial. "I can't stay behind a computer screen all day without doing anything," declares Elodie Moissonnier, a 25-year-old technical project manager at Bull. "My task needs to be comprehensive."

According to a Towers Watson study, learning is one of the top three job priorities for young people. "Before, you learned everything you had to at school and when you entered a company, you already knew what to do. With new technologies, Generation Y learns constantly," observes Marion Marchal from Towers Watson. Young people tend to attach less value to holidays and free time. "It's not because I'm at home that I'm not working. Indeed, we sometimes relax at work," says Elodie Moissonnier.

So, what is the ideal boss for a member of Generation Y? "He needs to be a driving force, not a dictator. He is a coach, who knows what it is to make mistakes, and is not afraid of testing us," states Alexis Le Portz. This is so true that ArcelorMittal has launched a coaching program with its world company directors for its elite young professionals. As Nathalie Choux explains, "They want the company to teach them how to build."

Read the original story in French

Photo - Boklm

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7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

Ready for (a different kind of) takeoff?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.

But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:

Cleaner aviation fuel

The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.

While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.

Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.

In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.

Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.

Black-and-white photo of an ariplane shot from below flying across the sky and leaving condensation trails

High-flying ambitions for the sector

Joel & Jasmin Førestbird

Hydrogen and electrification

Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.

One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.

New aircraft designs

Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.

International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.

The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Hygiene rankings  

Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.

Smoother check-in

​The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

Data privacy issues

​However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.

Photo of planes at Auckland airport, New Zealand

Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Douglas Bagg

The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?

At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.

40% of Swedes intend to travel less

According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.

At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.

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