Friday, January 04, 2008

The Real Elixir of Youth

Our co-op students started two days ago. I'd have to say that the boundless energy is both energizing and exhausting. I guess I've been procrastinating about this post since we first went just north of Wuhan to visit a colleague's alma matter (actually I've been procrastinating about a great deal many things).

So there are a few questions that I've thought about in the past but never really had much of a resolution - is it better to hire students straight out of school and be the first to inevitably jade their sense of idealism and purpose and who ultimately run away bitter after spending countless hours on training (hey, we all know lots of people who that's happened to), or is it better to hire older mature workers who cost more but who can also be stuck in their ways - or worse, add negatively to culture? Another problem is that I suspect you're probably more likely to get things like this. Maybe it's not an either/or but combination of. This is ever more complicated by China (and even Hong Kong) and the very rapid change that nearly everyone has seen.

I haven't been having much success at hiring younger staff in Hong Kong. By younger I optimistically mean people even my age (at the ripe age of nearly 30). If it isn't the experience, it's the lack of enthusiasm and lack of stability. My colleague in Hong Kong says that it's about "young people today" which I suppose I should act all offended. Fortunately I have now delegated full responsibility for supervision, hiring and firing to her (though it makes sense since I am never there).

I believe culture matters. I believe it matters a lot. It doesn't take much to poison the pool. Younger workers more easily drink the kool-aid but that isn't to say that there aren't those older and more experienced who won't either. We'll see. Personally my initial thoughts are that students just out of uni are fantastic if given the proper guidance and structure while given the liberty to perform (but isn't that the key for all employees?). The thing I think most companies neglect is the resources for the adequate coaching. Hopefully I'll be ebullient (always wanted to use that word) in the future and have much to report.

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