Conference: UFHRD 2015

Earlier this month I had the pleasure to attend and present at the University Forum for Human Resource Development (UFHRD) 2015 conference at University College Cork, Ireland. The conference meets in Europe annually but occurs in the UK every other year. Next year it will be in Manchester, England. The size of the conference was perfect with about 350 attendees from all over Europe and the world. This provided a friendly and close-knit atmosphere. I met three people there from Thailand, two of whom study at the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) in Bangkok and one who is studying at the University of Minnesota.

UFHRD 2015 OzzieI had the opportunity to present a paper I have been working on with several of my colleagues on motivation to learn in the workplace. In the time following our presentation we had some interesting discussion regarding millennials’ motivation to learn in the workplace. There is a lot of contradicting literature on millennials in the workplace. On the one hand they seem to be self-starters, motivated by passion, and eager to learn. Other literature suggests they are insecure rule-followers at best and motivated by extrinsic rewards. I proposed that this discrepancy in the literature is likely due to the fact that millennials may be on a developmental edge. According to Bob Kegan’s Constructive Developmental Theory, it may be the case that the majority of millennials are caught between the Socialized Mind and the Self-Authoring Mind. If you’re intrigued to learn more, check out this blog post, which has some nice summaries of Kegan’s work.

Another interesting point from the discussion was the idea to look at the contracts companies typically offer millennials. Do contracts affect millennials motivation to learn? One criticism of millennials in the workplace is their apparent lack of loyalty. I wonder, however, if the lack of loyalty is a two-way street. For example, a small minority of my friends are working in a full-time job with a sustainable salary and benefits. Most of my friends stitch together multiple jobs, work far more than 40 hours a week, and have trouble getting comprehensive benefits. Loyalty must be earned, and I wonder if companies today are doing what it takes to earn the loyalty of millennials. My guess is most companies are not.

Overall, the conference was a fantastic experience. I loved the social aspect of it – meeting people with similar interests from all over the world, having conversations over lunches about interesting sessions we attended, and going out to pubs each night to enjoy Irish culture. I can’t wait for the next UFHRD conference. In the meantime, I am looking forward to the Asian HRD conference in November in Macau!

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