Maciej Swoboda: How to Speak With the Millennials? (Full Transcript)

Full transcript of WP Desk’s CEO Maciej Swoboda’s TEDx Talk:  How to Speak With the Millennials? at TEDxKatowiceSalon conference


Maciej Swoboda – CEO at WP Desk

I’m really happy to see, maybe not right now but let’s say two minutes ago, to see lots of young, smiling faces, because I’ll be talking about young people here.

Me, old person, will be talking about young people, and I hope you don’t mind.

So, let me first start with a quick quiz. You see a lot of faces here, and you see a lot of faces here, and again you see faces here, and you see the same faces here.

But the problem is there is a perception issue, and this is what I want to talk about. The perception issue that is connected with millennials, because we’re talking about young people, we’re talking about millennials and the way they are perceived.

Because, unfortunately there are lots of people, lots of media saying that this generation is lazy, is disloyal, is very demanding, changes jobs very quickly. It’s a really difficult target, but is it really true?

Is it really true? I don’t think so. I think we should look at it from a different angle, and let me give you an example.

Here’s the young guy. He gets a new job. He starts his work. He gets good money. He’s happy. After a year or two, he gets promoted, and he gets better money.

And what happens? Then he comes home, and he feels really sad. Why? What is the problem? The problem is he believes he is not perceived the way he wants to be.

So he changes job, and we have a lose-lose situation; employee-employer, lose-lose situation. So, he believes he’s not perceived the way he wants to be, and the employer believes he has done everything to make him stay at his work because he probably perceives him in a different way.

So we have an issue. We have an issue, and I would like to talk about this kind of issue that is connected with the new young generation and the new places of work, and the way we want to keep those people at our work.

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So, surely there are lots of benefits, there are lots of things that are quite important when you start work, especially the money.

But there’s one crucial thing that we should bear in mind when starting or becoming something big, starting something new.

What I mean is the real relationship between employer and employee, which is based on trust and purpose. And this is what I want to talk about.

I would like to share my observations around this industry, around the places of work, looking at four areas that I believe could have a lot of potential for improvement, which actually will all lead to the fact that you can be proud of being a part of something big, of being a part of a company or a corporation.

The first area is space, space which is very important and which I believe almost everyone knows that has a great impact of productivity at work – almost everyone, because 4% doesn’t give a shit. Probably, I don’t know why.

What is important, meanwhile, over the last decades, not much has changed in this area. Since someone invented air-conditioning or light that somehow imitates the sunlight, the big era of open space began, which actually is, as I see here, about 67 years.

What happened throughout this time were various modifications of this open space. You know, lots of different things that we’re supposed to modify, we’re supposed to enhance, improve this space we work at.

The question is if beanbags or video games or free food or, for example, table football is enough to create a good space for work. Is it? Probably not. What is important is we should start thinking on what kind of environment will help us grow the organisation rather than what kind of gadgets or tools will help us keep people inside the company. Because, if not, we then are sad.

Here comes the rain again. I like the song, by the way. I want to give you an example. Jacek mentioned the porcelain factory, that beautiful iconic place which has been renovated. And actually, now the main purpose of the whole building, of the whole complex, is the office space. There are lots of companies from IT, from design, and the area of art, I should say.

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One of our friend’s neighbors is Cobo Design. They are designing. They are designing office spaces. But what they did with their office was based on the philosophy that is called ABO. ABO stands for activity-based office.

What is that – activity-based office?

Imagine that you enter your work, your office every day, and you start working in a different corner. You start working in a totally different environment which is very much adjusted to your needs, to your projects, to the team you work with, to the task you have to do, to time you have or no time that you don’t have. This is activity-based office. You don’t have one room, one chair, one desk. You change the environment to adjust it for your needs.

And actually, what is important, this is happening all over the place right now. Big companies start to build activity-based offices, office areas just for the needs of the people. They don’t have their desk. I know there’s one case of Microsoft that actually came up with an idea to get rid of all the desks in one of their offices, all the desks, without telling people about this.

So people came to work and said, “Hey, where’s my desk?” And they’d tell them, “OK, you now have freedom to do anything with this space.”

It took them about three or four months to create this activity-based office. They started building the area they work at just for their needs. And, what is important, I’m sure you are quite familiar with cowork spaces. This is not much different from activity-based office.

How many of you actually had the situation that we’re chasing the deadlines? What do we do? We get away, we run to these cowork spaces, we tuck ourselves up on the sofa, we just put the headphones on, we get a big mug of strong coffee, and we get things done.

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Nobody is disturbing us. Nobody. I mean nobody because we know nobody will do it there. Because that’s our intimacy, and this is actually activity-based office. So, this is the space.

If you think of space, try to adjust it for your needs, try to make it as tailored as possible to your needs. And don’t forget, there is also green – important in your space. Because green is one of the biggest factors of happiness. So, if you have a chance, just plant a tree, plant a flower in your place of work. It will make you feel happy. Trust me.

All right. Another thing, another area that is very important in terms of trying to find some kind of potential to improve is the communication. I’m talking about the internal communication here, which is clear, which is true, which is understandable, and which is simple. Very simple.

Because we live in the clutter of communication here. We live in a very strong clutter of communication. Actually, I’ve been here for about five minutes, and I can guess that most of you got at least one message on your smartphone from any place possible. Is that true? Could you just look at your smartphone if there’s any message from Facebook or anything like that. I’m sure there is.

No worries. I’m not going to say anything about this, but I know this is happening. Because, actually, we are showered with a number of messages every day from different, different areas – from our laptop, from our PC, from our tablet, from a smartphone. From a smartwatch. You know what? I used to have a smartwatch.

Now I have a regular watch. I swapped it with my son. I just entered his room and said, “Son, give me your watch. I’ll give you mine.” The look on his face – that’s priceless.

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