This working paper presents the findings of research conducted by a group of scholars of the Institute for Social Development Studies of the National Research University “Higher School of Economics” (HSE) in 2011. The research is part (the third wave) of the longitudinal comparative monographic study, carried out at a number of Russian industrial enterprises since 2009. As a whole, the study aims to explore various aspects of labor relations, including employees-management relations, labor union activities and collective bargaining (2009), as well as industrial conflicts (2010).The third wave of the research project is focused on young workers. The research includes studies on both the macro- and micro-levels. The research on the macro-level includes analyses of the situation of the young people on the labor market, and a review of the national and international legislation, as well as of the governmental and corporate policies towards young people.
The micro- (i.e. enterprise) level comprises empirical research. The empirical part of the paper includes findings emergent from both the questionnaire-based survey of 935 employees, conducted in 2010, and the qualitative study of 2011, including six focus groups with young workers and engineers as well as 15 in-depth interviews with managers and HR specialists. The qualitative study was conducted at three industrial enterprises belonging to high-tech engineering (turbines for electric power stations, aerospace engines, etc.) and to the petrochemical industry. The research addresses the problems related to labor values, expectations and demands about work life held by the young workers and engineers employed by technically advanced, successful industrial enterprises; it also looks at how the young employees identify themselves within the organizations, as well as at their attitudes to workers-management relationships, including conflict and cooperation. The other important part of the research is the analyses of corporate strategies and policies towards the young workers and their consistency with the motivations and aspirations of the new generation of workers, as well as with the demands of Russian modernization project.
The results of the qualitative study reveal a number of issues emerging due to the generation change on the labor market. The young generation, born and educated in a new socio-economic environment (market economy, open borders, access to information, etc.), is entering the world of work with values, expectations, and attitudes which differ from the previous models, coming from both the Soviet and the initial period of reforms. Good pay is the key, but not the only significant, value which determines their motivations and behavior. First of all, the value of good pay is associated with the value of job security, including work stability and regularity of payments. Prospects for the earnings’ continued growth go along with the professional career, as well as a notion of “justice” of remuneration, as important aspects of good pay value. The young workers’ behavior is also influenced by other important values: good working relationships with colleagues and managers; interesting job; and opportunities for professional growth, including access to education and training programs. All these values work as job decision factors, both concerning the first employment and subsequent changes, under the condition that the remuneration is sufficient to provide for basic needs and its expected growth will provide a decent life within a reasonable period of time. The notion of a decent life, which has also been a subject of research within the project, reflects the increased living standards in Russia, but cannot be characterized as “excessive”, driven by “false consumerist values advertized by media”, etc. It should be noted that the values related to the opportunity to use initiative are relatively less important, which might indicate the lack of relevant measures in corporate policies.
The analyses of corporate policies towards young workers presented in the working paper show that the corporate management well recognizes the need for new approaches to human resources policies and practices more adequate to the upcoming generations’ motivations and potential. However, no significant changes have occurred yet to deal with the challenges. The most serious problems, preventing the efficient use of the initiative of the young workers, are related to poor communications between the company’s hierarchy levels, especially with the top ones, as well as with the lack of motivation and support mechanisms which would link innovative activities of the workers to the prospect of career growth. The other significant drawback of the management policies is lack of clear and transparent rules regulating the access of the workers to the resources of career growth, i.e. training, retraining and educational programs, as well as lack of contemporary techniques and institutions for implementation of the training and promotion programs. Finally, the workers’ activity is discouraged by the management approach to emerging conflicts, and by the practices tending to suppress them and punish the activists, rather than start a dialogue.
The findings of the survey contribute to the knowledge needed for building both corporate and government strategies targeted at the new generations in the developing domestic industry. They can also be regarded as the first stage of a larger scale research of labor values, self-identification and behavior of the young workers. Studies of the labor culture of the young would be a substantial contribution to the “portrait of this generation’, more meaningful then attempts to look at the young generation’s features in isolation from the context of specific practices.