I recently joked with my staff that there are two indicators of the human-resource challenge confronting us: the difficulty organizations are having recruiting volunteers and the list of vacant paper routes in our community.
When I referenced my theory to someone, she laughed and said it’s not just the vacant routes, it’s also the fact many parents drive their kids around the routes they do take. My theory is that our society is built on volunteers in our communities and on young people who are keen enough to take on a paper route as part of their preparation for the “real world.” Today, the generation of seniors who are compelled and able to volunteer is aging and every year fewer of them are able to give their time.
The bulk of the next generation is either more active in their own pursuits or too busy taking care of their parents and their own children, leaving no time or energy to volunteer. My theory also involves the quality of our workforce and workplaces. Self motivation is a critical characteristic of a productive workforce (and volunteerism). I view the rising number of vacant paper routes as symbolic of a lack of self-motivation in the upcoming labour force.
I also hear concern about this from employers. This is not to say young people are not self-motivated. I find them on the whole very motivated, but, unlike previous generations, their motivation is directed to their own interests rather than to work aspirations or the interests of their employers. This isn’t bad or wrong; it may be healthy in the long run, as a life oriented solely to work isn’t a balanced one, as many people in the current workforce have experienced. It’s an issue that must be examined to ensure our workplaces maintain productivity with a workforce that is motivated differently than previous generations.
If we want to continue to have quality communities and workplaces, then we must all give thought to ways we can address the issue of how we support and recognize the kind of self-motivated volunteerism and work ethic that built our society, because I believe it’s slipping away from us. In the meantime, please make sure you thank every volunteer you meet as you enjoy this summer’s community events and, if you’re not doing so already, consider volunteering in your community.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.