Palle Ellemann Consulting

NEW! Generational divide in Lithuania
February 2011, by Palle Ellemann.

Palle Ellemann - Generational divide in Lithuania

I recently had a very interesting experience, when I was invited to speak at the UN Global Compact conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, where I was supposed to speak in two very different forums. The first evening I spoke at an exclusive leadership forum with the participation of about 30 CEOs from the leading companies in Lithuania and the Lithuanian minister of work was also present. I spoke about the link between HR and business results and how motivated employees create better results for the company. There was a good feedback from the CEOs - mainly men about 55 years or above - on the messages in the presentation, but the discussion following the presentation quickly got a focus on the communist heritage that Lithuanian organizations carries. The communist system created bureaucratic organizations with an extreme top-down control, where promotions and development weren’t based on an extraordinary effort or innovation, but rather on a political game of power. The Lithuanian CEOs spent a lot of time discussing how they had to deal with this heritage and the discussion didn’t really get to a solution.

The day after I spoke at the Global Compact conference, where there was a really good turnout of about 150 people, mainly HR and PR directors. They were primarily young people between 25 and 35 years and there was a great interest in the presentations from the European HR Director from SAS Institute and myself. In this discussion the excitement, the optimism and the questions were focused on what the best workplaces do and how this could be transferred into a Lithuanian context. There was no reference to the heavy communist heritage, but instead a clear focus on the future and the global context that Lithuania is finding themselves in.

The conference left me optimistic on behalf of Lithuania. It was refreshing to see the excitement (well, in the quiet Eastern European way) and the interest in learning from the rest of the world among the new generation, who in the coming years will be positioning Lithuania in the global market reality. There is no doubt that it will take time to implement flatter organizations, self management, and flex-time, but they will get there.