The shift is causing huge challenges for businesses trying to manage a productive workforce. As all four generations clash and work side-by-side; each at different life and career stages; each with different perspectives, needs and expectations, management is struggling to keep everyone engaged.
Already, generations X and Y command a powerful segment of the workforce. A combined demographic of 120 million people, generations X and Y count some of today’s top performers among their ranks. Independent, socially conscious, technologically savvy and open to change, these groups are distinct from the baby boomers. They also require special efforts on the hiring front.
Bruce Tulgan, founder of Rainmaker Thinking, leading consultant and author of more than 15 books, is confident that managing the generation mix is possible.
“Between 1993 and 2003,” Tulgan says, “a profound revolution has taken place in the values and norms of the American workplace; the impact has been felt throughout the world. We call this revolution the ‘Generational Shift.’”
His 10-year study of how the generations mix at the workplace found:
#1. Work has become more demanding on employees.
#2. Employer-employee relationships have become less hierarchical and more transactional.
#3. Employers are moving away from long-term employment relationships.
#4. Employees have less confidence in long-term rewards and greater expectations for short-term rewards.
#5. Immediate supervisors are now the most important people in the workplace.
#6. Supervising employees now requires more time and skill on the part of managers.
An excerpt from one of Tulgan’s reports called “Generational Shift” explains: “No matter how effective organizations may become at retaining older workers in flexible roles, soon generation X and generation Y will become the dominant players in the prime age workforce. As they do, they will usher out the last vestiges of the old-fashioned workplace values and norms and finish the workplace revolution. Meanwhile, huge cadres of aging workers (often with significant power in organizations) will reach advanced life stages, at which they will need and demand more flexible work conditions ironically pushing the ‘free agent’ agenda in their own ways for their own reasons. On top of all that, a new generation of younger workers with no attachment to the old-fashioned career path and work patterns will emerge.
“The traditional career path and old-fashioned management tactics will finally fade away. The one-size-fits-all approach to employer-employee relations will be dead. In good times and bad alike, the idea of a long-term career in one company will be rare. Employees will come to accept that they must take responsibility for their own success and fend for themselves as best they can. The most successful people will be focused on learning marketable skills, building relationships with decision-makers who can help them, and selling their way into career opportunities.”
So where does all this new information leave recruiters and human resource professionals? According to a special report from “Recruiter’s World,” focus on the following to effectively attract and retain employees from generations X and Y:
- Emphasize the Internet in your recruitment strategy. Create media that is modern and upbeat, focusing on unique ways to deliver information. Also, provide lots of online tools to help candidates learn about the company and interact with recruiters.
- Create a high impact recruiting message. Generations X and Y are used to being marketed to and need a very distinctive message to get their attention. Be careful not to go overboard though. A genuine, straightforward approach usually works best.
- Deliver a work culture with options. Work-life balance is very important to generations X and Y. These groups want flexibility, learning opportunities, relationships with decision-makers, challenging work projects, responsibility, and personalized career development.
DENISE READING is president of Corporate College. For further information on Corporate College, visit www.corporatecollege.com or call (866) 806-2677.