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How to adapt to changing work force demographics Featured

7:01pm EDT November 30, 2011

It completely baffled Julie Overholt when her daughter graduated from college, got an amazing job offer, but turned it down because it wasn’t in a place where she wanted to live. But as she started to look into it more, she saw this was a new trait emerging with the generation entering the work force.

“It is very millennial that this age group really takes into consideration their personal value and their personal vision of what they want their life to look like,” she says.

As a result, she was inspired to co-write “Exiting OZ,” a book that compares different workplace personalities to those of the classic story, “The Wizard of Oz.”

Smart Business spoke to Overholt about the important principles the book can offer leaders.

What’s the basic idea of your book that leaders should look at?

OZ stands for organizational zeal. That describes those companies that believe that the rules and profits are more important than the people who work there. This book is directed to those leaders that are in the boomer segment. The wizard of Oz was that all-knowing, all-powerful, angry spirit that nobody really knew who he was or where he was. He just had this booming presence.

Taken off of that, we started to identify leadership models inside organizations that were taking place when Oz looked the other way. We immediately started to identify the tin-man leader, which is the leader that is disengaged from his heart. The scarecrow leader is disengaged from his brain, and the cowardly lion is disengaged from his courage. If you go through the book, it continues to relate back and forth to the story of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and how that’s showing up today.

How is that showing up today?

Munchkins are the little employees coming out to do things they’re told. The flying monkeys are the individuals that are just at the beck and call of leadership and just want to be told what to do. The most interesting demise in all of Oz is how Dorothy, who represents the millennials, actually surprises the witch by taking her down very simply. How does she do that? Throwing water on her, which is like a fresh drink of water — ‘Here’s the reality, lady — bam!’

Why is it so important for leaders to recognize these different personalities and characters?

There’s so much chaos in the world right now, and there’s so much information. People are overwhelmed by it — they’re not managing it. We’re in the information age. You could be confused and think observations are really ideas, but they’re not. We’re not generating a lot of ideas — we’re generating a lot of information. People in leadership roles need to be aware that while they may be in an OZ organization right now, they can transform their organizations and departments simply by realizing they have a disconnect that has served them up to this point in time, but is no longer going to serve them.

How do they change to adapt to this new work force?

One of the things we need to do is assess our talent pool and start creating environments that are a match to what our talent says is important to them. We have to strategically look at our global enterprise and start anticipating the economies that continue to do well and find creative ways to leverage new opportunities in economies that are not doing as well.

What will happen to companies that don’t adapt to each of these changes?

I think they’re going to go away. I really do. Many of them have been treading water for the last five to 10 years thinking that this is just temporary. The truth is the opportunities for them to continue to do business the way they’ve always done it are just diminishing every single day.

How to reach: www.julieoverholt.com/exitingOZ.htm