Thousands of would-be retirees, their retirement accounts depleted, remain in the ranks of the employed. At the same time, another graduating class enters the job market every year. These two factors are creating a clash of the generations, and managing a multigenerational work force continues to get more and more challenging for business leaders and managers.
Most companies and managers are doing their very best to remain strong and deliver on expectations through the recession. But this becomes extremely difficult when, for the first time in history, the work force comprises four distinct generations: traditionalists, boomers, Generation Xers, and millennials.
Each group has strong assets that managers can tap into in order to make their businesses more effective and successful. For example, traditionalists and boomers tend to bring drive, determination, and vast amounts of knowledge and experience to any company that they work for. Boomers, however, tend to be less team-oriented than millennials. Boomers are also used to acquiring information and more inclined to keeping it to themselves because they feel like knowledge is power. But the problem is if they can’t effectively communicate with and train younger generations, their employers will lose profitable knowledge. Millennials, after all, must be effectively trained. Because Xers tend to be fundamentally independent, they are often free thinkers and can be a valuable source of fresh ideas to revamp your organization. You should always ask for their input. And the millennials usually thrive in team environments and typically are not shy about putting in their two cents about anything you may ask them about or want an opinion on. They are also a fountain of fresh ideas. Additionally, they tend to be highly productive and excellent multitaskers.
Right now, millennials are a hot commodity on the job market, mainly because they are cheap hires. After all, older Xers and boomers are looking for higher wages and the corner office, and sometimes executives mistakenly think it makes sense to lay them off and replace them with cheaper labor.
Yet this strategy creates a problem. It might seem like replacing older employees with lower-paid millennials makes financial sense, but it really doesn’t if you stop and think about the true implications of doing something like this. If there are no boomers and Xers around to train the millennials, the company will suffer. Untrained millennials may take hours to complete tasks that a trained boomer could complete in five minutes, so this would actually increase a company’s cost of doing business.
It’s important to make sure you’re maintaining a good generational mix and facilitating communication and knowledge transfer across generations. It can only help your bottom line.
Consider these three tips for managing today’s multigenerational work force:
1. When you are trying to get a point across, always keep your audience in mind. If you can understand generational differences, then you can tailor your communication to speak powerfully to your targeted demographic.
2. Abandon “one-size-fits-all” thinking. Different generations are motivated by different things. Accordingly, you should use a range of recruiting and incentive strategies to make sure your company appeals to all four generations instead of just one or two.
3. To make sure incoming employees are properly trained, allow them to choose their own training methods, as they each have different preferences. Whereas a boomer may learn best by attending a live class, a millennial may prefer to take a webinar instead. Allow your employees to choose the training methods that work best for them, and in doing so, they’ll respond better to the training and be more effective in the organization.
Sherri Elliott-Yeary is CEO of Optîmance Workforce Strategies, founder of Gen InsYght and author of “Ties to Tattoos: Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage.” Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not too long ago, companies could show up at a career fair at a local college once or twice a year and the effort would produce a line of great talent predisposed to start work upon graduation. Today, great talent is still graduating all the time, but this talent is proving to have very different motivations and perspectives on how they want to position themselves in the workforce.
Companies that understand the nuances of the younger generations of talent can position themselves better to create opportunities to attract this talent and maximize their productivity. As the baby boomers continue to retire, companies must identify strategies that connect them with local colleges, their faculty and their programs to ensure an effective transition of talent to their business. This more strategic investment of time creates opportunities to attract talent and to mold that talent to better fit positions with their business long before graduation.
Recently, I had the chance to interview Deborah (Deb) Mills-Scofield, who is a strategy and innovation consultant, a partner with Glengary LLC and a Growth Partner with Baldwin-Wallace’s Center for Innovation & Growth (CIG). Deb shared experiences, insight and advice on ways her clients engage with local colleges and create programs to benefit from younger talent entering their businesses.
Q: Why do you continue to work with college students, and what benefits have you received from these efforts?
A: As I reflect on my career, I was mentored every step of the way – through college, Bell Labs and AT&T. I wouldn’t be where I am without it. So I feel that mentoring is important. I do that several ways: through the Brown University Women’s Launchpad for senior women, informal mentoring of startups from Brown, and through BW’s Center for Innovation & Growth (CIG). Frequently I’ll have the student fellows at the CIG get involved with my clients and at the VC firm, Glengary LLC, in which I’m a partner. At the VC firm, the students help us with due diligence. Their work has been very impressive and thorough, providing insights that we wouldn’t have thought of because of their age and different experiences. I will also have students help my clients as we do planning and innovation – doing some primary and secondary market research and analysis.
Q: What are the tangible benefits to having students involved in your work?
A: By involving students with my clients and Glengary on real projects, these companies get access to some of the best students in Northeast Ohio. These firms are able to assess how well the students fit into their environment and get an inside track to hire them after graduation. The students get exposure to how things are done in businesses, learn about corporate cultures and networking, and they receive practical, useable experience. This helps them get a better feel for what they may or may not want to do – including their own startup – and better evaluate their opportunities. And, let’s face it, this looks great on the resume.
Q: What are some of differences you see in Gen Y versus baby boomer and Gen X talent?
A: The 21st century has really shaken up the world – and the business world in particular. One of the major shocks to companies is Gen Y’s attitude to work, often misunderstood as selfishness or lack of commitment. The boomers and Gen Xers have worked hard, did as they were told, didn’t challenge the status quo, and punched the industrial clock. Gen Yers don’t buy in to this, for some very good reasons. They have grown up with absentee parents caught up in the corporate ladder-climbing rat race and experienced the lack of loyalty companies had to their parents in downturns. Gen Y’s loyalty must be earned over and over again (as should any employee’s). They are willing to work very hard, just not in vain, and they’re not eager to accept the same traditional rewards and recognitions their parents have (e.g., 2 weeks of vacation, 9-5, etc.)
Q: How do you think Gen Y talent will change business?
A: Well, I keep trying to get my clients to realize that Gen Y will have a very large impact on 21st century capitalism. The 20th century’s view of profits as the ‘ends’ versus the ‘means’ is not sustainable, as our financial crisis blatantly illustrates. Gen Y wants to be part of an organization that makes meaning, not just money. If they are going to give their time, energy and talent, it better be for more than just corporate profits. Gen Y gets it right – profits are an output; making a difference in customers’ lives is an outcome. Profits are a means to the end of making a difference, not the end in itself. As these ‘kids’ enter into business, creating their own ventures and working in existing ones, they will transform business into something much more meaningful and impactful. And that is a very, very good thing. Companies that allow Gen Y to make a difference will have a powerful advantage over those that don’t.
If you would like to learn more about Deb Scofield or the Baldwin-Wallace CIG Program, you can visit her company website at www.mills-scofield.com for more information.
This article was brought to you by Chris Carmon, president of The Carmon Group. You can find out more about The Carmon Group at www.carmongroup.com
Misunderstandings. Conflicts. Even outright fights.
Today’s companies are becoming multigenerational battlefields, where baby boomers and millennials duke it out. Each generation features its own work style, learning methods, means of communication and reward system. As a result, too many businesses are finding a generationally diverse work force to be a liability.
But what happens when the baby boomers retire and walk away with the business’s corporate intelligence? They will leave behind a tech-savvy and entitled generation that doesn’t know the meaning of the word “no.” Will that spell the end of your company?
It doesn’t have to. In fact, by embracing the strengths of each generation, savvy companies can transform age differences into a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
By following a clear plan, companies can not only be ready to handle generational differences but can make the most of each and every age group in the work force.
Give your top human resources executive a seat in the boardroom. People are a company’s most important asset. By making your HR executive part of the company’s leadership team, it ensures that work force planning and generational issues can be tied to the company’s strategic plan and mission. A seat at the table also keeps HR issues top-of-mind with the executive team, which is more important than ever as you face the generational divide.
Make succession planning a priority. Conduct a work force age analysis, which will identify coming knowledge gaps. For example, the average engineer is 55 years old. Does the company have a way to identify top young talent to replace these employees?
Understand what it takes to attract and motivate the younger work force. I fired my own daughter three times. Only then did I understand that the younger generation isn’t lazy. They’re simply more efficient and better multitaskers. As a result, they need to be constantly challenged. In that same vein, younger workers are not always recruited the same old ways. You are more likely to find your best new candidates via social media than at a traditional networking breakfast.
Develop programs for baby boomers to transfer their knowledge to the younger generations before they retire. Both formal and informal methods should be used to ensure corporate intelligence is not lost. Remember to address both hard and soft skills. The older generations have maturity and work force knowledge, plus they are highly networked and offer good communications skills. Partner them with the younger generation for knowledge transfer and mentorship. At the same time, boomers will benefit from learning new technology skills from their younger peers.
Reward and motivate each generation accordingly. Older employees still enjoy earning a trophy for their desk, a bigger office or a fancy title. Younger generations prefer a flexible schedule, a gift card to a restaurant or some extra time off for family. Millennials also tend to change jobs — frequently. Keep them engaged and interested by offering projects and other opportunities to learn and grow.
Harness the power of all four generations. Remember, each of the four work force generations has strengths to be leveraged. Discriminate against gray hair or body piercings at your own peril. The key is to find ways for employees of different generations to communicate, learn and work with one another. Appreciate and point out the benefits of their differences. That attitude — and the positive effects of learning from one another — will become part of your culture.
Sherri Elliott-Yeary is the founder of Gen InsYght, the CEO of Optimance Workforce Strategies, and the author of “Ties to Tattoos.” Her clients include La Quinta Hotels, Minyard Foods and The Chickasaw Nation, among many others. Contact her at (214) 802-2345 or at email@example.com.