Archive for the ‘Generation X’ Category

Grandmothers and Gen Y On Facebook Make Digital Odd Couple

“Is your grandmother on Facebook?” asks Kelly Steffen in her post titled Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation.  A year ago that might seem like an odd question because in 2009, social networking use by folks 65 and older stood at 13 percent. But this year social networking use among Internet users 65 and older grew by a staggering 100 percent, a recent Pew Research Center survey reports. That’s more than 1 out of 4 people in that age group are using the Internet are using Facebook and other social networking sites to connect with long lost friends and distant grandchildren.

This new odd couple is creating a digital conundrum for Kelly and her Gen Y cohorts. She writes, “As happy as I am to connect with her more easily, it’s still a bit strange to have her commenting on my pictures and updates. Another side of me says “way to go grandma!” As a millennial, I often take new technology for granted. Because I’ve been exposed to the growing advances in technology, it comes more easily to me than my grandmother who is completely out of place in the digital world.”

Kelly then did a great job at summarizing how different generations use social media. What follows are her findings:

Millennials (age 18-29)

According to Pew, Millennials are on course to become the most educated generation in American history, largely due to the exposure of modern technology at an early age. As a Millennial, I’ve had more opportunities to have hands on experience with technology than my parents and grandparents. We embrace multiple modes of self-expression by exploring multiple social networking sites and create a large amount of online content.

Social media is just one of their uses of the Internet, and it’s not even the most important. They access the Internet continuously first and foremost for information and for entertainment and secondarily for connection.

Millennials far outpace older Americans in the use of social networking sites, with 75 percent having created a social networking profile.

Generation X (age 30-45)

Generation X uses technology as much as Millennials but primarily when it when it supports a particular lifestyle need. Much of the online content that this generation participates in is geared to online shopping and banking with less socializing than Millennials.

Boomers (age 46-64)

Baby Boomers use the internet and various social networks for travel and recreation information. Although email continues to be the primary way that older users maintain contact with friends, families and colleagues, many Boomers now rely on social network platforms to help manage their daily communications. These include sharing links, photos, videos, news and status updates with a growing network of contacts.

Veterans (age 65+)

Seniors are less likely to use internet resources for simple lack of broadband access. Pew states that only 6 percent have created a social networking profile. The primary form of communication is email with 89 percent of those ages 65 and older send or read emails and more than twice of any other cohort on a typical day. Maybe this explains why I get at least three “chain emails” a week from my grandmother!

For another perspective on how different personalities approach social media, read 4 Social Networking Personalities. Which One’s Yours?

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Generation Gaps Occur At All Ages

Like many workers, one day earlier this year former Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Donovan McNabb and Gen Xer came to work only to discover he was old.

The 6 time Pro-bowler and 5 time conference title QB was dealt to the division rival Washington Redskins.  One reason given for the trade was a generation gap, although Coach Andy Reid denied age was a part of the criteria in the decision to part ways with McNabb.

One might expect that defensive remark coming from an employer in this litigious job market.  Age discrimination is a major concern as businesses try their best to rebuild their workforces. Many businesses chose to force early retirement and layoffs to create openings for younger, cheaper workers who could keep pace in a faster paced, more dynamic, and more innovative marketplace.

The wrinkle in this generation gap story however is that McNabb is only 33 years old.

BehindTheLines-3-Ira

As I’ve said before, the gap between generations isn’t always about age, but attitude. The Eagles new twenty-something line-up plays fast and they connect in a nanosecond. It even forces 52-year-old baby boomer Eagles head coach Andy Reid to keep his Blackberry charged.  “I text,” Reid says. “I’ll text something like ‘have a great day at practice.’ Or if I go through practice at the end I might shoot a guy a text like ‘great job’ or whatever the correction might be.


Communication wasn’t quite the same with McNabb and former Eagle running back Brian Westbrook. Both players dominated much of the offense for the past seven years but both also had other life demands and interests that started to separate them for the younger players.But this year it was out with the old and in with the new generation of younger players. Kevin Kolb, McNabb’s replacement 26, is the oldest of the offensive nucleus. Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy are 22, while DeSean Jackson is 23. Tight end Brent Celek is 25. He and Kolb are the only guys in the group legally old enough to rent a car.

In addition to texting and tweeting, the new generation spends a lot of time together off the field. McNabb had a lot of different demands on his time. Jeremy Maclin felt that “being close in age you just kind of bond with guys a little more around your age. And I think it does translate to the field.”

Employers of all types of organizations could learn a lesson or two from the Eagles story.  First, generation gaps aren’t limited to Baby Boomers and Millennials. They occur between younger and older workers even when only a few years separate the workers.  Second, generations isn’t just influenced by age differences, but attitudes toward life and work.

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Generational Views on Career Challenge Employers

The more things change, the more different generations of workers become the same, suggests a new study about generational views on careers from Robert Half. The research shows that workers of all ages have a new appreciation for company stability when making career decisions. Yet, four out of 10 professionals polled said they are more inclined to look for new opportunities outside their firms as a result of the recession.

Cross-generational teams bring challenges and rewards. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of hiring managers said managing multigenerational work teams poses a challenge. But more than one-third of workers polled felt having a group of employees at different experience levels increases productivity.

What are the most significant generational differences when it comes to workforce planning?

  • Generational views on next career steps differ. For Gen Y, looking for a new job is the most common post-recession career plan, whereas Gen Xers polled said they are more inclined to update their skills. For baby boomers surveyed, staying put at their companies was the most commonly cited post-recession career plan.
  • More Gen Yers (36 percent) than Gen Xers (30 percent) and baby boomers (24 percent) planned to look for new job opportunities.
  • Gen Xers polled were more inclined to enhance their skills sets (38 percent) and build tenure with their companies (33 percent) in the aftermath of the recession than other generations.
  • A greater percentage of baby boomers (54 percent) than Gen X (46 percent) or Gen Y (39 percent) respondents said they will work past the traditional retirement age.
  • More Gen Xers (34 percent) than baby boomers (27 percent) said they had increased their retirement savings since the recession began.
  • More baby boomers (54 percent) than Gen X (45 percent) or Gen Y (35 percent) employees identified the greatest challenge when working with multiple generations as having differing work ethics and approaches to work/life balance; more Gen Yers attributed difficulties to differing communication styles (29 percent for Gen Y versus 16 percent for both Gen X respondents and baby boomers).

But different generations don’t always see the world differently? Many generation similarities do exist.

Understanding the values shared by nearly all employees, particularly in light of changing economic conditions, can help companies enhance their recruitment and retention efforts,” said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International and author of “Human Resources Kit For Dummies,” second edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).

  • For all generations surveyed, working for a stable company and having job security were two of the most important aspects of the work environment, beating out having a short commute or working for a socially responsible company.
  • When evaluating employment offers, salary, company stability and benefits were the most important factors for all three generations.
  • Health care coverage, dental coverage, vacation time and 401(k) matching were the highest valued benefits for all generations surveyed.
  • The most commonly cited benefit of being part of multigenerational work teams was bringing together various experience levels to provide knowledge in specific areas.

“Many employees, particularly Gen Y professionals, are biding their time in their current employment situations and plan to make a move when they feel the economy is on firmer footing,” said Brett Good, a Robert Half International district president. “Now is the time for employers to take action and outline career paths within their company for strong performers. “

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Employers Warned,Young Workers Ready To Fly The Job Coop

Businesses may be able to erect a firewall to limit an employee’s access to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  But they can’t erect a fence high enough or deep enough to prevent dissatisfied and disengaged young workers from leaving their jobs despite a weak job market.

According to a recent Deloitte survey, nearly one-in-three (30%) employees are actively working the job market and nearly half (49%) are at least considering leaving their current jobs. Academic research indicates that 44% of these employees will actually act on these turnover intentions. 

Employers, on the other hand, hardly see what may be coming. For example, only 9% of surveyed executives expected voluntary turnover to increase significantly among Generation X employees in the 12 months following the recession. That stands in sharp contrast to Deloitte’s survey results: about one-in-five surveyed Generation X employees (22%) have been actively job hunting over the last year and only 37% plan to remain with their current employers. Members of Generation Y also have their sights set on better opportunities, with less than half of those surveyed (44%) reporting they plan to stick with their jobs.

Among the executives surveyed, 65% expressed concern about losing high potential employees and critical talent to competitors in the year following the recession. Nearly half (46%) recall that voluntary turnover increased following the 2001-2002 recession. Nevertheless, only 35% have an updated retention plan in place to keep hold of talent as the recovery strengthens.

In Deloitte’s white paper, “Has the great recession changed the talent game?”, they include an excellent overview ranking effective retention initiatives by generation, comparing executive perceptions vs employee wants:

employee-retention-by-generation

 

Key question for talent leaders: Do you know what your employees really want and are you tailoring your strategies to address the generational and geographic diversities of your workforce?

 Read the full paper at Has the great recession changed the talent game?”

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Survey: A Look Into the Mindset of Today’s Young Workers

Roll back the clock about 40 years and 74% of young people said there was a generation gap between themselves and their parents.  Of course if you are a Baby Boomer, you recall growing up in war and recession.

It’s not surprising then that 79% of Generation Y, according to a recently-released Pew Research Center report, today acknowledge a generation gap, the highest level ever recorded. The parallels between the late 1960s and today are uncanny — two wars and a recession. You’d expect the tension between young adults and parents to be paralyzing. Surprisingly, you would be dead wrong.

The members of this Gen Y generation, ages 10 to 30, are BFFs (best-friends-forever) with their parents. It is reported that college students typically check in with their parents about 10 times a week. If you speak with some parents and young adults, it’s even more often than that. Kids and parents dress alike, friend each other on Facebook, listen to the same music and fight less than previous generations. Gen Y even assert that older people’s moral values are generally superior to their own.

Like every preceding generation, Gen Y is a product of their parents. But unlike their Boomer parents who were raised to believe that second place was first place for losers, Gen Y were raised to believe that everyone who plays is a winner. For the record, born between 1980 and 2000, these “trophy kids,” also known as Millennials, have been coddled by their parents and nurtured with a strong sense of entitlement. Their anxious parents were afraid of their children growing up with an inferiority complex. In games, it was common for everyone to receive a trophy — win or lose — thus the name “trophy kids.”

Kids no longer fear the bad report card either — teachers do. This generation was treated so delicately that many schoolteachers stopped grading papers and tests in harsh-looking red ink to avoid bruising the child’s precious self-esteem.

If the bond between parents and children is so strong, why does nearly 8 out of 10 Gen Y believe there is a gap? It is in their use of technology where Gen Y sees the greatest difference, starting perhaps with the fact that 83% of them sleep with their cell phones. It is also this technology that young people believe can be leveraged to build community. They think technology unites people rather than isolates them. Technology is a means of connection, not competition.

That hunger for community further distinguishes them from the radical individualists of the baby-boom years. In fact, in some respects Gen Y emerges as radically conventional. Asked about their life goals, 52% say being a good parent is most important to them, followed by having a successful marriage; 59% think that the trend of more single women having children is bad for society. While more tolerant than older generations, they are still more likely to disapprove of than support the trend of unmarried couples living together. While they’re more politically progressive than their elders, you could argue that their strong support for gay marriage and interracial marriage reflects their desire to extend traditional institutions as widely as possible. If boomers were always looking to shock, millennials are eager to share.

The greatest divide of all has to do with hope and heart. In any age, young folk tend to be more cheerful than old folk, but the hope gap has never been greater than it is now. Despite two wars and a nasty recession that has hit young people hardest, the Pew survey found that 41% of millennials are satisfied with how things are going, compared with 26% of older people. Less than a third of those with jobs earn enough to lead the kind of life they want — but 88% are confident that they will one day.

Let’s hope that optimism doesn’t get extinguished with the passing of time and maturity. Based on the way things are going, future generations will need every bit of hope and heart they can muster.

Also posted on Workforce Trends (How to Manage Age and Attitude in the Workplace)

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Sizemore sizes up ‘Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization’ in HS Dent Forecast

In one of those “this made by day” moments, a friend of mine forwarded a review of my book Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization.  The review was written by Charles Sizemore at HS Dent and published in the March 2010 edition of the HS Dent Forecast. Not only was I pleased – no, ecstatic – over the author’s insight and comments, it was especially rewarding because it was completely unsolicited and unanticipated.

The book review in its entirety is posted below.

“What is a generation?” asks Ira Wolfe in his new book Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization. “A generation is a group of people who are programmed by events they share in history while growing up… a common set of memories, expectations, and values based on headlines and heroes, music and mood, parenting style, and education systems.”

I would agree with this definition, and would add that it ties in with the concept of generation gap. Parents (and sometimes even older siblings) often do not “get” their kids. They don’t understand their vocabulary. They don’t understand what motivates them. And they absolutely, for the life of them, cannot understand why a pieced eyebrow is cool. (Who am I to criticize…in my childhood, coolness was defined by acid-washed jeans that were tightly rolled around the ankles and permed hair and makeup on male rock stars. Go figure.)

Mr. Wolfe’s book is an interesting study on the relationships between the generations in the workplace. It’s very similar in substance to the generational work done by William Strauss and Neil Howe (Generations, The 4th Turning, Millennials Rising), but it’s much less academic and, frankly, quite a bit easier to digest. Corporate executives who find themselves managing a multigenerational workforce should find the book quite valuable, as should anyone struggling to understand the generation gap in their own home, for that matter.

Wolfe speaks of the generations as if they were single members of a large family. At this stage in their careers, the Baby Boomer managers are “parents,” while the Echo Boomer employees are “kids.” Generation X, stuck in the middle as always, is analogous to an unloved older stepchild, cut off from the nurturing love fest between the Boomers and Echo Boomers.

Of Generation X, Wolfe writes “Coming of age in the shadow of the Baby Boomers virtually ensured that this generation would be overlooked and ignored; like Great Britain’s Prince Charles, they are the workplace ‘heirs apparent,’ waiting endlessly and impatiently to assume leadership.”

And like the unfortunate Prince Charles, their waiting has no end in sight. Gen X is hitting a “gray ceiling,” as the incumbent Boomers refuse to retire and make room at the top. But while Gen X waits for its chance to take the reins, Gen Y is slowly coming up behind them. Given the symbiotic relationship between the Boomers and their “Mini Me,” the Echo Boomers, Gen X is right to worry about being leapfrogged.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Gen X is a very entrepreneurial generation; with the Baby Boomer generation acting as an 80-million-person roadblock to their career advancement, it is understandable that Gen Xers believe that their best chance to excel is through starting their own businesses. Of course, Gen X also watched their parents and older brothers suffer through the layoffs and restructurings of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Seeing quality professionals lose their jobs through no fault of their own made Generation X grow up a little cynical and mistrusting of large companies.

Wolfe also has a secondary theory for Generation X’s independence and somewhat prickly demeanor. While the Echo Boomers were the “trophy kids” who were coddled from birth by their well-intentioned soccer moms who slathered them in antibacterial hand wash every time they left the house, Gen X was the “latch-key kid” generation. They had to fend for themselves at a young age. They also weren’t required by law to wear a helmet and knee pads every time they rode their bike to school, nor were they required to sit in a car kiddy seat until puberty. In short, they weren’t smothered by their mothers (or by the “nanny state”), and they were allowed to be kids — little Huck Finns and Tom Sawyers who got into a lot of trouble but ended up stronger for it.

Don’t underestimate this personality characteristic; you don’t realize how valuable it is until you see the alternative: the neediness of the Echo Boomers (also called the “Millennials” and “Gen Y”). In smothering their children with things like “My kid is an honors student” bumper stickers, the Baby Boomers have created a codependent monster in the Echo Boomers they raised. Echo Boomers require constant attention and affirmation in the workforce. They’re emotional and oversensitive. And they don’t understand why it’s not ok to wear an eyebrow piercing into a place of business if you want to be taken seriously or that it’s rude to have your face buried in a text message when someone is talking to you. (This is my personal pet peeve. Though she is now a married professional in her mid-20s and generally has good manners, my Echo Boomer kid sister has the annoying habit of doing the “Blackberry prayer” when I’m trying to talk to her. Her husband does it too. It’s maddening.)

Wolfe does an excellent job of describing the frustrations felt by managers today:

At school, teachers accentuate the positive. Kids no longer fear the bad report card — teachers do. This generation was treated so delicately that many schoolteachers stopped grading papers and tests in harsh-looking red ink to avoid bruising the child’s precious self-esteem. Managers in turn must now tread lightly when making even the most benign critique…

How did these kids get this way? For many Millennials, few “accomplishments” didn’t rate some type of acknowledgement. In games, it was common for everyone to receive a trophy — win or lose — thus the name “trophy kids…” The lesson shifted from “second place is the first place for losers” to “everyone who plays is a winner.”

This generational tension is a bit ironic. While many managers and most of the media targets the kids, the blame might fall squarely on the very people doing the loudest complaining — doting parents, teachers and coaches. After all, the grumbling Baby Boomer managers are the same indulgent parents who raised the millennial generation after starting families late in life or vowing not to make the same mistake twice with children from second and third marriages.

Wolfe, a graying Baby Boomer, is certainly no crotchety old man wagging his finger at “kids these days.” Quite to the contrary. (If anything, it is me, your younger Gen X writer who fits that description.) Wolfe sees a lot of untapped potential in this young generation. What I might consider a short attention span, an inability to focus, and insufficient attention to detail, Wolfe calls “hyperalertness,” defined here as an “advanced form of mental flexibility.” I would consider instant messaging three friends while simultaneously uploading photos to Facebook, blogging about rock bands, playing Second Life, and listening to an iPod to be a colossal waste of time of absolutely no economic value. I certainly wouldn’t call it “multitasking.” But I guess that makes me old school.

At any rate, Mr. Wolfe’s objective is not to pass judgment. His objective is to help managers better understand those under their control. And on this front, Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization is a useful too. I’d recommend this book to anyone in a position of authority over a multigenerational workforce.

Charles Sizemore, CFA

This book review was originally published in the March 2010 edition of the HS Dent Forecast.

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Free download! Four Generations in the Workplace

Just minutes ago, a client asked me this question: “is there a page on your website that describes each generation?”  I said, “sure. Let me send you the link.”  And then after dozens of searches using a variety of keywords on my multiple websites, I had one of those blinding flashes of the obvious! After writing and publishing thousands of articles and newsletters, I never took the time to write one providing a simple, succinct description of all four generations. DUH!

So…here’s the fix. What follows are descriptions of the four distinct generations working side-by-side in the workplace along with their most significant values.

Who are the Veterans?

Born Before 1946. Veterans have a very strong work ethic. “Just git’er done” could be their motto. Give an impossible task to a Veteran and somehow, someway it will get done. Most have served in the military or been married to someone who did. As a result, Veterans tend to be very respectful of seniority, title and rank. Because their world outlook was shaped by the Great Depression and World War II, Veterans have a very practical outlook (make do, reuse, recycle) and know how to put money away for a rainy day.

Key Veteran values: Self-sacrifice and dedication. 

Who are the Baby Boomers?

Born between 1946 and 1964. Baby Boomers invented the 60-hour workweek.  They are competitive to their own detriment at times with a “work-til-you-drop” work ethic. They have a history of turning endings into beginnings.  Now entering traditional retirement age, they have no plans for porches, rocking chairs, or seats at bingo tables.  Retirement is not the end of a career but the start of a career transition. They are optimistic about their own lives – they believe that if you set goals and work hard, you can achieve whatever you set out to do. Boomers have less respect for rank and hierarchy than their predecessors but still respect the hierarchy of leadership, especially when they can be part of it. They set long-term goals and have the “no pain-no gain” attitude to set them through. 

Key Boomer values: Hard work and be a team player. 

Who are the Gen X?

Born between 1965 and 1979. Gen Xs are the free agents of the workforce – independent, self-reliant, and entrepreneurial. Because they don’t find any value in wasting time with non-essential stuff, they shattered the management philosophy of “if ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” Gen Xs grew up alone because both parents were working. In addition, 40% of their parents were divorced and/or lost their jobs during the ’80s and ’90s. As a result, Gen Xs are very concerned about life balance and fiercely protective of family time. They tend to be skeptical and pragmatic, and value leadership by competence. They have no respect for service, title or rank because their parents had all three and lost their jobs anyway. Their career paths create a mosaic of work, learning, family and even sabbatical. When they receive an email at 11 PM from their Boomer boss, they don’t think “Wow, she works hard” but “Wow, she might be over her head and can’t handle the workload.” 

Key Gen X values: Life balance and respect for individuality. 

Who are Gen Y (also known as Millennials)?  

Born between 1980 and 2000.  Gen Ys are very entrepreneurial. Most worked at legitimate jobs before they left high school. Gen Ys are technology-savvy. They’ve never known a world without mobile devices and 24/7 connectivity. They see themselves as citizens of the world and feel very connected through the Internet. Gen Ys fly to Europe to visit friends and family as easily as Veterans and Boomers crossed state lines. Family vacations take place on cruise ships instead of cabins by the lake. They have better relationships with their parents than many Gen Xs and Boomers, and have a strong interest in teamwork (although they define “team” differently than Boomers and Xers). And despite an ongoing debate about the human ability to multi-task, they seem to be creating a new frontier for juggling multiple activities simultaneously. 

Gen Y values: Making a difference in the world and respecting diversity.

I’ve also excerpted the chapter from my book Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization that describes each generation in more detail. To download a free copy of this excerpt, click here.

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Coming Soon to Your Business: A Leadership Crisis

Worried about your next generation of leaders?

You’re not alone. According to a new survey about leadership skills from Pearson and Executive Development Associates Inc. (EDA), 57% of business executives said their leadership talent pipeline was the same or weaker today than it was two years ago. Seventy-five percent said increasing bench strength will be their top business priority for the next two to three years. Is this too little too effort? 

When asked what skills were needed to assume executive positions within the next three to five years, respondents cited strategic thinking, leading change, the ability to create a vision and engage others around it, the ability to inspire, and the ability to understand how the total enterprise works. But the respondents also agreed these were the very skills lacking in their current talent pool.

The right successor must have just the right blend of personality, time and experience. And with a more complex and faster changing marketplace destined to be our future, the ability to deal with ambiguity and paradox is paramount. This combination requires innate talent plus development.  Creating this competency can take years and many people just are not equipped to ascend to the role. And others who have the skills and experience aren’t willing to give up their personal and family lives in exchange for a promotion and title. What motivated the Baby Boomers doesn’t motivate Gen X and Gen Y.

In addition to lack of skills, a leadership shortage is all but a done deal. When the Baby Boomers finally decide to slow down or retire, pure demographics will stall the succession. Gen X, the succeeding generation, is little more than half the size of the Boomers. And many Gen X and Gen Y are putting family before careers. 

One more glitch: while three to five years may not be enough time to develop the next generation of leaders, it might also be too long in a competitive market. Many talented Gen X are tired of waiting for the Boomers to get out of the way. As the economy is rebounding, job  offers will start coming in. It is already happening. Competitors and emerging companies are scouring the job market for talent and your next leader could be their target.

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Why Job Candidates Who Can’t Write Deserve a Break

In a world immersed in e-mails and text messages, many career counselors recommend to their job-seeking clients that sending a hand-written thank you note might just be enough to differentiate oneself from the pack of qualified candidates.

But what happens when the manager slides open the envelope, removes the card, and the note looks like it was written by a third grader. What kind of impression does that make? Is it any worse than receiving the following message on your Blackberry from your top candidate: “TYVM 4 t interview.”  (Translation = thank you very much for the interview.)

In defense of a generation criticized for sending texts instead of a handwritten note, consider this. Unknown to many hiring managers, even those in their 30s and 40s, is the little-publicized trend that cursive writing has all but been phased out of many school’s curriculum.

Taught for more than 300 years in the United States, cursive writing has been reduced to an independent study, an “as-we-have-time” course in second or third grade. The computer keyboard helped kill shorthand, and now it’s threatening to finish off longhand.

Until the 1970s, penmanship was a separate daily lesson through sixth grade. Zaner-Bloser Handwriting, the most widely used penmanship curriculum, reports that, when cursive writing peaked in the 1940s and ’50s, most teachers insisted on as much as two hours a week. But a 2003 Vanderbilt University survey of primary-grade teachers found that most now spend 10 minutes a day or less on the subject. To adapt to this new reality, the Zaner-Bloser method has been changed to a 15-minute daily plan. When handwritten essays were introduced on the SAT exams for the class of 2006, just 15% of the almost 1.5 million students who took the test wrote their answers in cursive. The rest? They printed — in block letters.

For traditionalists, the demise of cursive is an outrage — the loss of a skill, even an art form. But proponents arguing for a young population that is better prepared to work in digital world say there’s no point in wasting students’ time to teach a vestigial skill in a computer age.

The first edge of a gigantic wave of U.S. students graduating from high school and school who no longer get much handwriting instruction in the primary grades is just hitting the workplace. Not only will these students struggle with writing cursive — they can’t read it either.

Ironically, this problem isn’t isolated to poor-performing students, but the best and the brightest. Why? High-performing students are introduced to computers early in their education and rarely, if ever, are required to write longhand. They are never required to learn the skill of writing, or even reading, cursive script. They are taught keyboarding. Just as the pencil replaced charcoal and the ballpoint pen replaced the quill, bits and bytes will replace cursive writing as the primary mode of producing “printed” media.

Many educators shrug at the problem. When the top priority is to teach technology, foreign languages and the material required to pass standardized tests, penmanship instruction just doesn’t seem that important.

So the next time you get a digital message loaded with text lingo or a thank you note that looks like chicken scratch, pause for a moment. Take a deep breath. Then ask yourself: What if the brightest and most talented candidates applying for the job don’t know how to write cursive?  Does it really matter? Will cursive writing improve their performance? Or is this just more sign that the change is really difficult to accept.

Previously posted on Bizmore.com

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