Posts Tagged ‘Generation X’

Effective Generational Strategies for Retaining Employees

For those businesses just about ready to hit the reset button and pick up where you left off in 2007, STOP!  This is not your grandfather’s workplace anymore.

Once upon a time, work was about getting a paycheck – a way to put food on the table and a roof over your family’s head.   Health care benefits, vacation pay, and other perks were exceptions not the rule. Sundays were a day off to rest, pray, and recoup for next week’s work.  That changed with the formation of guilds and later labor unions, when the process of representation for the workers began in the hopes of achieving fair wages and reasonable work schedules.   

But thanks to a recession and a world marketplace where dramatic change occurs in months not decades, the definition of work and what constitutes quality of life has been indelibly altered.  Welcome to Talent Management 2011!

Recruitment and retention strategies that were considered best practices and highly competitive just a few years ago are now ineffective and even detrimental. New pressures coming from aging demographics, globalization, and technology are turning workplaces upside down and inside out. In fact, it’s even hard to tell anymore who is working when and where. Many traditional workplaces of the past are gone – caput. Others have gone virtual, invisible to the passerby but very real in terms of productivity and profitability.  And for the first time in history, four generations are working side by side all but killing one-size-fits-all recruitment and retention strategies. 

All these changes – both gradual and dramatic – have converged to put many companies at risk for losing their top talent.  New and innovative talent strategies must be put in place to position companies for success.

Executives confirmed this need to change in a recent Deloitte survey and white paper titled Talent Edge 2020.  Forty-one percent of executives said “competing for talent” was a top concern, followed by developing leaders and succession planning (38%), and retaining employees at all levels (37%).  Severe talent shortages are expected over the next year in Research & Development (34%), executive leadership (25%), and sales (19%).  Even positions like customer service and marketing are expected to be tough to fill positions with severe shortages, 19 percent and 16 percent respectively, expected by executives.

The executives and senior talent managers who participated in this survey clearly recognize the importance of developing a strategy to retain key employees. Over the next twelve months, nearly seven in ten executives surveyed (68%) reported they have a high (39%) or very high (29%) level of concern about retaining critical talent.  Another six in ten (64%) have a high (40%) or very high (24%) fear of losing high-potential talent and leadership.

The problem is most of the companies surveyed, by their own admission, are not doing a very good job of holding onto key employees. Worse, many do not even have a clear understanding about what factors are driving voluntary turnover at their organizations.  With a return to some economic normalcy and the well-documented skills shortage among applicants, the need to recruit for new openings will be hard enough without having to replace the home-grown talent pipeline. 

While the white paper highlighted numerous best practices, one stood out: “Companies differentiate themselves by culture, compensation and future opportunities…and deploy different strategies to appeal to different generations.”

The executives broke down their most effective retention initiatives as follows (each generation listed by priority rank):

Veterans (over age 65)

  1. Additional bonuses or financial incentives (25%)
  2. Additional benefits (health and pensions) (24%)
  3. Flexible work arrangements (20%) -  Corporate social responsibility (20%)

Baby Boomers (ages 45-64)

  1. Additional benefits (health and pensions) (26%)
  2. Additional bonuses or financial incentives (23%)
  3. Additional compensation (21%) – Strong leadership/organizational support (21%)

Generation X (ages 30-44)

  1. Additional bonuses or financial incentives (21%)
  2. Additional compensation (19%) – Strong leadership/organizational support (19%)
  3. Customized/individualized career planning (18%) – Succession planning (18%)

Generation Y (under age 30)

  1. Company culture (21%)
  2. Flexible work arrangements (20%)
  3. New training programs (19%) - Support and recognition from supervisors or managers (19%)

Recruitment and retention of critical talent is sure to stay on the radar of executives for years to come as shortages and losses of skilled workers deepen.  As a result, an effective talent management program becomes a much sought-after competitive advantage as less than one company in five participating in the Talent Edge 2020 survey could describe themselves as “world class.”  

Share

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?

Share

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.

Share

Employers and Employees On Collision Course

Employers and employees are obviously headed for a collision to be played out in a workplace near you.  A recently released Deloitte report called the standoff “a tale of two mindsets.”

Many employers seem to believe their employees have few options in this weak economy.  They feel employees should feel lucky they have job.

Employees, especially the most talented and qualified, see the world a bit differently. Among employees surveyed in the Deloitte survey, a significant number of workers are looking to jump ship. Thirty percent of employees are currently working the job market and nearly half are at least considering leaving their current jobs.

That stands in sharp contrast to the executives who were surveyed. Only 9 percent of executives expect voluntary turnover to increase significantly among Generation X employees. That means 9 out of 10 executives may be ignoring the elephant in the room.

The survey revealed that about 22 percent of Generation X employees are actively job hunting.  Even more alarming, only 37 percent plan to remain with their current employers.  Employers might find Generation Y a little stickier when it comes to retention but even then 44 percent plan to stay put over the next year.

Employee retention isn’t the only thing that executives and employees appear to disagree on. When asked to rank their top three retention tactics, employees chose in every instance different non-financial incentives than the executives. Even greater differences existed when executives were asked to identify retention strategies that might appeal to different generations.

For instance, Gen Y and executives agreed that additional compensation and bonuses were effective.  But that’s where agreement broke down.  While 29 percent of the executives believe flexible work arrangements were what Gen Y wanted, nearly 4 out of 10 Gen Y employees said they wanted job advancement opportunities.  Generation X wants a job with good wages but are only willing to stay if they can learn new skills too.

Like they’ve done many times in the past, Baby Boomers break the mold on retention strategies too.

Baby Boomers are looking for strong leadership, additional bonuses, and more compensation. Executives offer benefits, bonuses and flexible work arrangements.

Based on the results of this survey, executives are offering money and flexibility while the three most active generations in the workplace want opportunity, bonuses, and compensation.  Executives need to learn that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to employee retention and stop using the recession as their primary retention strategy.

Share

Isn’t text messaging today just Morse Code v2.0?

When Samuel Morse sent the first electronic message from the U.S. Capitol to his partner in Baltimore nearly 170 years ago, he typed “What hath God wrought?”  I believe nearly every parent of a teenager today might be muttering the same words.

We are in the midst of four distinct generations of Americans trying to communicate with one another using different media.  Communication gaps between parents and kids or managers and employees are nothing new. It’s been the subject of thousands of books.  Experts have made millions and millions of dollars prescribing remedies to bridge the gaps and mend fences. But they’ve seen nothing like the gaps occurring today between the Veterans (born before 1946), Baby Boomers (born 1946-64), Generation X (1965-79), and Millennials (born 1980-1999)… or have they?  Has anything really changed over the past 170 years?

Take the phone for example: According to Nielsen Mobile, in the first quarter of 2009, the average U.S. teen made and received an average of 191 phone calls and sent or received 2,899 text messages per month. By the third quarter, the number of texts had jumped to a whopping 3,146 messages per month, which equals more than 10 texts per every waking non-school hour.  Just for the sake of comparison, at the beginning of 2007, those numbers were 255 phone calls and 435 text messages.

It’s hard to believe that little handheld device we used to call a phone is quickly joining the transitor radio and 8-track cassette in flea markets and garage sales.  Don’t believe me? Just try calling anyone born during the 90s or later.  Good luck on getting a real person on the other end to answer it. Voice mail? Good luck on getting a listen before it’s deleted. Email? You’ve got to be kidding. That’s old school, baby.

That makes the term “phone” almost obsolete. Using that mobile device to call someone is just a vestige of old technology. The older Millennials, also referred to as the iGeneration because these young people have been raised on the iPod and the Wii, rarely if ever use their “phone” to call someone. They communicate almost exclusively by instant messaging and Facebook. (I intentionally excluded Twitter because contrary to popular belief, young people “don’t get Twitter.”)

This explosion of text messages, tweets, and updates of non-verbal communication is stunning.  It has many peoples’ shorts tied up in a bunch. “How will kids today ever learn how to communicate?,” is often the cry heard from multi-generational training audiences.  And the spelling and grammar? “Well…it’s horrific,” parents and teachers proclaim. But historians might see this revolution in communication as just another lesson in history repeating itself. 

Isn’t instant messaging today just Morse Code v2.0?  What’s changed since Morse tapped in that first message? Upon brief reflection, it seems eerily familiar. One person taps a bunch of keys on an electronic device which transmits a message to another party. Only this time the code, all those texting abbreviations that drive grammar and spelling cops crazy, is translated on the spot by the recipient. 

Ironically even Morse’s first message reverberates loudly with today’s texting dissidents — “What hath God wrought?”  It seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Share

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.

Share
Receive E-mail Updates
Listen to internet radio with Ira S Wolfe on Blog Talk Radio
Reprint Permission
Become a Fan!
Receive Our Feeds
Archives