Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Invent new ways to interact with Generation Y to get their interest
Stress for Success
April 25, 2006

The fourth and final generation in today's workplace that I’m writing about is the large (68 million strong) Generation Y (aka Nexters and Millennials). The birth years I use for this group are 1981 to 2000, making them 6 to 25 years old this year. It’s too early to know if the predictions about them will pan out but this is what researchers foresee.

Gen Yers are more like their Veteran grandparents --- more stable and moral than recent generations. They’ve had fewer teen pregnancies, abortions, drunk driving incidents along with a dramatic decrease in adolescent violent crime. The US Bureau of Juvenile Statistics reports that the violent crime rate among 12 - 17-year-olds has fallen to pre-1988 levels. They even like and respect their parents! 9/11 galvanized Yers’ patriotism and recent corporate fraud their concern for ethical business practices.

Unlike the unsupervised Generation X, this generation is over-managed by their Boomer and Xer soccer parents. These “helicopter parents” are known to swoop in to negotiate their child's grades in school or salary in a new job. The booming economy of the 1990s allowed these parents to pay for a relatively privileged lifestyle, which included every possible class in which their little Yer expressed an interest.

Yers have interacted with technology since they were old enough to reach a keyboard; it’s second nature to them. They’re the first generation to have more marketable skills than their parents. Due to technology immersion their thinking pattern is different. Historically we’ve been linear thinkers going from point A to B to C. Yers move randomly between points and eventually draw conclusions. This allows faster processing and greater absorption of information along with an even greater multi-tasking capability than Gen Xers have. They’re arguably the most intelligent generation ever.

They communicate electronically on multiple levels simultaneously, which is unprecedented. Interactivity is key to their expectations in dealing with everything from technology to classroom learning to employment. Without it you won’t hold their attention.

They’ve participated in more family decisions so it doesn’t occur to them to hold back their ideas in the workplace. An older supervisor may be shocked and even insulted when a new Gen Y employee tells him how to improve a project.

Not all has been a bed of roses for this generation, however. They’re the first to be less healthy than their parents due to greater inactivity, consumption of more processed foods, and greater pollution and stress. They have rising rates of diabetes and other obesity and sedentary lifestyle related diseases. Generation Y has been medicated from an early age so hasn’t developed the coping skills possessed by older generations.
They also grew up when terrorism and violence took on lives of their own. The Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, and school shootings influenced them deeply. Workplace safety is their #1 concern.

In spite of these events, they remain optimistic. This is the most cause-oriented generation since the Boomers. Record numbers of them work for social causes. Perhaps curbing violence will be theirs.

To motivate them to work for you offer:

• Challenging and meaningful work that makes a positive impact
• Collaborative work with teams
• Cutting edge technology
• Supportive supervision without dictatorial overtones
• Mentoring and coaching
• Programs to encourage better nutrition, lifestyle habits and disease-specific counseling or you’ll feel the pinch in future years when insurance and disability rates go through the roof
• Freedom from gender-role expectations
• Involvement in decision-making where possible
• Respect; treat them like adults

Now that we’ve taken a brief look at the four generations and the historic events that helped shape each, next week I’ll recap and emphasize what employers need to consider regarding recruitment and retention of all four generations.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., of InterAction Associates, is a trainer and a Stress Coach in Lee County. E-mail her at www.jackieferguson.com or call 239-693-8111 for information about her workshops on this and other topics. Register for her open enrollment seminar on June 9 at FGCU, Bridging the Generation Gap (590-7815).

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Recruit and retain Generation X, the most misunderstood generation
Stress for Success
April 18, 2006

Employers are faced with 76 million Baby Boomers nearing retirement with only 51 million Gen Xers to take their place, making for an incredibly tight labor market. Creating a desirable workplace now for this and the other generations gives you a recruitment and retention advantage. But first you must understand each generation, which is what this series is about.

I developed the most empathy for Generation X (born between 1961 – 1980, making them 26 – 45 years old) when researching how historic events shaped each generation's values. Xers have been labeled disloyal slackers. However, when you consider the times in which they grew up I think you’ll empathize with this misunderstood generation.

Gen X, a.k.a. latchkey kids, was the most unsupervised generation. Xers learned to be very independent. Their routine was to go directly home after school and call their mothers immediately, then get their homework done and clean up the kitchen so their exhausted parents could get dinner started upon arriving home. So many were kids of divorce that they developed a cynicism about marriage, looking to friends and to themselves for security.

There was plenty to be pessimistic about in the larger world too. They saw the U. S. fail militarily (Vietnam), politically (Watergate), diplomatically (Iran hostage situation), and economically (Japan on the rise). Terrorism was increasing, the Stock Market took a serious dive and police brutality was pumped over the airwaves.

They were the first generation to be told that they’d be less financially secure than their parents due to the 1980s economic downturn. To add insult to injury, when they graduated from college they were lucky to get a job flipping burgers. In fact, theirs was the McJob generation.

The big invention that influenced them was the computer. Gen Xers learned how to use new technology on their own giving them a greater understanding of it. The increased visual stimulation from computer and video games increased their brains’ neural connections leading researchers to notice that they’re better at multi-tasking --- and getting bored more easily.

Many Xers are disillusioned with the workplace. Older workers see them as disloyal while they see themselves as practical. After watching their workaholic parents laid off by the millions in the 1980s, Gen Xers decided they’d work to live not vice versa. Balance and flexibility became valued. Their loyalty was to their résumés and developing marketable skills.
This was the best-educated generation in the workforce. They want to be listened to and treated as equals. They’re frustrated with Boomers’ need to endlessly process information, the glacial rate of organizational change, being underutilized and the lack of enough learning and advancement opportunities.

Due to their propensity for boredom they may quickly move on to another job. Xers in their 20s change jobs every 1.1 year!

They say what’s most important to them in the workplace are:

• Quality relationships with managers and coworkers
• Interesting work that stimulates and
• Helps them build marketable skills
• Continuous learning

Whereas the baby boom generation was very motivated by money and status most Gen Xers aren’t. Status was listed at the bottom of what motivates them with salary the third least important. They don't want the corner office they want flexibility, more independence in getting the work done, and life balance.

To be competitive in recruitment and retention of Gen Xers:

• Create more coaching relationships with boomers to groom Xers as leaders
• Include them in strategic planning to help satisfy their top three work priorities
• To alleviate boredom give them more variety of work
• Poll them to discern their main issues
• Offer flex time, telecommuting, job sharing, on-site childcare or childcare subsidy
• Don’t micromanage this independent group
• Increase collaborative and decrease competitive work environment
• Offer management training to supervisors with high employee turnover

Next week we’ll look at the youngest generation at work, Generation Y.
Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., of InterAction Associates, is a trainer and a Stress Coach in Lee County. E-mail her at www.jackieferguson.com or call 239-693-8111 for information about her workshops on this and other topics. Register for her open enrollment seminar on June 9 at FGCU, Bridging the Generation Gap (590-7815).

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Motivate Baby Boomers to keep them in the workplace longer
Stress for Success
April 11, 2006

Last week I gave a thumbnail sketch of the oldest generation in today's workplace, the Veterans. This week we’ll consider the next generation, the Baby Boomers, the largest of all time. The birth years I use for this generation are 1943 to 1960, making boomers 46 to 63 years old this year. Through their 76 million the U. S. population had its first expansion in 200 years.

Unlike the vets, the boomers grew up in times that were far more optimistic. With the war and the economic hard times behind her, America was on the move. Sure, there was the Iron Curtain with its ubiquitous threat of nuclear annihilation, but America was ahead of the communists. Anything seemed possible, like beating the Soviets to the moon.

Life was still pretty simple. Many didn’t lock their doors at night. Families gathered around not the radio but the TV watching I Love Lucy. The homemaker mother and employed father both worked hard to make sure their kids had more than they had. They doted on their little boomers and told them they could be anything they wanted to be.

Boomers’ sheer numbers demanded attention. They became known as the "me generation" with their legendary quest for personal and immediate gratification.

As with all generations, the boomers thought they invented rebellion. And rebel they did.

The events of the tumultuous 1960s were brought into livings room across America by TV: the Vietnam War with its deadly, daily body count and related upheavals like the anti-war demonstrations, three assassinations, violence surrounding the 1968 Democratic Convention and the Kent State killings. If this weren't enough there was also the civil rights movement unfolding with its own marches and race riots.

Many boomers became very active in the movements of their day and distrustful of authority (“don’t trust anyone over 30”) for the mess they’d made of the world. Life should be fairer and their world wasn’t fair.

The most stunning social change was “the pill”. With reliable birth control women marched into the workplace and educational institutions in huge numbers. Their expectations for equality expanded and the Women’s Liberation (or as my brother calls it, the women’s lip) Movement was reborn.

The motto for this generation became, "drugs sex and rock 'n roll". The sexual revolution and the drug culture were born. Woodstock was a symbol.

The 1970s brought great cynicism in politicians over Vietnam and Watergate leaving younger boomers less optimistic and cause-oriented. They’re more like the next generation, the skeptical Gen Xers.

Because it's such a huge generation, boomers have always had to compete with each other for everything so possessions and visible status symbols are prized. It’s also why there are so many workaholics among them and why they have conflicts with those who don't take their work seriously and aren't willing to put in the extra hours.

Given how boomers grew up it makes sense that they value optimism, service, consensus and teamwork. Health, wellness and personal and spiritual development through lifelong learning are also important. Even though historically over-achievers, life balance is becoming increasingly vital.

To alleviate some of the employee shortage problems, encourage boomers to put off full retirement by:

• Creating relationships with them in a personable and casual workplace that is fun, warm and humane
• Helping satisfy their need for personal gratification and financial security by offering benefits that allow them to have greater balance and also earn enough to maintain their cherished lifestyle into retirement
• Involving them in problem-solving, which is their forte
• Offering visible rewards that imply status, such as public recognition and visibility as star performers within the organization

Next week we’ll look at Gen X, the most misunderstood generation.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., of InterAction Associates, is a trainer and a Stress Coach in Lee County. E-mail her at http://www.jackieferguson.com/ or call 239-693-8111 for information about her workshops on this and other topics. Register for her open enrollment seminar on June 9 at FGCU, Bridging the Generation Gap (590-7815).

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Employers should hang on to their older workers
Stress for Success
April 4, 2006

Studying the four American generations is fascinating. By sharing my research with you about each generation hopefully you’ll be able to minimize intergenerational conflicts at work and at home through greater understanding.

We’ll look at what are called Group Tendencies, which explain how some but not all in a given group share tendencies due to forces influencing that group. Group Tendencies can help you understand someone better as long as you don’t assume a specific tendency applies to everyone in that group, which would be a stereotype.

We’ll start with the oldest generation in the workplace today, the Veterans, born between 1922 and 1942. This year they turn 64 to 84. (Different researchers use slightly different birth years. I’ve chosen these because they make more sense to me.)

Veterans grew up when life was simpler, more personal and much less high-tech. More people lived in smaller, rural towns than today. Milk was delivered to most homes (with that thick crème on the top). Families gathered around the radio for popular shows like The Shadow.

They lived through the hard times of the Stock Market crash, the Depression, the Dust Bowl, and World War II and developed frugal habits to survive. “Waste not want not”, and “Turn off the lights” were heard in homes of this generation and beyond. They lived with significant scarcity; even bread lines for some.

In order to make it through these meager times they had to put aside individual needs and work for the common good, which allowed them to accomplish amazing things. They won the war and then rebuilt our nation and its economy and contributed greatly to the recovery of Europe and beyond. Victorious soldiers came home and got an education through the G. I. Bill. Rosie the Riveter returned home to raise a family.

This generation proceeded to build the foundation for the American dream. Patriotism was high. Honor, hard work and loyalty were their values.

By partnering with large government and corporate institutions they learned that great things could be accomplished by working toward common goals with tried and true methods. There was a growing sense that Americans could do almost anything. Everyone can profit if you have good leadership and a dedicated workforce to carry out the big plans. This generation had great respect for authority because it worked for them.
Their work ethic is epic; "an honest day's work for an honest day's pay", "duty before pleasure", live by the rules, work hard and eventually it will all pay off. That’s why Veterans oftentimes don't understand why younger people rebel against paying their dues and climbing the corporate ladder in an orderly and prescribed fashion. They also don't understand younger employees’ "lack of loyalty" to an employer.

Given Florida’s incredibly low unemployment rate and the predicted looming employee shortage employers would be wise to keep Veterans working as long as possible. To hold onto these valuable employees:

• Offer benefits like retirement plans, insurance, etc., that would add to Veterans’ financial security
• Offer flexibility so they can also pursue their retirement dreams
• Relationships are important so use personal vs. electronic communication as much as possible, be polite with "please" and "thank you", and speak to family, patriotism and traditional values
• Seek out their experience, knowledge and what has and hasn't worked in the past

What manager wouldn’t want all their employees to have the work ethic of this generation? They’re unbelievably reliable and hard working. With their accumulated wisdom they can also offer great historic understanding of an organization or industry in which they’ve worked a lifetime. It would be a shame to lose this.

Next week we’ll consider the biggest American generation of all time, the Baby Boomers.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., of InterAction Associates, is a trainer and a Stress Coach in Lee County. E-mail her at www.jackieferguson.com or call 239-693-8111 for information about her workshops on this and other topics or to invite her to speak to your organization. Register for her open enrollment seminar on June 9 at FGCU, Bridging the Generational Gap (590-7815).