Hiring Gen Y (Part 8): The Intergenerational Workforce

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by Traci K and BrightMove Staffing Software and Recruiting Software

Today’s workforce is constantly changing and within 10 to 15 years it may be unrecognizable. Generation Y brings a different work style and unique point of views regarding workplace initiatives and work-life balance to their employers. As they improve their stations in life, these ideas and values will alter the way we do business. Clashing opinions with preceding generations only add to the already stereotypical views that Generation X and Baby Boomers hold towards their younger counterparts. In order to keep productivity levels high and ensure a cohesive work environment for all, there needs to be a mutual understanding between coworkers and an increased effort by management. Generations work differently, are motivated differently, and produce different results.  Play on strengths, compile teams strategically, and get the most out of your people. As mentioned above, first and foremost should be education – make sure employees understand each other, whether or not they agree.

Andrew Knittle, writer for Oklahoma based newspaper The Norman Transcript, detailed author Nancy Barry’s speaking engagement on the challenges between Gen Yers entering the workforce and the Boomers that manage them. Barry spoke at The University of Oklahoma earlier this year and explained how to help your organization move forward in these situations:

“This generation needs to know why they can’t put wild pictures on their Myspace and Facebook pages and still expect you to hire
them,” Barry said. Barry said most of the management at companies who hire college graduates are Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. She said members of Generation Y, those born between 1980 and 2000, have values that starkly contrast with those of the typical Baby Boomer.

“For this generation, life definitely comes before work,” Barry said of Generation Y. “They have seen their parents work for the same
organizations for forever, and then get downsized and laid off.” It’s this ever-changing employment environment in the U.S., where mass layoffs have become commonplace, that has shaped Generation Y and led to it being stereotyped as disloyal, Barry said.

“On the one hand, that’s true,” she said, noting that members of Generation Y change jobs every 18 months. “But they’re loyal to
people, not organizations. If they choose to leave, they’re leaving the manager, not the organization.”

Barry also said companies need to keep in mind that recent college graduates have “tremendous purchasing power” and often influence
their families and circles of friends who are growing ever-larger in the digital age. “They tell all — the good, the bad and the ugly,” she said. “If they had a good experience, they are going to tell everyone … and if they had a bad experience they’re going to tell everyone. And they can tell them quickly.”

Members of Generation Y also desire frequent praise and feedback, Barry said, which is likely due to over-praise (by Baby Boomer
parents) as children. “They are the trophy generation,” she said. “Give them a little daily praise — it doesn’t have to be a lot. And watch them grow.”

Generation Y faces challenges

Barry said Generation Y is going to be needed in the near future as Baby Boomers begin to retire over the next two decades. She said
there are 75 million Boomers, about 45 million considered to be members of Generation X and 80 million born in Generation Y. “There are not enough Gen X-ers to fill those leadership roles,” she said. “Your Gen Y employees are going to have to be ready to fill some of those roles.”

Frequently hired by corporate clients to help with the training of new recruits fresh out of college, Barry said one of the main issues she sees for Generation Y is a lack of soft skills.

Despite living lives filled with Facebook “friends” and devices that communicate with each other, she said employers have noted that
Generation Y is lacking in relationship-building, communication, organization and deadline-meeting skills.

Barry said another challenge facing Generation Y is the way they communicate and the way Baby Boomers communicate. She said those born shortly after World War II prefer more traditional means of communicating, while the younger generation is fine with text messages filled with symbols and misspelled words.

Barry said one way isn’t necessarily better than the other, but both generations need to find a way to bridge the gap. “They are bright, they care and they are out to make a difference,” said Barry, who is a Baby Boomer. “They want the same things we want. They’re just a little more vocal about it.”

Generation Y is here to stay and their numbers will only increase as the years go by. As they become the leaders of our organizations, they will cultivate the future work environments for Generation Z and bring more understanding and easier transitions to employees of the future. As Baby Boomers retire and Generation X makes their way to high-level and tenured positions, their numbers will become in minority by comparison to Millennials. Learn to work with them now, establish those relationships and levels of understanding, and make your workforce and your organization more productive.

Traci K. is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in recruitment and immigration.  When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.

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