Articles Posted in Generations: Boomers, Xers, and Millennials

Delaware’s Indian River School District has decided toSMS text marketing prohibit students from having cell phones, pagers, and other communication devices both at school and on school buses.   According to the Indian River’s School Board President Charles Birely, the District took this step because, cell phones are a distraction  that “have no place in the classroom.” 

Many public school districts have policies that restrict the possession and use of cell phones and similar devices at school. Such policies, of course, may give rise to legal liability when school officials seize or search a student’s phone.

EEOC issued Employer Best Practices for Workers With Caregiving Responsibilities, a technical-assistance guide, last week.  Caregiver or Family-Responsibilities Discrimination, according to the EEOC, occurs when an employer makes an adverse employment decision based on the employee’s care-giving responsibilities.  Because this type of discrimination is a derivative of gender discrimination, the basic premises begins with parents of young children.  But it extends in the opposite direction, as well, to employers whose own parents are the ones in need of caregiving.  This second category is the less commonly recognized of the two forms of discrimination.  But there is a third type, as well.  A  dual-income household where both caregivers are working and care not only for children, but also for aging parents, is known as a “sandwiched” home.  The sandwiched generation are those who are at a very fragile point, having responsibility for multiple generations.Big kid and little kid with PDAs

As many as 9-13% of American households can be characterized as a sandwiched household.  The typical couple includes a 44-year-old man and a 42 year-old-woman, who have been married for just less than 20 years. Both spouses work full time.  There are two children in the home and two aging parents who require assistance in performing daily tasks of living, such as transportation, shopping, making care-related decisions, housekeeping, and managing money.  

Until the economy enjoys a significant improvement, it is easy to imagine that the number of sandwiched households will continue to grow.  Aging parents who, in good financial times, may have been able to afford the expense of assisted living, may see a more reasonable option as living with an adult child.  Of course, as we continue to outlive previous generations, the number of aging parents will continue to grow. 

Gen Y employees have a not-so-great reputation for being difficult to manage.  Here are some tips to remember when rewarding Gen Y workers when they’re on the right track.young-professional-woman

A common mistake made by well-intended employers involves how they reward employees.  The value of rewards must be judged by a different standard.  To be effective, the reward must be tailored to its recipient.  When Boomers were on the receiving end of the rewards, it was common for the reward to involve more work.  

For example, a junior associate who does a stellar job on a client project could be rewarded with an invitation to attend a dinner with that client. That “reward” may have been well-received by a Boomer employee when he was climbing the ranks. But not so with Gen Y.  Gen Y is a generation of employees who value their personal time.  Being “asked” to attend a work-related event in addition to their normal work duties is not a reward. 

Employers are experiencing the impact of the generational differences between Boomers and Gen Y.  Don’t expect that dynamic to change anytime soon.  The New York Times reports that 2007 holds the record for the year with the highest number of births in the U.S.  In 2007, 4,317,000 babies were born in the U.S.–beating out the prior record set in 1957.  Little Girl with Briefcase

Coincidentally, the original Boomers, who were born in 1957, will retire at the age of 65 in 2022.  Three years later, the second wave of Boomers will enter the workforce at the age of 18, in 2025.  This generational conversion will mean a complete transformation of workplace values and expectations, instead of a longer-term integration.  It also means that there will be little opportunity for knowledge transfer between the incoming and outgoing generations.  Succession planning will require conscious awareness of the potential knowledge gap if businesses want to retain their critical knowledge. 

See our prior posts to learn more about the current impact Generation Y is having on employers.

Will work-life balance survive the current economy? Or will employees abandon the idea in an attempt to protect themselves from layoffs and other job cuts?  In a recent post, Adria B. Martinelli recently asked whether work-life balance issues are at risk in the current economyshutterstock_5022628

And she’s not alone. The ABA Journal recently reported that associates have dumped the idea of a “work-life balance” and are, instead, billing hours like crazy in an attempt to survive any upcoming cutbacks.

Others, however, think that the whole “work-life thing” should be abandoned in the name of self-preservation, especially when it comes to Gen Y workers.  Instead, says Jake on Jobs, 20-somethings should not worry about work-life balance–that will come in due time.  What they should do is “work their butts off until they find a job that doesn’t feel like work.”

I’ve posted about how Adobe Acrobat 9 can revolutionize your law practice by lowering operational costs and increased earnings.  And there’s plenty more to be said on both fronts. But, in this post, I’ll switch my focus from hard to soft costs; i.e., “intangibles.”  There continues to be an increased focus on “intangibles” in the workplace—the costs that, although difficult to quantify, have a direct impact on profitability.  Employee engagement and satisfaction are intangibles that are linked directly to client satisfaction and retention, firm revenue, and firm profitability. 

Similarly, employee turn-over can have disastrous consequences for firms that ignore the value of employee morale. The cost of repltaking notesacing an employee is estimated to be 100% of the individual’s yearly salary for staff members, 150% for long-term employees and management, and as much 300% for junior associates when partner mentoring time is factored into the equation. Based on these numbers, a firm’s intangibles can have an enormous impact—positive or negative—on the bottom line. 

And how can the digital office contribute to firm intangibles? The digital office enables firm staff to become more efficient in day-to-day tasks. Increased efficiency means more time for other tasks and different types of work. When freed from menial duties, such as repetitive copying and filing, staff can be given more challenging and substantive assignments.

Employee engagement differs between younger and older employees.  Employers are trying to navigate the needs of Gen Y and, to some extent, Gen X employees.  Learning how to attract and retain younger generation employees means understanding what it is about a workplace that these employees desire most.  And, conversely, what things are most likely to be so unfavorable that they actually drive away the recruits you’re trying to attract.  pigtails

Here are just a few of the differences between younger and older employees to keep in mind.  Ask yourself whether your organization is making efforts to satisfy younger employees and keep them engaged.

  • Younger employees tend to be more optimistic about opportunities for continued learning and growth in their employment.  This requires employers to prevent their youthfully optimistic hopes from being stamped out by the embattled bitter employee who can quickly poison the environment with repeated cynicism and distrust.


Generation Y is not known for frugality. Savings is not something the Millennial Generation does very well at all, in fact.  Similarly, women are notoriously behind their male counterparts when it comes to saving for retirement.  The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), has begun an initiative targeted to both issues.   image

Wi$e Up is a financial education demonstration project targeted to Generation X and Y women.  The DOL’s Women’s Bureau heads the project, which pairs participants with mentors, who are recruited by local organizations.  There are several components to the program, including classroom portions, online teleconferences with feature speakers, and other interactive experiences designed to get women in this particular age group up to speed when it comes to understanding the importance of personal fiscal health and how to achieve it.

The Wi$e Up website offers lots of helpful tools and resources, as well as its monthly e-newsletter, which focuses directly on the financial issues facing Gen X and Gen Y women.  Also available on the website is a Financial Planning Handbook for Generation X Women.   The Handbook is 91 pages long and retails for just $15 ($9 is you purchase 10 or more).  The Handbook is described as:

Smart employers have begun internal campaigns to prevent what could be a potentially crippling brain drain as the Baby Boomers, the largest generation in history, nears retirement.  As many as 40% of the current workforce is expected to be eligible for retirement age by 2010.  With a mass exodus of key employees on the horizons, employers look for ways to transfer knowledge to the next generation workforce.  But, in light of the many particular characteristics of Generation Y (or “Millennials”), this effort is not necessarily one with an obvious plan of attack.    

Gen Y logo

Gen Y demands that communications be transmitted in a format that they’re used to, which almost always means the involvement of real-time technology.  For many employers, this demand is light years beyond the bulletin-board and newsletter-style communications they’ve employed for years.  So what’s an employer to do if it’s not current with the cutting-edge technology attractive to Gen Y? 

Implement a formal leadership program.  Gen Y will not have had the experience necessary to successfully take control as managers.  Unless there is a formal program in place to teach Millennials what makes a good leader and communicates the expectations of the organization with regard to have leaders should behave and treat others, we cannot expect them to simply “figure it out.” 

Human Resource professionals must be familiar with a vast vocabulary, spanning from the legal world to psychology and sociology terms.  At a professional organization meeting I attended this morning, I had the pleasure of listening to an organizational consultant speak about employee retention and engagement–a very important topic in my world.  Her presentation was filled with a variety of factoids of which I hadn’t been aware.  One little tiny piece of constructive feedback I have, though, is that she got the Generations wrong.   generations

During her talk, she referenced the challenges presented to employers by Generation Y employees.  But what she meant was Generation X and Generation Y.  She stated that Gen Y includes employees just entering the workforce (i.e., 18 years old), through individuals aged 31.  This is not quite accurate.  Here’s what she probably meant to say:

Traditionalists are actually two generations (“Matures” and “Silents”) who share similar values and behaviors who were born between the start of the 20th century and the end of World War II (1900-1945).  This generation is characterized by rigidity, privacy, and loyalty.

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