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. 

Employers can play a key role in the lives of employees facing these challenges at home.  Of course, alternative work schedules can be used to attract and retain the best employees of all ages and in all stages of life.  To a group facing extraordinary pressures at home, an alternative work schedule may separate a good employer from a great one. Even aside from these more formal workplace initiatives, though, employers can take important steps to improve the work-family culture in the workplace.  Managers who are sensitive to employees’ personal needs, for example, can be a great source of comfort to an otherwise over-burdened employee.  Guilt is not an emotional area in which they come up short and it’s the last thing they need to feel at work when the pressures of home require them to leave early or to take a longer lunch.

For more on Family Responsibilities Discrimination (FRD), see:

Family Responsibility Discrimination. Download of a Short and Sweet Summary of the FRD Now Available

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. 

Today, the new reward is balance.  Reward Gen Y employees by giving what they want–flexibility.  To celebrate a big success, allow the employee to set his own schedule for the week.  If you know that your hard-working Gen Y is a late riser, change his schedule from 9 – 5 to 10 – 6.  

Related Posts:

The Impact of the 2007 Baby Boom

Should Gen Y Abandon Any Hope for Work-Life Balance?

5 Things Employers Should Know about the Engagement of Gen Y Employees

HR Glossary: Generations at Work

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.”

It’s a difficult question, really.  On the one hand, I do agree with Adria’s points.  Time is an invaluable commodity that can’t be bought back with money.  On the other hand, though, being home with family as a result of an unanticipated period of unemployment is not my idea of “quality time,” either. 

 

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.

The benefits of this should be obvious—a challenged and stimulated workforce is a more engaged workforce. Engaged employees are more motivated and that motivation leads to increased productivity. The more successes an employee experiences, the more engaged he or she becomes, thereby further continuing the cycle of positive results.

Additionally, the digital office enables attorneys to take their practice with them anywhere, provided they have access to an available internet connection.  Eliminating the need for attorneys to be in the office just for the sake of being there, workers in the digital office find that “work-life balance” may not be as elusive as once thought.  The modern workforce has made it increasingly clear that flexible work schedules are at the top of the priority list.  And Gen Y workers, the most recent generation to flood the recruiting office, have their own set of demands; and flexibility is high on that list.

Are you convinced yet?  It’s true.  Go ahead, start a digital revolution!

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.

 

  • Employees of every age crave recognition.  Study after study shows that employers that master the skill of providing timely, accurate, and regular feedback rate the highest in employee engagement.  The generational difference, though, is the amount of recognition that will satisfy younger versus older employees.  Gen Y is known as a “needy” generation for a reason.  One study showed that, for every piece of constructive criticism offered (and note that we’re not talking about negative criticism), the Gen Y employee requires seven pieces of positive feedback if there’s any chance that they’ll even hear the constructive one.  That’s a whole lot of pats on the back.  So many, in fact, that positive feedback almost has to be scheduled into the daily calendar of managers if they hope to ever really give a sufficient amount of compliments.

 

  • Younger employees also tend to take more pride in working for their employer and are more likely to recommend their employer to a job seeker.  This gives employers a great opportunity to promote their organization and  their product to potential employees and to customers.  There is no better marketing tool than sincere praise passed along by word of mouth.

 

  • Informal interactions are their preferred methods for “team-building,” as opposed to the more formal, structured methods used in the past.  This means no more formal “team-building” exercises at the yearly retreat.  The otherwise positive and upbeat Gen Y employee will see these efforts as weak attempts to parse together relationships that don’t truly exist.

 

  • Younger employees place a premium value on a sense of “belonging.”  If they do not feel that they are truly part of the organization, they quickly become disengaged and begin to look for new work.  If, on the other hand, they feel connected to others in the workplace, they have one more reason to work a little harder.  Gen Y employees were raised, remember, by Boomers, who played (and likely are still playing) an integral role in their development.  Gen Y loves to please others; hence the need for immediate recognition when they do something right.  If they don’t feel that they’re connected to others, then there is no one for them to try to please, and no one from whom they can expect regular positive feedback.  Ah, it’s a vicious circle, isn’t it?

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:

Most women want to be more “money savvy” and feel they need to learn more about how to manage their money wisely. This publication is especially targeted to young women age 22 to 35. It will guide you in learning about the basics of money management, credit, savings, investments and achieving financial security.

Wi$e Up is an excellent resource to help guide women in the Gen X & Y age groups to navigate an important area of knowledge that historically has presented steep challenges to women and, more recently, to Generation Y.

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.” 

Teach employees how to communicate with other generations.  Baby Boomers and Traditionalists hold the key to your organization’s future success.  Now you have to get them to share it.  And, even if they’re willing to do so, they may not know how.  Intra-generational communication is notoriously weak.  The generations simply don’t speak the other generations’ language.  Providing training to employees on how to communicate is essential if you want the older generations to share their knowledge and for the younger generations to receive and understand it. 

For more about Gen Y in the workplace, see:

HR Glossary: Generations at Work
Why Recruiters Need to Understand the Helicopter Parent
How to Use Reverse Mentoring as a Retention Tool for Gen Y Employees
Gen Y Demands Employers Open the Checkbook for Technology Requests
The Connection Between Training and Employee Retention, According to Gen Y
What Makes a Good Leader? If You Lead Gen Y’s, You’d Better Find Out.
Knock It Off, Gen Y: 3 Ways You’re Driving Your Boss Crazy

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.

Baby Boomers, who were born between 1946 and 1964 during the Post-World War II baby boom,  the largest generation ever born in the U.S.  This generation is known for its love affair with rock ‘n roll, Woodstock, and its experiences with the civil rights movement and Watergate.

Generation X includes individuals born between 1965 and 1980 grew up with celebrity figures that included Madonna, Oprah, and Michael Eisner.  Because the Baby Boomer parents of Gen X included working mothers, Gen X was left to fend for itself and the concept of the latchkey kid became prevalent. As a result, this generation is particularly independent and resilient.

Generation Y (also known as “Millennials”) represent the youngest workers in today’s workplace, being born between 1981 and 1999.  Raised by Baby Boomers, who coddled and protected in a way that they’d not been cared for by their own parents, Gen Y believes that it really can do anything and, as a result, tends to see very low penalty associated with frequent job changes and even career changes.  Gen Y engages in “real-time learning” as a result of constant digital access to resources such as YouTube and Google.  One defining feature of this generation is their general lack of awareness of the concept of a chain of command–something that can put a Baby Boomer or Traditionalist into a tailspin. 

For other posts on Generational Issues in the Workplace, see:

Why Recruiters Need to Understand the Helicopter Parent
How to Use Reverse Mentoring as a Retention Tool for Gen Y Employees
Gen Y Demands Employers Open the Checkbook for Technology Requests
The Connection Between Training and Employee Retention, According to Gen Y
What Makes a Good Leader? If You Lead Gen Y’s, You’d Better Find Out.
Knock It Off, Gen Y: 3 Ways You’re Driving Your Boss Crazy

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