A sneak peak at tomorrow’s workforce

Some of us will still be in management positions in 2021. That means that, right now, there are 12-year-olds in grade school who may be junior employees at your company in what seems like a few short years.

Here’s a quick primer to remind us where we were and where we are now. My thanks to TEC resource, Dr. Gustavo Grodnitzky, for this review.

The Silent Generation

This group was born between 1925 and 1945. Many have left the workforce. But many also have re-entered in part time or other vocational areas, simply to make ends meet in this economy.

Several of our TEC chairs and staff, including yours truly, fall into this category. We’re also called “rationalists.” We are loyalists and principled in our commitment to one company or one occupation during our careers. We’re not known as extreme risk-takers. We accept the pluses and minuses that any job has to offer. We’re good company role models, as well.

The Baby Boomers

Born between 1946 and 1964, they’re called boomers because so many were babies created after GIs returned from World War II. Boomers are driven to excel. They want steady job progression and the wealth and materialistic rewards that come with it. These folks introduced the idea of the 60- and 80-hour work weeks. They equate effort and time invested with their expectations of financial and material return.

Generation X

Xers were born between 1965 and 1981. Unlike the Boomers, they want work/life balance. They’re more focused on the productivity and efficiency required to get the job done in 40 hours or less. This gives them the balance to pursue interests outside of work, such as families, hobbies, a healthy lifestyle, and so on.

Generation Y

Yers were born between 1982 and 2000. They’re also known as Millennials, reflecting the symbolic change to the 21st Century. Unlike Xers who are preoccupied with work/life balance, Yers have trouble making the distinction between this semantic dichotomy. Instead, they prefer a blended lifestyle. In other words, they hold very close what they think is important in their work life. They equally value what’s important in their personal life. Yers are complex and more difficult to understand and manage than Xers and Boomers. You can see the differences here:

  • Time. Grodnitzky talks about employers shifting from a traditional time-keeping methodology to a progressive one, which he describes as paid time off, or PTO. PTO replaces personal time, sick time and vacation time. Basically, it says to the Yer, “You are an adult. Use your time wisely and fairly so it doesn’t detract from your job responsibilities.”
  • Flexibility. The close cousin of time is flexibility. And the close cousin of flexibility is pay that is tied to performance results, not a time clock. Pay for performance is catching on at a number of TEC companies. But most will tell you that having the right metrics in place to measure performance is critical. This means that whether a Yer is working in the office, on the road, or at home, you should expect the same performance results.
  • Personal Growth. I have found that Yers have the highest quest for personal growth and knowledge among all the employee groups mentioned above. A savvy employer will give them opportunities to grow.
  • Relationships. A Yer’s relationship with supervisors is critical to how long they stay at your company. Boomer supervisors, in particular, need training on how to relate to the Y generation.
  • Cause. Yers are most effective when they can relate to and embrace causes. Your mission statement or vision or “why we do what we do” statements are places to begin. But the message must be meaningful, short, to the point and engaging. Otherwise, Yers won’t really care.

Generation Z and beyond

Next, we have Generation Z, sometimes defined as those born anywhere from the mid-1990s and early 2000s through to the present.

They’re raised on the Internet, adept at multi-tasking, able to sift through large amounts of information quickly and eager to share what they’ve found.

They, and the other generations before them, will make up the workplace a decade from now. Here’s what employees in our future workforce might look like:

  • They will be a weighted composite of boomers, Xers, and Yers, with the Yers weighted the highest.
  • Their speed of output will double from today’s standard.
  • Marriage and children will not be a significant goal for them.
  • Mobility coupled with job stimulation will be a high priority.
  • They will have an Internet business in addition to their primary vocation.
  • They will show fierce independence, but exceptional work pride, with multi-talent capabilities.

That’s the view, a decade from now. Until next month, what else do you see?

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