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Emerging Workforce Has Different Priorities

How to manage younger employees more effectively

emerging workforceThe emerging workforce of Gen X’s, Gen Y’s and Millenniums have different priorities than the Baby Boomers or the Aging population that came before them. But before you complain that they don’t have a good “work ethic” or a “loyalty to the company,” it is helpful to look at some of the characteristics of Boomers and this group.

The significant events that impacted the Boomers were the Kennedy Assassination and the Viet Nam War. The Boomers are a hard working generation that often focus on career and advancement. Sometimes bordering on workaholism, they work to live, are loyal to their managers and want credit for time spent at the job. The Boomers are technological immigrants as they did not grow up with computers. Many can even remember a time before television. They are sometimes resistant to new technology or techniques like texting, webinars, and BlackBerries.

The Net Gen generations were influenced by the events of 9/11 and school shootings such as Columbine. They have been told that Social Security may not exist for them and have watched pensions and work security evaporate for their parents. Consequently, they are more loyal to colleagues and co-workers than to a company or manager. Work/life balance is extremely important for this group and they don’t want to sacrifice family time for career. This group LOVES technology and are considered technological natives. They grew up with it and are extremely talented at adopting new technology into their lives.

The Net Gen generations presently make up about 51% of the workforce. This will increase to over 70% in the next ten years as Boomers begin retiring. But many people in management are Boomers with years of experience who may struggle with the Net Gen generations and their priorities.

Some things your company can do to manage Net Gen employees more effectively:

  • Offer flexibility and work at home options. The old model that a person has to be in a seat at the office just isn’t valid anymore. That model was based on time rather than production. The emerging workforce is focused on results, not appearing busy to impress the boss. Smart companies are growing through a virtual workforce; no office space, equipment expense, or commuting. Staffs are paid on a project or production scale.
  • Build on and off ramps for women and caregivers. The Boomers were often forced to pick between career and family. The Net Gen’s are not willing to do this. Update policies on family leave, re-entry and part-time employment to attract and retain good employees. Many companies are now guaranteeing a comparable position when employees return from leave.
  • Avoid micromanaging. These employees are use to working and learning independently. They work to contribute and are adverse to a chain of command. Set the parameters and then get out of their way. Net Gen’s are fast, efficient, and not likely to waste time.
  • Embrace technology. To have any other framework will make you and/or your business look foolish. Republican candidate, John McCain, discovered this recently when he described himself as a “computer illiterate” who had never gone online. He not only looks old, he appears out of it. Unfortunately, many executives and business leaders are also in the OOI league and don’t understand consumer desires because they are not plugged in. The creation, marketing, and demise of the Hummer is a stark example.
  • Encourage creativity. The traditional workplace often treated people like machines. But if you look at many of today’s most successful companies, they are the result of creativity by a couple of people. Whether GoDaddy.com or FaceBook, there are business opportunities for new products and services. How is your company encouraging new ideas?
  • Build relationships. Since this generation connects with colleagues and friends, evaluate how your business encourages critical connections. Are there any opportunities for socializing at work or after work? Smart companies establish softball teams, bowling teams, company picnics, and support groups for new mothers, etc. to encourage interaction and teamwork.
  • Ask key employees to recruit their friends for work. Chances are that good employees know other people who would also be effective. Some companies are paying bonuses to their employees for recruiting. Others simply follow up on leads. Whatever your approach is, friends that join the company already have connections. These can jumpstart teamwork and collaboration.

About Barbara Bartlein

Barbara Bartlein is The People Pro. She presents keynotes and training and is an expert in workplace culture. Her new book, Energy Suckers-How to Deal With Bullies in the Workplace is now available. Visit her site for more information.


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