(Are You Prepared To Attract Qualified Workers?)

You’ve read the headlines. One day they say, Companies Report Record Profits. The next day it’s, Unemployment Is At 10 Percent. What gives?

Payrolls have been cut to the bone. Technology has created a surplus of unskilled labor, thus layoffs. It will create new and better jobs, but not in the short run. And off shoring has allowed goods to be made cheaper in other countries. These are factors that can be linked to an increase in productivity.

Even so, Boomers are retiring. And many that won’t retire will be moving into positions of coaching, strategy, and consulting. At the same time Gen X and Millennials are anticipating moving into new jobs or higher positions. That means that successful businesses and organizations will have to address new expectations, ways of working, and ways of motivating their people. The time of taking your workforce for granted is fleeting. The competition to attract and retain quality employees is accelerating. As you would expect, living with the past memory of the workplace and how it is suppose to function will reduce that organization to the status of a relic.

Even though Boomers are retiring, their departure has slowed due to their personal economic situation. Because of this, the cross-generational workforce is even a bigger issue than some were predicting. In many instances they are on the same team with Gen-Xers and Millennials. The problem is that Boomers, and to a lesser extent, Gen-Xers, are not great team players. Boomers will admit they aren’t real good team players. Even the previous generation, the Builders (1925-1945), was a better team player than their Boomer kids.

Boomers have a tendency to constantly rank themselves with titles, cars (my BMW can beat your VW), social ranking systems, and salaries. Where they fall on these and other lists is very important to them. They, more than any other generation, have found their identity in their work. Do they work hard? Consider that Boomers added one month per year to the workweek. In other words, when you add up all the hours at work, based on a 40-hour workweek, they worked one month more than their Builder parents. It’s no wonder Boomers felt that Gen-Xers were slackers with their idea of work-life balance.

It’s no surprise that many Boomers would have a hard time being on a team with a twenty year old.

So rather than forcing cross-generational teams, we ought to be emphasizing cross-generational conversations. In meetings Boomers want respect. Gen-Xers? We’ve observed that Gen-Xers weren’t always parented to the same extent as Millennials. They were the latchkey kids. They want to get their work done and go home and take care of their kids. Millennials, on the other hand, collaborate very well. They use software that is collaborative. Together there is fluidity of thought. They don’t care who gets the credit. One can be the team leader one week, and another one the next. The one doing the most work becomes the team leader, and that can change in a moment with no malice of thought.

Knowing these tendencies is very helpful. So rather than villainizing one another for not being alike, acceptance of each generation’s strengths should be highlighted. Why force unrealistic groupings? How can we honor each other and drive one another towards the same objectives?

Millennials (Gen Y), don’t have a proprietary mindset that Boomers tend to display. They collaborate and share. After all, they might eventually leave! So the proprietary mindset is of less importance. Boomers are not going anywhere until they retire. They are thinking down the road and have a natural tendency toward protecting their turf. And of course the Millennials don’t quite understand how these Boomers that raised them can be so different in the workplace.

Without deeper communication at a values level, there will be much misunderstanding and false labeling. How do people communicate and collaborate? Millennials want to use their own personal communication devices. Our team has seen multiple examples of work time and my time being comingled. Friends, family, and co-workers are intermingled. And yes, that means that they might still be working that evening, long after the 5 o’clock buzzer has sounded. It’s a tradeoff.

In our training* we talk about organizational bias. Dealing with these biases will help organizations become attuned to the ways Millennials collaborate, and will allow them to flex where appropriate. In fact they will leverage these new dynamics for the good of the organization. They will be able to attract and retain these employees, all the while leveraging their strengths for increased productivity.

Millennials want to be happy in their jobs. And there surely is nothing wrong with that! And having some control over how a job is accomplished is much more motivating and fulfilling than carrying out the orders of a “barking” boss. The new workforce will have an atmosphere of collaborative decision-making. Millennials were raised this way, and this is what they expect in the workplace. This will be one of the keys in building and retaining a more productive workforce.

Ego-driven bosses, like the dinosaurs, are headed for extinction. Top-down management is rapidly being replace by collaboration and inclusion in decision-making. These are good things in a society in desperate need of an increase in productivity.

What kind of environment is your organization creating? You have a culture. Every organization has a culture. If your culture isn’t purposeful, then it will be accidental.

Are you creating a culture that is the best place for the best people to do their best work?

(Mick Ukleja is the co-author of the book Managing the Millennials: Discover the Core Competencies for Managing Today’s Workforce)

*We have partnered with Red Tree Leadership to deliver training in Managing The Millennials.

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3 Responses
  1. Bill Shumard

    Mick is spot-on in making the comment that conversations between Boomers and Millenials must drill deeper and be value-driven. While we approach things quite differently, it’s what we want–and what we stand for at the end of the day–that is so similar. It’s my job, as the Boomer, to set an example, reach out and engage…be patient, teach, model and mentor. Thus far, it seems to be well-received.

  2. Bill. As the CEO of a major organization, you model the leader who steps outside his own perspective to understand the perspective of those you lead. At the core of that is your desire to learn about others, and in the process, to learn about yourself. That’s why when you speak, people listen. It’s called trust.

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