It’s taken a good long while, but it seems Generation X is finally starting to settle down and act its age. At least according to a new study conducted by the MetLife Mature Market Institute.
The findings indicate that Gen Xers are now as “affluent, stable and responsibility-ridden as their parents were at the same age” as reported by the MediaPost News. The first generation to show signs of delayed adulthood, Generation X is now more typical than ever before. Or are they?
It would be easy to read a report like this and assume that Gen Xers are becoming more like Boomers in many ways. But as I’ve shared before, generational norms are created during the formative years. Gen Xers are still skeptical of authority (even as they become the authority); they still value self-sufficiency; and they are still extremely loyal once a person or organization has earned their trust.
So, if you are a Boomer in the workplace, don’t mistake “responsible, grown-up behavior” for “they finally accepted the world as I see it.” You may take solace in the fact that 50% of the kids once viewed as slackers are fully confident in their retirement savings, and a solid 40% have worked for the same employer for at least 10 years. However, while their actions may look similar, the underlying intention and the path to get there are still different.
So here’s an interesting one – at least from my perspective as a parent and as a speaker on generational topics. For 15 years I’ve been working with largely Boomer business leaders who are exasperated with the way younger generations behave in the business world. Time and again, I’ve considered – and occasionally pondered aloud – that the employees who don’t want to pay their dues and expect to be praised for showing up on time were raised with participation trophies and an “as long as you’re happy” mantra by the very people (collectively) who are now their employers and complaining about their work ethic. Hmmmm.
Today’s teenagers are more materialistic and less interested in working hard than the baby boomers were in their teens, according to a new study. But sorry, boomers, the researchers say it’s probably your fault for creating a culture that breeds narcissism and entitlement.
Placing blame doesn’t solve the problem, and to be fair there is more than parenting style at the heart of the discussion. The bottom line is that businesses need these Millennials in order to stay successful. But how can you engage a workforce whose members demonstrate “a growing discrepancy between the desire for material rewards and the willingness to do the work usually required to earn them”?
I suggest that business leaders key into the many positive attributes of Millennials. This generation is typically confident, high-achieving and group-oriented – three characteristics that provide some insight into how to structure assignments and communications to achieve the results you need.
Along with widespread discussion about what happens when all those Boomers retire, a parallel discussion has emerged about what will happen if they don’t. As Boomers reach retirement age, many of them just keep on working. Some can’t afford to retire and some just like their work. Remember, this is the workaholic generation.
A debate has begun about what effect the non-retirement of Boomers will have. On one side, some have argued that it will mostly be positive: less demand on retirement systems and more wealth to fuel Boomer consumption, expanding opportunity for everyone.
For the other side, Boomers sticking around on the job presents a series of challenges. A recent US News analysis summarizes them nicely:
- Fewer opportunities for younger workers, both in employment and advancement, as senior Boomers continue to occupy positions at the top of the chain.
- Younger bosses and older workers: an issue that occurs with increasing frequency and can be difficult to manage.
- Conflicts in corporate culture as companies try to adapt to rapid 21st century changes in the marketplace but have leadership that is set in its ways.
- High health care costs for a workforce with the healthcare needs of seniors.
The likely outcome will likely be a mixture of negatives and positives. Either way, the Boomers will have again redefined a key life stage.
Above is a link to an association write up of a program I put together for them on how to get their next generation of leaders prepared for roles of responsibility – how to work with the leaders of today and how to prepare yourself for leadership tomorrow. We seated everyone at rounds and made sure no two people from the same company was together so that the workshop portion could function most effectively. It was two hours long, all customized for this client, with super results. Below is the quote from my CII point of contact for the event:
“This was our first attempt at directly engaging the next generation of leaders and industry professionals during a Construction Industry Institute (CII) Annual Conference. Cam’s presentation and workshop entitled: ‘How to Achieve Success in Your workplace: An MBA of a Different Sort’ was very well received by our attendees, with high marks for presentation content and delivery. Cam’s comprehensive knowledge of workplace leadership trends and his ability to connect with the audience through relevant analogies and thought leadership at several levels was a great start for our conference! He was able to help our members understand how generational differences can impact their organizations, not only internally, but also with their business partners – and how developing communication skills, leadership, and accountability, adding value to the workplace, understanding the apprentice to master process, and working with a mentor can achieve impressive results. I would recommend this presentation to any company or organization that wants to attract, engage, and retain young talent.”
Kim Allen, CII Associate Director
Also, as something a bit different, I created an invitation video that went to CII members – both company owners and staff – to generate attendance. Click this link to watch the video: http://youtu.be/owNe13Mg5Gg
Baby Boomers are supposed to be the original “me” generation and the one most motivated by money, and Millennials have the reputation of being entitled and demanding, but it’s Generation X that’s most likely to ask for a raise, according to a survey of managers by SuccessFactors.
Gen Xers were the most likely to ask for a promotion (49%), more money (39%), a signing bonus (37%), or better working arrangements (36%). Millennials were much less likely to demand promotions and raises, but did ask for additional training more than any other generation, a pattern consistent with other studies we’ve seen.
Boomers were the least likely to ask for more money (only 3%!). Overall, 70% of companies reported patterns of generational difference in the demands and requests of their employees. The particular differences reflected in this survey may reflect the fact that Xers should be at their career peak due to life stage while most Millennials are just getting started and many Boomers have “plateaued” or are headed toward retirement.
Millennials are finding it tough to land jobs and it’s not just because of the economy. In many cases, they may be their own worst enemies in the application and interview processes. Recruiting firm Adecco surveyed hiring managers and found them more likely to hire Boomers than Millennials, in many cases because of the mistakes that Millennials make when applying and interviewing.
Managers surveyed were three times more likely to hire a Boomer than a Millennial and they weighed in on the key mistakes that Millennials are making. The top mistake Millennials make is wearing inappropriate attire to an interview, according to 75% of the managers. Shorts and flip flops were named as examples. Just behind that on the list was inappropriate social media content. 70% of managers reported seeing offensive or compromising photos or personal information posted by Millennial applicants on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Only 19% of Boomer applicants seem to have that problem.
Other common mistakes included not doing enough research or preparation for an interview (62%) and failure to ask questions of interviewers, both of which betray a lack of motivation and interest. Finally, many hiring managers (57%) find Millennials applicants to be overconfident in their abilities and qualifications, perhaps not surprising in the “self esteem” generation.
Multiple generations in the workplace is now a full scale reality for most. Because they are working side by side, CareerBuilder conducted a side-by-side comparison of Older Boomers’ and Millennials’ attitudes at work, finding both similarities and differences:
• Both prefer face-to-face communication, Boomers (60%) slightly more than Millennials (55%). Millennials (35%) like email more than Boomers (28%) but both disdain the phone (<12%).
• Boomers (62%) are more likely to say you should stay at job for 3 or more years than Millennials (53%). Millennials (47%) believe you should move up once you’ve learned enough. If you do your job, Millennials (63%) say, you should be promoted regularly. Boomers (43%) aren’t so sure.
• Both will work till five, but Millennials (43%) are less likely than Boomers (53%) to get there early.
• Boomers are more likely to dive right into a project (by a margin of 66-52%) while Millennials prefer to make a written plan first (48-35%).
Many Baby Boomers are working past retirement by starting a second, or “encore,” career. Encore.org reports that 9 million Boomers have already launched their retirement careers. That’s about 10% and well more than the number of Boomers who have reached official retirement age.
In their encore careers, Boomers are often looking to do something meaningful or “make a difference.” In that respect, they mirror Millennials who favor jobs that have a purpose or social conscience.
Non-profits, education, and community work are obvious choices for meaningful work but Boomers are also finding meaning in starting their own businesses. Leading Edge (older) Boomers now have a higher rate of entrepreneurship than Millennials, accounting for nearly a quarter of all new business startups.
One of the employee demands that Millennials are bringing to the workforce is known as BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device – the ability to bring their own smartphones, tablets, netbooks, etc., and to utilize workplace networks with them, including for work purposes. Now, a survey of network administrators shows a sharp increase in threats to network security and most of them blame Millennials who BYOD.0000
40% say their systems have been compromised by unauthorized downloads and many blame Millennials, specifically “males between 20 and 35” who have demanded access to workplace networks with their own electronics. Moreover, 80% of administrators say this same cohort is the main obstacle to rolling back access and tightening security.
While employers value the tech savvy of Millennials and have embraced BYOD as a way of capitalizing on it, the threats posed by malware and other cyber mischief may cause them to rethink opening up their networks to Millennials and all their gadgets.
Millennials are more likely to have a job in retail than in any other field, according to a PayScale analysis of 500 thousand Millennials in the workforce. Retail jobs are typically low-paying (average of about $19k per year), entry-level jobs.
While that might seem a natural starting point for a generation entering the workforce, many are finding that such work does not match their qualifications or financial needs.For example, 83% of Millennials who work in clothing sales report having a bachelor’s degree. College educated Millennials typically have tens of thousands of dollars of student loan and other debt so retail work may not be paying the bills.
Millennials are five times more likely to work in retail than other generations. The analysis also found that most Millennials work in firms of 100 employees or less.