Category Archives: Generations in the Workforce

Twitter and LinkedIn: A match made in heaven?

I was recently browsing through Scott Monty’s blog, the head of social media at Ford. His post about the new features that allow you to update LinkedIn via Twitter, and vice versa got me thinking. How long can the different social networks remain separate? People like things streamlined, and they don’t want to dig around a bunch of different places searching for what they need (especially in a business setting). It’s only a matter of time before someone develops a site where you can quickly and easily scan all of your favorite social networking sites at once.

Here in our office, we’ve discussed how younger people open themselves up to the world more than Gen X and Boomers. Kids today are comfortable sharing their Facebook self with friends and relatives alike. There’s no separation between the work/school version of themselves, the family version and the friend version.

But how will that sit with your employees? Employees are more accessible than they’ve ever been in the past. As smart phones get smarter (and cheaper), it’s not a stretch to think that tomorrow’s employee will have a mini-office in their pockets at all times, with everything they need to access their email, open and edit a file and share it with a client.

It all comes back around to the blending of business and pleasure when linking Twitter to LinkedIn. So how will this impact employee engagement? An employee who happily reads over a work email or sends a few quick thoughts to a coworker on the fly and outside of work is the holy grail of engaged employees.

But that might just be business as usual when Gen Z starts to enter the workforce.

Initial results for wellness survey: It’s worth it to work wellness into your bottom line

Initial results are starting to come in from our survey about workplace wellness programs and their impact on employee engagement. Participants are still responding, but here are some numbers that caught my eye right off the bat:

94 percent of respondents say they either strongly agree or agree that they work better together when they spend time interacting with each other about things aside from work.

81 percent say they’d be interested in a company-supported wellness contest or collaborative program. For example, a wellness competition to see who can eat 5 vegetables and fruits a day for the most days, or a program in which employees collectively walk 10,000 miles to raise money for a charity.

What does this tell us?

Some employers might worry that if they give employees time to work out during the day that productivity would suffer. It’s actually the opposite. The more employees interact with each other, the better. When employees are able to put aside differences and focus on getting the work done, everyone wins – including employers. Plus, exercise helps you clear your mind. You’ve returned from the treadmill with a fresh attitude, haven’t you?

Companies have been justifiably preoccupied with the bottom line this last year, but it’s not just the numbers that impact profitability and growth. How well employees work together is paramount to overcoming barriers like a recession. It takes a diverse set of talents to think of global innovative solutions; it takes a village.

So, can’t you just take them out for a drink? Sure, but that doesn’t do much for overall morale in your company. Engaging employees in taking responsibility for their health in a supportive environment is a wonderful way to engage them with each other and your brand, to boot.

With all of the news on health care in the US, the issues with obesity and the costs of providing health care to your workforce, starting a wellness program in your office is simply good business. And, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. But it is important that leadership backs it up, and ideal if they’re involved.

Where do wellness and social media intersect?

I’ve noticed that many companies use social media and also have some sort of health benefit. But there’s not a lot of intersection of the two in practice. Merging a brand’s wellness efforts and social media tools is like engagement on rocket fuel. You’re creating a group of healthy employees who are engaged and invested in each other and your company.

If you’ve started a foray into either area (health or employee engagment), and it hasn’t been going well, try leveraging one to do the other.

If you’d like to contribute your thoughts, please go to: http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/?p=WEB22A4FBAHST6.

Gen Z: The Cell Phone Generation

I recently read about a survey that found cell phones are indispensable to teens. Teens (and even younger kids) see their cell phones as a crucial part of their identities. In fact, my own son has a cell phone. He’s just seven years old, but won’t hesitate to call me asking where the remote is.

The wireless trade association CTIA and Harris Interactive surveyed 2,000 teens across the US and found that about four out of every five teens carry a cell phone (up from 40 percent of teens owning a cell phone in 2004). These aren’t just older teens—nearly half of kids 8-12 own cell phones in the US, according to a Neilson report.

Engagement will be key among this younger demographic, whether you’re looking at it through the lens of future employee or future customer. And the tool for that engagement can be as simple as a cell phone. So for communicators who think we can just bypass the whole social media fad, tomorrow’s employee will be so integrated with collaborative technologies, they’ll expect to see those same tools in the workplace. And most likely, they’ll access those tools on the fly from wherever they happen to be.

Web-based communications are increasingly becoming as important as face-to-face. A recent article in The New York Times suggests that today’s kids are so comfortable with virtual socialization that they see less of a distinction between a night spent socializing with virtual friends and a Friday night party.

The funny thing is, when you ask a child what social media is, they don’t have a clue. But give them an iPhone, and they’ll be downloading apps in no time. Or ask them to bring you their favorite book, and they’ll hand you a Kindle.

Communications are rapidly changing, but many companies seem stuck in their old ways. And a company that’s not innovative can quickly be replaced by one that is.

Does your company’s five year plan include Gen Z?

Yes, we’re raising them, but what on earth will they be like to manage? And how will we feel about it when they’re managing us? Gen Z was born starting in the mid-1990s, but they think big. My business colleague and friend has a son who is 10 and actively trying to contact Hollywood directors about his screen play. My son is contacting Lego about his dream job; he’s including pictures and a guess at his salary.

I know, you might be reading this and thinking, “I’m still adjusting to Gen Y.” Or, if you’re a Gen Y, you might be thinking, “Oh, Gen Z. They’re so spoiled. How can I be expected to work with them?” Actually, I know that’s what some of you Gen Ys are thinking (admit it) because during the course of a day I’m bound to talk to a young Gen Y manager who is resentful of the “coasting” of younger siblings or friends.

It will also be interesting to see older Gen Ys managing younger Gen Ys – that age group is so brutally honest and authentic (somewhat due to its use of technology putting them center stage) that I can’t imagine they’ll mince a lot of words. Tribe’s research has found that Gen Y “weeds out” leaders and teammates who aren’t team players without any interference from upward management.

And, I guess that’s part of the reason I’m starting to take a look at Gen Z – to see what can be applied that we’ve learned from Gen Y. If you’re in a position to hire, then here are five reasons to plan for Gen Z:

  • If you hire teens, they could be in your workforce now or in the next few years. Gen Z tops out at age 15, so they’re on the brink of employment.
  • If this is their first job, then you’ll need to train them from square one.  Especially when you hire teens, you’ve got to work with the raw material. Your open position could be their first foray into employment.
  • If you want the best and the brightest, then prepare to compete for them. Cross our fingers, this generation will enter a robust economy, so they’ll be a generation with more options than Gen Y found in 2009
  • If your company has a five year plan, then hopefully recruiting is part of it, and Gen Z will be in the picture. Companies already investing in Gen Z include NASA, GE and Siemens.

If one of your business goals uses the word “innovation,” then you’ll need Gen Z on your team to help you see what’s next.

Recruiting: Top 10 Reasons Why Gen Y Might Be the Right Match for Your Company (and top 5 reasons why they might not be)

37880850Drop a pebble in a pond and you’ll feel the ripple effect. Drop 80 or so million Gen Ys into the workplace, and you get a tidal wave of fresh undeveloped talent coming right at you.

Even when you plan ahead for it, assimilating new groups of people into your organization can be challenging. As you recruit for positions in your company, consider some of these pretty consistent characteristics found in Gen Y (in addition to the unique qualities of that person, of course). The lists below are based on research from various organizations, including Emory’s Goizueta Business School and the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force.

Qualities that make Gen Y shine:

1)    They want to make a difference. And we want them to make a difference.

2)    They’re great with technology. And they like to share their knowledge.

3)    They’re innovative. They say it sometimes takes youth to come up with those sparks of brilliance. Some recruiters look for Gen Y candidates specifically because of that spark.

4)    They’re highly social creatures. They like to work as part of a team.

5)    They like Boomers. That’s good for workplace harmony.

6)    They like structure and authority figures. So they appreciate a company that will parent them. And they’re looking for an employer they can stay with and grow with for the long haul. They’re not the job hoppers of previous generations.

7)    They like lots of feedback. And most people love the opportunity to give feedback about anything. Aren’t you flattered when a younger employee comes to you for advice?

8)    They get along great with different cultures. That’s important in a global marketplace.

9)    They want to make the world a better place. They’re citizens of the world, which is also good for business.

10)  They are self policing. They’ll weed out the bad eggs themselves.

Qualities that aren’t necessarily bad, but are part of the package:

1)    They feel comfortable giving feedback. At any time to any one. This can be off-putting to managers who only want feedback when they ask for it. Gen Y doesn’t take rank into account either when they’re deciding what to say to whom.

2)    They can be fragile. Gen Y takes things to heart, and they often wear their hearts on their sleeves. So you have to manage their tender spirits. Some attribute this to the “you win an award for anything you do, even if you lose” way in which many of them were raised.

3)    They like coaches not bosses. Some managers like this style of management anyway. But, the days of “Don’t ask any questions. Just do it.” – well, those days are gone.

4)    They don’t like ambiguity. They have trouble moving forward if projects don’t have a clear beginning and end with manageable steps in-between.

5)    They can be more comfortable with technology than people. Many managers I know are making it a priority to teach their Gen Y employees how to conduct or participate in personal one-to-one meetings. Their employees keep showing up for work reviews with nothing but their blackberries.

Leadership: Tips From One Manager With Multiple Fortune 100 & 500 Experience

leaderI recently spoke with a Gen Y executive who’s worked for a number of large global corporations, including UPS, The Home Depot and Coca-Cola Enterprises. Her perspective is interesting because she’s left a couple of jobs that people would kill for, and she is very accomplished and has a lot of management experience for someone under 30. So, when we say to Gen Y, “You can’t be CEO your first day on the job,” we’re not accounting for talented over-achievers like her. Here are some of her insights on working for big brands:

Think about what type of industry appeals to you

“In my experience, the retail industry is crazy. Schizophrenic. Nobody cares about rank and area of responsibility. If you have a good idea, it’s like, ‘Roll up your sleeves, get in there and get it done.’ You didn’t think a lot about what happened yesterday. It’s on to the next thing.

“In the service industry, you think further ahead. Everything has a domino effect. What the person ahead of you does affects you just as what you do you affects the person after you, so people were always thinking, ‘What happens if I do this?’

“Of course, there are a lot of things that factor into the personalities of the companies I’ve worked for, like how long they’ve been around, for instance.”

Think about how far you’re willing to go to get new opportunities

“I left one company because I wanted a new job and they said no. If I’d gotten that job, I would have stayed, but I wanted something fresh. I would have been working with new people and had new responsibilities. I wanted new opportunities and I realized that I needed to leave the company to get them.”

Ask for advice

“I wish I’d asked for advice more. I should have talked with other people at one company before taking a new job. I had a mentor who I could have talked with. But, I was afraid they’d try to help by talking with people in my department, and I didn’t want that. I was afraid it would come back to haunt me. Looking back, I don’t think I should have felt like that.”

Don’t get trapped

“Always position yourself so you have other options – you’ll be happier if you do. And, don’t resent the people in positions above you. For instance, I don’t resent Boomers who are sticking around longer, and, therefore might hold up advancement, because I know I could leave if I wanted to. I think people who resent Boomers for this reason feel that way because they think they can’t get a job anywhere else.”

Think strategically

“I know that people say you can get more done tactically when you’re a manager because you have people to help you. But I think I’m able to get more done strategically as well. I have more time to think and to look at the big picture. It’s in a manager’s best interest not to micro-manage and get caught up in the details. That’s not their job anymore.

“One thing that really bugs me about managing people is when you ask someone with aspirations to be a manager to do something and they say, ‘That’s not my responsibility.’ I’m like, ‘You keep asking me to move up, so step up!’”

Sell your team

“I would say never take on an assignment without executive-level support. And, I don’t mean just your manager; I mean you need the support of the entire executive team. If only one person knows why you were put in that position and things go down the tubes, like the economy, and your boss leaves, then nobody is left who remembers why that team was put in place. You have no one to be your champion.

“Also, I’d, sell your team early and a lot, so people understand its value.

“And, it’s even better if you can make people think the goal of your team is their idea. Your goal is to have them sell you for you.”

Know the vibe you put off

“I’ve been told that I sometimes give people a you-can-leave-now look after we’re done talking. I need to work on that, because I don’t even know I’m doing it.

Find common ground

“Also, I’m more likely to talk with employees about them and not me. I want to find out about things we have in common. Like one of my employees really likes dogs. Well, I like dogs, so we can talk about that. It can be something simple that you feel strongly about.

“You don’t have to figure out everything about someone. Just what motivates them and what makes them want to do their job every day.”

Generational Harmony: Are We Leveraging the Common Ground?

37472413I don’t think there’s as much focus on leveraging the common ground between different generations as the fact that there are different generations. This seems like a lost opportunity as everyone tailors this and that to one generation or another. Some of that needs to happen, but not to the extent of ever being exclusionary of certain age groups. After all, many of the qualities newer generations bring to the table benefit everyone – and the companies they work for.

Here are some insights from The UPS Foundation President Ken Sternad on the topic, followed by some on-the-job counsel that works for any generation (in my opinion):

What are your thoughts about the different generations in the workplace?
“Hmmm. I’m thinking about how to say this because I don’t think that entitlement is the right word. Clearly the newer generation wants to be challenged. Their expectation is that the work is going to be rewarding. That they’re going to have the opportunity to do something that matters, that’s cool, and that uses their unique talents. That expectation of personal satisfaction makes younger generations tick differently than someone my age. And, I think that’s a healthy thing.

“You know, the thing is that when I was younger, generational differences just weren’t that huge. I don’t think I was that different than the generation before me. They were like, ‘You have a job. You’re blessed. Do it.’ If someone had said to me, ‘Just shut up and do the work,’ – that wouldn’t have bothered me.

“And, there are certain things that make people tick. Those things haven’t changed for 200 years. Take the current generation. They’re service oriented. They want to make a difference in the world. I have three kids, 21, 21, 22 – and they’re a lot like me. They care as much about having a great job and being successful as they do about working for a company that’s doing great things. And, they say, ‘I have a life outside of work that’s more important.’

What are the qualities of a successful employee?

“First, let your performance speak for itself,” said Sternad. “Don’t be consumed with needing the glory or advancing your career. Don’t make decisions from that place.

“Second, understand the value and ask for the participation of those around you. Teamwork allows you to do the task at hand better. And your ability to include others demonstrates the kind of leadership and approach that will get you to the next level.

“And, let me tell you this, I’ve seen lots of people who are good at what they do. They knock it out of the park every time. They keep their nose to the grindstone all of the time. But they have to do everything themselves. They like being the one at the bottom of the ninth inning who has to hit a home run to win the game. They put this force field around them to shut everyone out so they can get all the glory.

“It’s great to hit it out of the park, but not if you’re doing it in a silo time and time again. It’s not about hitting the home run. It’s about working as a team.

“Then there are those people who relish the fact that they have others around them to help take it to next level. Those are the people who I look for.”

How do you identify those people?
“There’s a question I always ask during interviews when hiring people, especially from the outside. I say, ‘Tell me something that you achieved successfully.’ I know this is a typical question. But what I’m interested in is what they choose to talk about. I want to see if it’s, ‘I did this and I did that. I hit the home run at the bottom of the ninth inning.’ Or if it’s, ‘Here’s something my team achieved collectively.’

“I look for that. UPS is not a place for glory hounds. If you listen to people who rose to higher levels, they always talk about how they accomplished things with other people collectively. In every Chairman’s retirement speech, they talk about how they were able to help other people along the way. About how much pleasure they received from watching other people grow and succeed.”

A Travel Exec’s Take on Leadership in Recession

For people who were afraid of change before, said a 30-year-old Gen Xer working at an international airport, the recession is stopping them in their tracks. And that’s bad for business. The travel industry is always on the move, so leadership needs to help employees embrace change so they’re ready for success when the economy bounces back.

Think beyond yourself
“I think people feel their biggest challenge right now is to keep their job,” she says. “That’s too inward focused. The recession brings opportunity, too. The opportunity to do more with less. To be creative. That’s what a leader sees. It’s always seeing the opportunity to make things better.”

Fight complacency

“A good leader isn’t satisfied with mediocrity. When I first took this job, everyone was like, ‘It’s been working, so let’s just keep things the way they are.’ They didn’t want to do the extra work. They didn’t want to fight for anything because they’d learned nothing changes. The recession has brought on a sense of urgency to try new approaches.”

Make it better
“You know, someone has to stand up to make things better. It can be hard to push things through a bureaucracy, but a leader can’t take ‘No’ for an answer. You have to find a way to help people see the benefits of what you’re proposing.”

Spread around the credit
“Sometimes people worry about how they’ll look if they’re not the ones who came up with the great idea to make things better. They worry, ‘If she presents this idea and it’s a big success, people will wonder what I’ve been doing all of this time.’ So make everyone who gets behind an idea look like a hero.”

Redefining Generations: The Rise of Generation Jones

A reader recently responded about a group that I omitted from a recent blog, “Why Is Gen X Great? Just Ask Them.” That group is Generation Jones. I’ve posted the comment below. Generations do span large groups of people and the line can be very blurry. There may not be a clear answer to the question, “Am I older Gen Y or younger Gen X?”

Interesting blog, but it’s missing an important part of the equation: Generation Jones, born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Generation X. Google Generation Jones, and you’ll see it’s gotten a ton of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) now specifically use this term. In fact, the Associated Press’ annual Trend Report chose the Rise of Generation Jones as the #1 trend of 2009.

It is important to distinguish between the post-WWII demographic boom in births vs. the cultural generations born during that era. Generations are a function of the common formative experiences of its members, not the fertility rates of its parents. Many experts now believe it breaks down more or less this way:

DEMOGRAPHIC boom in babies: 1946-1964

Baby Boom GENERATION: 1942-1953

Generation Jones: 1954-1965

Generation X: 1966-1978

Here is an op-ed about Obama as the first GenJones President in USA TODAY:
http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20090127/column27_st.art.htm

And this page is a good overview of recent stuff about GenJones:
http://generationjones.com/2009latest.html

It will be interesting to see where Gen Y ends and the next generation emerges. Thanks for the comment.

Recruiting: Are Grads Global Enough?

I enjoyed reading responses to a blog by Rob Preston, editor of InformationWeek, about HCL Technologies CEO Vineet Nayar’s comment to a New York audience that most American college grads are unemployable. Nayar had said they were too expensive to train, looking to get rich fast, and didn’t want to spend their time learning boring processes, tools and methodologies. He suggested they weren’t up to working abroad and said, “We need to define the American dream to be more global in nature.”

What’s hurtful about Nayar’s statement is there is a kernel of truth in it. Gen Y is used to having money (their parents’ money, and Mom and Pop are often “rich”), but they’re actually more motivated by an emotional connection. Studies show that the opportunity to add value at work ranks among the highest reasons for them accepting one job over another. So, college students and graduates who think like that aren’t going to spend their time learning admittedly boring processes, tools and methodologies without an understanding of how their job and life contribute to the greater good.

Preston received many interesting, and some outraged, responses to his blog. Take a read sometime.