Generation Y

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Let’s Talk About X – and Y and Z: How to overcome a fear of age diversity

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December 6 @ 10:59 pm CST

A friend recently posted a photo of her five-year-old daughter playing with teddy bears and Barbies, just as children have done for many decades. But there was something different about how the treasured toys were lined up and the child was holding a thermometer. As it turns out, she was playing COVID hospital. We’ve all been impacted by the pandemic. It is an unprecedented, shared global experience and a defining, historic moment. But we have not been impacted the same. What children learn and observe about the world at an early age is hugely influential to their development. During those brain-developing years behaviors, values, and attitudes are shaped. Like trees, we mature, and adapt to outside forces, but the foundation from which we start is always there. Our roots are ever-present and undeniably strong. This is how generations are formed. Shared childhood experiences lead to the formation of similar responses to those experiences. Regrettably, there have been efforts to squelch the exploration of generations, with some people believing the practice leads to stereotyping. Other pundits have referred to generational research as a waste of time, believing all people are more or less the same. While I can appreciate the intent to rid the world of stereotypes and find similarities, there’s a fatal flaw in each of these arguments: Inclusion doesn’t happen by ignoring our differences. It can only happen when we learn to recognize, understand, accept, and celebrate our differences. Here and now, in the aftermath of the George Floyd incident and #MeToo movement, conversations about race and gender have become more prominent, and equity initiatives have edged closer to the forefront of priorities for social change. But all too often, conversations about age diversity are considered too controversial and too difficult, and the perspectives of younger generations consistently end up being dismissed or ignored. Delve deeper and you’ll understand why: Young people are the personification of change. They are a reminder change is necessary and…

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Why the Generational Topic is More Controversial — and More Relevant — Than Ever

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December 6 @ 10:59 pm CST

By Sarah Sladek  There’s been considerable debate on the topic of generations. In 2019, the ‘OK, Boomer’ campaign reached a fever pitch globally. The phenomenon started when an unidentified Boomer man posted a rant on TikTok against young people. Thousands of teens and 20-somethings on TikTok responded, posting videos and memes and even creating ‘Ok, Boomer’ merchandise. The campaign has been referred to as a “mass retaliation” by Gen Z to the political, economic, and environmental choices made by decision-makers which have negatively impacted this generation’s quality of life. On the other end of the spectrum, a guest author said in an Association Chat interview last month that a person’s generation “has no relevance” to how a person behaves or what influences them. He goes so far as to say the concept of generational data-mining is “broken” and “nuts”. It’s ironic, isn’t it? Gen Zs worldwide organized a campaign as a direct result of their shared, negative political, economic, and environmental experiences at the same time an author proclaims there is no relevance to shared generational experiences. What can we learn from these conflicting views? There are beneficial insights to glean from each. In his Association Chat interview, the author urged us to consider the values that drive behavior and to avoid making stereotypes, and I wholeheartedly agree. I don’t agree with his dismissal of generational research, but I do agree organizations need to avoid jumping to conclusions and making broad generalizations. Not every Millennial likes avocado toast, and it’s never a good idea to shift your entire marketing budget to Snapchat simply because you assume that’s where young people find their information and want to hear from your organization. Doing the research, seeking to really understand your audience and the unique drivers and values that exist within your organization is absolutely imperative. And as in-your-face the Ok Boomer campaign might be, it’s important we look beyond the sarcasm to the cause driving the campaign. It’s…

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Workplace Etiquette

Workplace Etiquette: The haunting truth of ‘ghosting’

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December 6 @ 10:59 pm CST

By Sarah Sladek, XYZ University CEO Workplace etiquette. Turns out, that’s a pretty controversial subject right now. Recently I presented at a conference for healthcare executives and heard many complaints about the youngest generations in the workforce and their disregard for etiquette. Topping the list of complaints: quitting via text, not showing up for work, and calling the boss by his first name. Is the etiquette divide the indication of a generation gap or a social shift? Turns out, it’s both. Across the United States, so many people are not showing up for job interviews, not responding to job offers, blowing off a job they’ve already accepted, or even mysteriously not returning to work, that economists have taken notice. In December 2018, the practice of “ghosting” made the Federal Reserve Bank’s list of official labor market trends. Ghosting is slang for describing the practice of breaking off a relationship by ceasing all communication and contact without any apparent warning or justification. Reactions to the ghosting milestone have been mixed, often aligning with career stage or generation. For example, most executives believe it’s a sign of the times and lament our deteriorating ability to be social or halfway civil with each other. But some people—mostly entry-level or mid-level employees who tend to represent younger generations—are basking in the ironic twist that it’s employers, rather than job applicants, left wondering why they were so quietly and uneventfully rejected. Scarred by past events, these people argue that for years it was customary to not hear back from a prospective employer, even after interviews and extensive screenings. Some experts believe ghosting is on the rise because of the job market. Unemployment is at its lowest point in decades and there are more job openings than there are people looking for jobs. As a result, this has emboldened workers to skip the awkward conversations with their bosses and quickly move on to other opportunities. Others say the rise in ghosting is…

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Leverage Your Assets: Stem The Tide Of Declining Membership

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December 6 @ 10:59 pm CST

The staff and volunteer leadership of today’s professional associations are faced with two related realities. One, Generation Y is on the cusp of taking over from the Boomers as the most significant cohort in the economy, making them the future of membership. And, two, there has been a slow and steady decline in the membership of many professional associations, with this decline disproportionately concentrated in professionals in the first 10 years of their career. THE PROBLEM The staff and volunteer leadership of today’s professional associations are faced with two related realities. One, Generation Y is on the cusp of taking over from the Boomers as the most significant cohort in the economy, making them the future of membership. And, two, there has been a slow and steady decline in the membership of many professional associations, with this decline disproportionately concentrated in professionals in the first 10 years of their career. As early as 1996, Canadian Economist David Foot warned of the coming rise of (the yet to be monikered) Generation Y in Boom Bust & Echo: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Shift. What the association industry is now grappling with was an unforeseen rise in technology, job insecurity and shifting values, that has led to that same Echo generation’s failure to take out memberships on mass. Side Note: As Generation Y and the Echo Generation are both defined as those born in and around 1980 or thereafter (although in defining Generation Y there is no definitive text) I intend to use these terms interchangeably, as I am also apt to do in conversation. THE SOLUTION With the constrained resources of many of today’s professional associations, intensified by declining memberships and the resulting decline in that revenue stream, no association can afford to ignore its greatest resources. In the case of the generational shift in memberships, professional associations must leverage their own staff to arrive at and implement a strategy to deal with the coming tide. As with…

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3 Steps to Solving a Workforce Crisis

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December 6 @ 10:59 pm CST

When Danny Hearn contacted XYZ University five years ago, two daunting issues loomed over industries throughout the region of Hickory, North Carolina: how to attract and engage Millennials, and how to solve for the aging workforce crisis and talent shortage. “Our number one business issue is attracting young people to manufacturing jobs. It’s at a crisis stage. We have 3,000 jobs that go unfilled every day. Most are really great manufacturing jobs that require smart, skilled people,” said Hearn, who is President and CEO of the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce in Hickory, NC. Hearn had read Sarah Sladek’s book, The End of Membership As We Know It, and XYZ University’s report, America’s Aging Workforce Crisis.He invited Sladek to Hickory to present to area employers and Chamber of Commerce executives from throughout the southeast. At first, Hearn reported that some leaders were resistant to change, but as they implemented the strategies that XYZ University provided, the outcomes made a positive impact on their bottom lines. Specifically, Hearn shared his key learnings and developments as a result of XYZ University’s guidance. Lesson 1: Invite, engage and listen. XYZ University suggested that leaders bring young employees, members, volunteers, and leaders to the table, and requested their feedback on specific workforce and community initiatives. “At the Chamber, we conducted a young professionals survey that led to a successful strategy, ” Hearn explained. “For example, we discovered that the word ‘member’ didn’t resonate with young adults, and that our membership fee formula was outdated. As a result, the Chamber created a tiered structure for ‘Investors’ and ‘Shareholders’. If we hadn’t asked for their feedback, we never would have known we were alienating young people.” Lesson 2: Millennials do not engage for the sake of tradition, but because they want valuable, life-long learning experiences. Before the survey, the Chamber had launched a Young Professionals Group, and the leader of that group was a Baby Boomer, ex-officio, non-voting Board member. Sladek explained to Hearn this model of keeping young professionals at arms-length, under the guidance or someone else, would never work. Now, the Chamber has literally brought young professionals to the decision-making table; at least half of the Chamber’s Board members are now under the age of 40. In addition, the Chamber started engaging young professionals in the creation of…

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Which Generation Works The Hardest?

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December 6 @ 10:59 pm CST

Last week I spoke at a corporate event where younger generations were getting a tongue-lashing from their Baby Boomer counterparts. The Boomers were scolding Generation Y for needing constant feedback, being unable to prioritize, and wanting to have (gasp!) fun at work. Indeed, there’s a stereotype in many offices that younger employees–especially those born since the mid ’80s–are less responsible and unreliable. It’s history repeating itself. Remember when Generation X entered the workforce? They were labeled as ‘slackers’ because they wanted flex-time. And both the Xers and Ys will gladly sling mud at the Boomers, referring to them as ‘workaholics’ and ‘fuddy-duddies’. There’s more than name-calling at work here. What these negative stereotypes really stem from are differences in productivity. For a generation that followed the Industrial Revolution and was raised to value hard work, the perceived lack of Generation X and Y’s productivity drives the Boomers absolutely nuts. In fact, 68% of Boomers feel “younger people” do not have as strong a work ethic as they do and that makes doing their own work harder. I don’t think the Boomers are doing the lion’s share of the work while Xers slack off and Ys seek pats on the back. Rather, productivity resembles something different for each generation. This blog was written to help organizations better understand why they are challenged with differing generational demographics.  Our studies show that the significant disruptions and societal shifts of the past 20+ years have influenced younger members behaviors. This has affected the reasons why joining and engaging with your organization is different today. The research findings do not apply to every single member of each generation. However, our 20 years of ongoing research findings continue to hold true – making the information valuable when drafting membership engagement and growth strategies to target younger members.  Boomers (1946-1964) Productivity = DedicationBoomers tend to lean toward vision and values. They like inspiring mission statements, setting goals, fixing problems, and measure success in terms of…

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bridge the gap

Best Companies Bridge The Generation Gap

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December 6 @ 10:59 pm CST

The Globe and Mail recently reported that more than ever before, many of the companies on this year’s list of Best Employers in the GTA (greater Toronto area) are spending time and money in an effort to close the generation gap among employees. Indeed, as the battle for talent escalates, employers everywhere are realizing they can’t appeal to all employees in one fell swoop. I like to refer to it as the ‘buffet’ approach. Gen Ys want flexible workdays, Gen X wants childcare benefits, and the Baby Boomer is swayed by phased-in retirement options. But customizing the workplace is easier said than done. First, it means realizing the one-size-fits-all approach to employee satisfaction and success will not fly. Then, companies must survey employees in different demographic groups to ensure everything from benefits packages to daily work schedules are tailor made. Whew! That’s a lot of work to make work work! But it’s worth it. Peter McAdam, vice president of employee experience in corporate HR for TD Bank Financial Group, told the Globe and Mail that accounting for generational differences is directly linked to a company’s financial success. “We’re a growth company and we need talent in order to grow,” he said. “We want to be the place where the best people want to come to and we know there’s a cost to not doing that.” For several years I’ve been preaching on the risks associated with ignoring demographic shifts, and  I’ve had the conversation with countless naysayers who insisted that generational differences were over-inflated and that everyone just needed to show up and get the work done. It’s time to come to grips with reality. Generational differences do exist and do impact the bottom line. If you do not have engaged employees, you have higher turnover which costs money and results in lower engagement and increased risk. Here’s what a few of the award-winning workplaces in Toronto are doing to bridge the gap: PwC is trying to close the generation gap by partnering less experienced workers with senior…

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At Risk Of Aging Out: The Oldest Fortune 500 Companies And Industries

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December 6 @ 10:59 pm CST

A recent report by RetirementJobs.com ranked Fortune 500 employers by the percentage of workers they have over age 50. RetirementJobs.com gathered data from public records and surveys of employers and employees, to illustrate for job seekers which industries tend to employ a disproportionately high or low percentage of mature workers. The results show that the airline industry employs the most workers over age 50, and that American Airlines was first in the nation, with nearly 40% of its workforce over age 50.  Toward the other end of the scale is Google with just 12% of workers over 50. The top Fortune 500 industries for the number of workers over 50 are: Airlines Utilities Insurance Retail Chemicals Aerospace & Defense Packaging & Containers Forest & Paper Products Food Production Beverages The Top 10 Fortune 500 Employers With Older Workers: American Airlines 39% Eastman Kodak  38% TravelCenters of America 38% Delta Air Lines 37% United Air Lines 37% Weyerhaeuser 36% Edison International  36% Northeast Utilities 36% United Services Automobile Assn. 35% KeyCorp 35% The Bottom 10 Fortune 500 Employers For Older Workers: Consol Energy 14% Nordstrom 14% Chesapeake Energy 14% Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold 14% Electronic Arts 13% Google, Inc. 12% C.H. Robinson Worldwide 12% Goldman Sachs Group 11% Auto-Owners Insurance 9% AECOM Technology 6% If your organization is struggling, now is the time for action. Register for our newly developed courses specifically designed to help membership organizations more effectively engage and retain members. 

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crisis

Crisis At Work: Students Lack A Good Work Ethic

December 6 @ 10:59 pm CST

There is a crisis in the workforce today: youth are not learning a good work ethic during their school years. This especially applies to inner-city schools where funding is limited. Here’s an example: The Urban Poverty and Family Life Study did a survey of 179 Chicago employers in 1988 and found that they shied away from hiring inner-city kids because of a poor work ethic, low job dependability, a bad attitude, lack of basic skills, and low interpersonal skills. A 2004 study by “Entrepreneur” trade journal confirmed that this is still the case with inner-city kids. Clearly, this is very damaging to the workforce and places the foundations of our economic system in peril. But how can we remedy it? I think that in order for any solution to be viable, there must be two things in place: high expectations, and practical lessons. It is an unwritten rule that kids will achieve—in general—what you expect them to achieve. When I was in high school, my parents set the expectation that I wouldn’t get involved in drugs or underage drinking—and I never did. However, if they had ever doubted that I could resist those pressures, I’m certain I would have given in. Of course, high expectations aren’t enough. You also need a program in place that will teach and reinforce behavior. After all, we don’t learn by osmosis, but by practice. One program that can be a good model is “Voyager: Direction for Learning and Careers” at Thomas Edison High School in Minneapolis. It was started in 1994 by the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce and is currently only offered at Edison. Of the approximately 900 students at Thomas Edison, about 85% participate in the free and reduced lunch program, and many come from single-parent, working families. The students represent about 30 cultures and speak 30 to 40 languages. Many are second-generation Americans. The Voyager program is a two-year leadership program that prepares students for the working world by…

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Workforce

Recognizing Generation Stereotypes In The Workplace

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December 6 @ 10:59 pm CST

Ever have one of those moments when you realize it’s a generational difference that’s causing you frustration? I had one recently with my mother-in-law. I could barely sit through the story she told me about how she repeatedly scours the stores looking for a specific fondue pot she broke years ago. “Why not just order it on Amazon?” I asked her, flabbergasted. Well, she hadn’t thought of it. After our conversation, she ordered it on Amazon. That also surprised me because I thought she was afraid of online shopping. With more than three generations working together, misunderstandings based on stereotypes happen all the time in the workplace. Getting past stereotypes is the first step in being part of and creating excellent teams. It’s tempting to say that stereotypes exist for a reason, and use that as general proof they are true. Of course, there is a reason, but that doesn’t make them true, and it doesn’t excuse you from getting past them. If you’re buying into stereotypes, you’re limiting contributions by others and missing opportunities yourself. Let’s take another approach. Gen Y: Entitled & lazy While many may see the shirking of “busy work” as lazy or entitled to better things, could actually be a desire not to waste time. Leverage their skills and motivate seemingly entitled and lazy team members. When assigning Millennials work it will help if you: Explain why it’s important, not just that they need to do it Show them the bigger picture Give them regular feedback Offer challenging work, don’t let them get bored Gen X: Cynical & poor team members Don’t count Gen X out for group activities just because you’ve heard they are cynical loners at work. When given the right motivations, Xers are great team players. You’ll encourage teamwork if you: Give them choices, let them use their resourcefulness Give them goals and let them figure out how to reach them Provide mentorship Avoid micromanaging Boomers: Out of touch & disinterested in learning new things After years of being called on by parents and…

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