Boomer/GenerationY: Changing Workplace Values

Boomer/Generation Y:  Changing Workplace Values

The July-August 2009 issue of The Harvard Business Review contains an article directed to employers titled:  “How Gen Y & Boomers Will Reshape Your Agenda.”  Its nice to know that we, older folks, have some things in common with the up and coming 20’s workers entering the job market today.

Based on 30 focus groups and 40 interviews,  the authors, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Laura Sherbin and Karen Sumberg concluded that the youngest (born 1979 through 1994) and the oldest (born 1946 through 1964) workers will demand many of the same concessions in the work place.  As the population balance of both groups shift, these two groups will possess the numbers to get their way.

In an improving economy, employers will again be looking for talented individuals to regenerate sagging companies.  Only then will companies realize that the employee pool has been drastically altered.

Retention of skilled older workers will become a big issue. Due to a change in economic circumstances and improved health, boomers are choosing to stay in the workplace longer. As they age, they may need increased accommodations to do so.  Educated and professionally motivated, many of the youngest workers will not just be looking for monetary rewards. They are more socially conscious than their predecessors and expect the workplace to reflect their needs. Being twice the size of Generation X, both the Boomer and Gen Y age groups are redefining what makes a “great work environment.”

Both groups attribute the highest values to flexible work arrangements and the opportunity to participate in socially-conscious activities.  It means that employers have to develop creative work incentives involving time or a green workplace to substitute for traditional monetary rewards.

“Chunking”  of work allows Boomers and Gen Y workers the ability to scale back their hours but continue to work on ventures in accordance with their experience and expertise. Known as ”phased retirement” at American Express, this approach allows workers to stay productive in the workforce on a project by project basis.  Consulting arrangements with former employers can bring flexible hours, keep a connection to the company and lay the foundation for self-employment.

Flexible time schedules give both groups an opportunity for personal fulfillment.  Whether its having more time for child care or just more available time to go to the gym, both groups value the ability to alter their work hours for self-improvement or to take care of other pressing needs.

The ability to work from home and electronically communicate with workers in the office, has made working-from-home a viable option.  Since both groups enjoy the teamwork and community generated in an office environment, a consensus of opinion seems to favor working at home one day a week as a viable option.  The concepts of what it means to manage workers will alter as these populations fulfill all or part of their employment responsibilities from remote locations.

Person Fulfillment includes an interest in other activities besides work.  Both groups put an emphasis on exploring passions and participating in doing “good works.”  Those interviewed stated that the ability to take time off from work in the form of a sabbatical or other restructuring of the work schedule boosts commitment and performance.

Progressive Policies permeate both groups.  Both are eco-friendly and value a work environment that supports collaboration and innovation.

When asked to rate seven types of rewards at least as important as compensation, both groups chose “high-quality” colleagues putting an inordinate value on social networking and colleagueship.  For boomers, mentoring younger colleagues is a way to further utilize their knowledge to benefit others.  Unlike any other age groups at any other time in history, these two “over-sized book-end” generations will profoundly force changes in the workplace to occur.  To retain quality workers, employers will have to “tune into” the needs of these diverse age populations and alter policies and environments accordingly.