Monday, March 28, 2011

Young Workers: Tourists or Natives?

Right now many companies are looking for excellent and talented young people. They want to recruit and retain them so that they have a strong capacity to meet the ever-changing, and hopefully improving, market conditions. And these same companies are running into some unique problems as they hire them.

First, many of the young people they are hiring keep looking for their next job even while starting their new one They see this practice as normal and productive. They are constant explorers seeking an ideal career.

Second, when they are hired, they instantly expect the company to provide them with flexible working conditions so they can continue to have time for family, personal passions, and commitments.

Third, these same new hires want to bring their own computers, PDAs and cell phones to work, and to use these systems rather than the company provided IT solutions. They believe that their systems are superior to the ones at the office. And many times, they are!

Fourth, many young people bring their parents into the work environment. Being used to consulting their parents on a daily basis in regards to work and personal problems, young people continue this pattern much to the consternation of their supervisors and managers, let alone HR professionals.

Fifth, they expect to use their personal social media connections, e.g. Facebook, Skype,Twitter, etc, to solve problems, improve team work, and deliver better results. Many of them are light years ahead of their employers when it comes to this form of communication and use social media to find short cuts to common work problems.

Sixth and final, they expect their new employers to make all work exciting, passionate and significant. They detest drudgery and boredom. Routine is stupid and fixed schedules are an alien concept.

The result is that some companies believe young workers are more like tourists than natives.

Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman in their book, When Generations Collide: Who They Are. Why They Clash. How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work, HarperBusiness, 2002, told us this was going to happen nearly a decade ago. Ron Alsop in his book, The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the millennial generation is shaking up the workplace, Jossey-Bass, 2008, noted these same problems in greater detail, and explained that this is the new normal for the 92 million Millennials entering the workforce.

Our choice as senior executives is simple. We can follow our limbic minds and freeze, flee or fight these changes, or we could engage with these young people and learn. These young people, who are showing the common traits of being entitled, optimistic, civic minded, impatient, multitasking and team oriented, are not the problem as much as the future. While employers are benefitting from their technology, multitasking, and teamwork skills, but bristling at their demands for flexible working conditions, their desire for frequent feedback and guidance, and their hope for rapid promotion, we as leaders need to engage with them in regular strategic level dialogues. We, young workers and senior executives alike, are all at the awareness stage and we need to move to the understand and collaboration stages in 2011.

This week and this spring, realize that there are multiple generations in the work place at this time period. Visit with the “tourists,” and get to know them. They are the employees and customers of the future.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

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