Archive for category Generational Trends

Why Generational Profiling Is Bad Management

Here is an interesting perspective on the Generation X, Y and Z at work talk we have all heard lately. Some excerpts:

Would you characterize your employees by gender, age, race, religion, or in any other way when it comes to managing them and enabling them to be successful at their jobs? Of course not. And I’m not talking about verbally or publicly. I’m talking about when you sit down to do their review, determine their raise, have a one-on-one, or interview them, would you take any of that stuff into account? Again, of course not.

You know why? Because there are at least a dozen more important and relevant factors, like job performance, experience, knowledge, team work, etc. The only profiling I’m aware of in the real business world has to do with multinational companies managing workforces in other countries where employment law, compensation, and culture are different. To me, that makes sense.

But profiling groups by generation is ridiculous, no matter what the management researchers and gurus say. Not to mention that it’s dehumanizing.

I somewhat agree with Steve Tobak’s observations in that some of this generation talk is overblown and its importance exaggerated. However, from our own experience at Tenrox younger generations have very different expectations. When it comes to recognition, rewards, raises and bonuses, of course you look at job performance, experience, knowledge and other such factors to determine what is appropriate. But everyone does not feel appreciated or get motivated the same way. For some, an equivalent valued gift, a few extra days off, a paid vacation works better than a cash bonus or a raise. We try to take such things into account when communicating with or rewarding our team members; and yes, the employee’s generation plays an important role in how we approach such discussions.

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The Recession Generation

In this Newsweek article the author explores the impact of the recent financial crisis, the new age of uncertainty, and severe economic downturn on employment and spending patterns.

Some key takeaways:

  • It’s no accident that the psychology of entire generations is shaped by the milieu in which they grew up; economic research tells us that our lifelong behaviors are determined in large part by the seismic events—good or bad—of our youth
  • Even one really tough year experienced in early adulthood is enough to fundamentally change people’s core values and behaviors
  • Recession babies not only invest more conservatively, they tend to make less money, choose safer jobs, and believe in wealth redistribution and more government intervention
  • This division between capital and labor and the permanently high unemployment that it seems to encourage not only depresses wages, it depresses people; a large body of research shows they tend to withdraw from their communities and societies after being laid off (their spooked neighbors, encouraged to work ever harder, do too)
  • Parental unemployment has huge negative consequences for children, making them more likely to fall behind in school, repeat grades, and exhibit anxiety disorders
  • The worry today, say Reich, Soros, and political scientists such as Harvard’s Robert Putnam, is that fearful, vulnerable people will become more easy prey for ugly class politics, being drawn, as Reich puts it, to “populist demagogues on either side of the political spectrum.”
  • Americans generally have a high tolerance for inequality. Yet that tolerance may wane as we enter a new age in which young graduates can’t expect to do better than their parents—and one in which Wall Street is perceived as being able to continue business as usual while Main Street struggles. “Americans are OK with inequality,” says Reich, who believes we are at a tipping point, “as long as they feel the system isn’t rigged.”

All this said, there are some glimmers of hope in the New Normal.

  • Post-crisis, consumers are putting a greater value on time spent with family and friends than on money (a good thing when there’s little of the latter around)
  • There’s also a glimmer of possibility that hard times might make us nicer to each other … simply thinking about money made subjects less sensitive to pain, and less likely to help each other or want to connect with strangers

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Localism – There’s No Place Like Home

A great article by Newsweek magazine ( on the trend towards staying local. Here are some of the key takeaways:

Perhaps nothing will be as surprising about 21st-century America as its settledness.

Yet in reality Americans actually are becoming less nomadic. As recently as the 1970s as many as one in five people moved annually; by 2006, long before the current recession took hold, that number was 14 percent, the lowest rate since the census starting following movement in 1940. Since then tougher times have accelerated these trends, in large part because opportunities to sell houses and find new employment have dried up.

Our less mobile nature is already reshaping the corporate world. The kind of corporate nomadism described in Peter Kilborn’s recent book, Next Stop, Reloville: Life Inside America’s Rootless Professional Class, in which families relocate every couple of years so the breadwinner can reach the next rung on the managerial ladder, will become less common in years ahead. A smaller cadre of corporate executives may still move from place to place, but surveys reveal many executives are now unwilling to move even for a good promotion. Why? Family and technology are two key factors working against nomadism, in the workplace and elsewhere.

Nothing allows for geographic choice more than the ability to work at home. By 2015, suggests demographer Wendell Cox, there will be more people working electronically at home full time than taking mass transit, making it the largest potential source of energy savings on transportation.

Some studies indicate that more than one quarter of the U.S. workforce could eventually participate in this new work pattern. Even IBM, whose initials were once jokingly said to stand for “I’ve Been Moved,” has changed its approach. Roughly 40 percent of the company’s workers now labor at home or remotely from a client’s location.

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Gen-Connect: Mind-Boggling Implications for the Project Workforce

Our friend Jim Carroll, author of the foreword to Rise of the Project Workforce, has published a piece in CA Magazine entitled "Here we are now, entertain us," describing the trends he has studied in the coming generation of workers, Gen-Connect.  He cites some amazing statistics about the new workforce, including:

More than 50% of US graduates believe self-employment is more secure than a full-time job.

I invite you to read the article for the rest. It paints an amazing picture of the workforce that we have to look forward to in just a few years. Carroll states:

Organizations that can attract, engage, retain and amuse an increasingly complex workforce will be the ones who find success in the rapidly evolving global economy….Put the emphasis on the word amuse.

Amusement is certainly consistent with the story he tells in the foreword to the book. It is interesting to me that we will need to amuse and entertain–even call upon our senses of humor–in the flattening world.

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Project Workforce Management: Jim Carroll to Speak on Managing People and Projects in The Flat World

Don’t mess with my powder, dude.

I am happy to announce that Jim Carroll, futurist, innovation expert, and author of What I Learned from Frogs in Texas, will be one of our keynotes at the Tenrox User Group Conference in September. Jim also wrote the foreword for my upcoming book.

Jim announced the topic of his talk on his blog: "Don’t Mess with my Powder, Dude: Managing People and Projects in The Flat World." The "powder" he refers to is a snowboarder’s powder: fresh snow. Jim discusses how the new generation in today’s workforce cares about having fun at work more than anything else — and how their new way of thinking and priorities are affecting the workplace.

I encourage everyone to read Jim’s blog and web site–in particular, his document 10 Unique Characteristics of 21st Century Skills is a must-read for all project managers–any type of manager, for that matter–who wants to survive the coming changes in "Workforce 2.0."

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Generation Next: It’s Changing Project Workforce Management

In this blog we’ve discussed the “flat world” and the demands that a global economy is placing on businesses–including the need to collaborate and automate business processes. But here’s another compelling reason to collaborate and automate: the next generation demands it.

The cover story of PMI magazine is titled “Bridging the Gap,” and they are referring to the generation gap. Here’s the article in Project Management Institute’s magazine.

Here’s an excerpt:

While older workers may cling to the comfort of proximity, this globally aware generation views technology as a way to access a borderless, boundless marketplace. And although seniority must be respected, older generations can learn a lot from how the younger workers in this group communicate. Their ability to multitask and maintain several ongoing dialogues makes them versatile communicators, a plus for staying on top of project problems around the clock and around the world.

The next generation of workers is forcing its predecessors to make some changes–many of which sound like the same changes being brought about by globalization, dispersed workforces, and other economic factors.

  • Working anytime, anywhere: They have never known a world where information was not available 24/7. So, they are more comfortable working anytime and anywhere than their more office-bound elders.
  • Fewer long-term commitments. This generation doesn’t expect, and doesn’t freely offer, loyalty. Younger workers can handle more risk, so they are more likely to go where the best jobs are. They are more open to the “Hollywood Model” of workforce management we described recently.
  • Wired. They are accustomed to technology and instantaneous communications. So not only are they always on and always connected, but they multi-task more effectively. They are more likely to manage their tasks and communications electronically, and don’t rely as much on face-to-face meetings.

So, the companies that benefit from the energy and innovation of the next generation will be the ones who can support and accommodate the collaborative, electronic, “always on” ways of working and communicating.

Project and Workforce Managers (especially those of earlier generations): take note. You will do well for your workforce, and your business overall, to harness younger talent by being open to these trends.

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