Category Archives: Workplace


Game on: How one generation is changing the face of business

This is fascinating. We all know that technology has drastically impacted the daily workings of the business world. And we know the stereotype of today’s youth walking around with faces and fingers glued to some kind of mobile device or game system. Businesses are taking note.

According to Gartner, by the end of this year (2014), a full 70 percent of Forbes global 2000 will be using some sort of gamification (an app or other software that uses game theory to influence behavior). This is up from only 20 percent in 2012 – a significant change in two short years. Technorati author Geoff Simon believes this is primarily due to the increasing importance of Millennials as consumers and in the workplace.

The workplace application of gaming is especially interesting. Does the clear challenge (usually presented in some kind of visual) and the instant gratification of success (or shame of failure) of a game have potential as a way to engage and motivate employees around process improvement or general productivity?  Some people think so.

What do you think – can your employees be gamified? 


Are millennial women more optimistic about their career prospects?

Possibly not. While my work focuses primarily on generational differences, not gender one, this Chicago Business story about getting more women into the c-suite piqued my interest. Would the optimistic nature of the Millenial generation translate to greater belief in their ability to break the glass ceiling?  According to a Pew Research study cited in the article, 62 percent of Millennial women surveyed assumed that having children would make it harder to advance in their careers. Seems the times are not changing as much as many had hoped. Yet, I can’t help but think that while Millennial women may not have the expectation that earning a spot at the leader’s table will be easy, they, and their younger peers will expect that it is possible.

In fact, as Kate Bensen, the author of this piece points out – and this is where we bring it back around to generational issues – there are benefits to having more perspectives in the workforce, and in leadership roles. Just as the each of the generations brings strengths and weaknesses to the table – Millennials are confident and tech-savvy, Boomers are strong relationship-builders – so do the genders. I especially like one of the suggestions made: move beyond mentorship to sponsorship. The difference, Bensen shares, is that sponsors advocate within the organization, where a mentor is mainly advocating on a one-on-one basis. The sponsor, therefore, needs to be someone with influence. This is a great tactic for younger generations who are seeking to gain exposure and opportunity within an organization as well. 


Coworker preferences – where gender and generation collide

In December, the Pew Research Center released the results of a snap survey that asked whether individuals preferred to work with male or female co-workers. Whether politically correct or simply honest, the overwhelming majority (77%) expressed no preference. However, of those that did express a preference, males and females both stated a preference for working with males. But then they dug deeper and analyzed the responses by generation…

Interestingly, the survey indicated that Millennials are “significantly less likely to prefer working with male coworkers than other generations.” And Millennial men are nearly twice as likely to prefer working with mostly women than Millennial women.

Admittedly, this was a very simplistic survey – asking only three questions about personal preference and the perceived preference of others – yet I still find it intriguing that the youngest men in the workforce are the most interested in working with women. The survey doesn’t indicate whether that preference is for female peers (Millennial women) or all women (female bosses over male bosses), so the theories on why this could be are far ranging and could build on every gender stereotype known to man. But is there something inherently different with this generation, or is it simply an issue of age? I did not find any similar reports from previous generations, so for now we’ll just have to surmise. What are your thoughts?


Who’s the boss? Or rather, who wants to be the boss?

That’s the question the Pew Research Center asked recently. And the answer is, the kids. Millennials want to be the boss, Gen Xers are split, and Boomers say, no thanks. More scientifically, 32% of Boomer, 58% of Gen Xers and 70% of Millennials males (and 21%, 41% and 61%, respectively for females) want to be the boss.

That may or may not come as a surprise to you. Often those with the least power are most hungry for it, and those in power better understand the burden. So, from a generational and age perspective it makes sense that the youngest workers are most eager to become the boss. But what does that really mean? 

If you apply what we know about each generation – Millennials’ desire for independence and self-reliace, Gen Xers wish to better balance personal and professional achievement – it may be that there is a slightly different definition of “boss” at play. Does the younger generation want to be the boss of others?  Or just the boss of themselves? 

Believe it or not, your employees want to be engaged in their work

As much as it is maligned, the whole concept of “go out and find a job that makes you happy” may not be such a bad thing after all.  Yes, it is possible that seeking happiness may make a person perpetually dissatisfied, as if there is always likely to be something better around the next bend.  However, there are layers of happiness that can come with simple things, such as career accomplishments.  And it seems this is where some companies are missing the boat.

In a recent Workplace Insights study by Accounting Principals, hiring managers shared that while they know more employees leave to pursue professional development opportunities (26 percent) as they do salary increases (21 percent), they are more willing to negotiate salary (39 percent) than to discuss career development (14 percent).  And yet 25 percent are kept up at night thinking about recruitment.

On the surface, the logic seems awfully clear:

  • Employees value career development ahead of salary and are willing to leave to learn.
  • Recruiting is a pain point for companies and is more expensive than retaining good employees.
  • Clear career development programs could increase engagement and retention, thereby minimizing recruitment needs.

And yet the go-to negotiation is salary. That’s the old way. Today’s workers want to be engaged.  They want to feel empowered.  And they want to grow – all of this can be used to your advantage as a business owner or manager.  Spend the time to understand what your employees want to learn and how they see their careers advancing.  Then make sure the mechanism exists to help them achieve that goal. The result will be interested, engaged and better-skilled employees who are creating the jobs that make them happy.

The plight of the Millennial

The delay of adulthood, or extended adolescence, is a well-documented reality and in most discussions a great deal of blame is placed at the feet of parents hover and enable, creating an almost co-dependency.  And while there is certainly some truth to that, good old fashioned economics are also to blame—at least for the Millennials.

Throughout history, college graduates had a reasonably expectation of solid professional employment upon graduating with a four-year degree.  College debt was significantly less than it is today.  And while the cultural belief that college is a prerequisite for just about any career path is still alive and well, the payoff is no longer as guaranteed.

Despite an increase in college attendance, young adults are earning median-wage income jobs later and later.  According to the Wall Street Journal,“through analyzing about three decades of census data—from 1980 to 2012—the (Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce) study found that on average, young workers are now 30 years old when they first earn a median-wage income of about $42,000, a marker of financial independence, up from 26 years old in 1980.”

The study goes on to talk about the impact of the economy on a wide range of employment trends, including the tendency for older workers to stay in the workforce longer and an increased expectation for advanced degrees.  At the same time, the study advocates for an increase in employment opporunities that do not require degrees that are rarely achievable without crippling debt.  It’s an ugly catch-22 that the younger generations will continue to face unless changes are made to the employment landscape.

And while the problem may have come about because of systemic problems, the solution, like most, may well reside in grass roots change.  What might your company do to restore balance across the generations?

Generation X: Time to shine?

Once maligned as slackers and cynics, Gen Xers are coming into their own in the business world.  A recent EY study, reported in Business Week, shows that not only do Xers think they are in position to be the best business leaders right now—their Millennial and Boomer counterparts agree. In fact, Xers were specifically applauded for being the generation least likely to be cynical and condescending.

As the article points out however, there is still a grey cloud to go with the silver lining.  Generation X may be the best fit for the leadership role for the moment, but this is a moment not expected to last long.  Millennials have the strength in numbers and that intriguing connection with the Boomers that may well see them taking the leadership reigns sooner in their careers than the Xers had the opportunity to do.  After all, Xers have had to wait their turn behind a tremendous number of Boomers.

The little generation that could needs to reach out for the brass ring while it is in sight.  It may not be visible for long.

Will Millennials be intolerant employees? Could that be a good thing?

Millennials bring to the workplace a certain amount of self-righteousness.  They’ve had the participation trophies; they tend to be very philanthropic and altruistic; they are typically more socially open-minded.  And they don’t have any delusions that the job they take fresh out of school is the one they will retire from 40 years later.  Will that combination of traits make Millennial less tolerant of bad work environments?  And if so, will that make companies have to deal with unsavory situations more than they’ve maybe done in the past?  Will Dilbert need to find a new schtick?

That is the argument made by Forbes contributor Ruchika Tulshyan in her column, Millenials have the power to banish workplace bullying. Tulshyan proposes that Millennials, raised in a time of anti-bullying campaigns are better equipped to identify workplace bullying and better equipped to stop it. And, because Millennials neither expect loyalty from nor automatically grant it to their employers, Tulshyan believes they are uniquely positioned to vote with their feet.

It is an interesting take on the discussion of generations in the workplace, and I would agree that the perceived mobility of Millennials is a strong argument for their ability to shift cultures by choosing to disconnect with those that do not sit well. And a culture where bullying is accepted will not sit will – at least with anyone besides the bully.  What I’m not so sure of is whether or not the anti-bullying campaigns so prevalent in today’s schools are working and if they translate to an adult environment where power is real, not just created through the social pecking order. It is certainly a good discussion though as companies strive to meet the soft demands of a younger workforce increasingly interested in enjoying their jobs, not just surviving them.

Generational differences must be accommodated to ensure optimal employee engagement

A new survey by Ceridian, reported in MarketWatch, highlights the changing expectations and desires of the different generations in the workplace.  The results demonstrate that generational perspectives have a very real impact on the way employees engage with your business.  Understanding and adapting to the generational difference can make a difference in the employee engagement, job satisfaction and company loyalty.

According to the survey, non-monetary rewards are extremely important to the youngest generations.  While salary certainly counts, 64% of respondents overall and 70% of Millennials wanted to see their companies offer perks such as free personal days, free food and access to event tickets (shows, concerts, sports, etc.).  These are the extras that make the work environment more interesting.

The study also found that employees simply want interesting work.  39% are motivated by interesting work, 32% by autonomy and 31% by a good salary.  Interestingly, Boomers and Millennials put the strongest rating around interesting work.  As we’ve discussed, Millennials are the ones whose parents told them to “go out and find a job you love” and those parents are frequently Boomers.  Xers, many of whom are deep in the throes of child raising, rated good pay as the most motivating factor.

So how did survey respondents suggest you could make their jobs more rewarding?  Flexible work hours, more training opportunities, telecommuting options and clear growth plans, with the opportunity to take on additional (more interesting?) work.

Are you adjusting your formal and informal policies to reflect the changing desires of your workforce?

Gen X finally gets its due

After famously getting slapped with the “slacker” label early on, Generation X may have finally had its come-uppance.  A FOXBusiness headline recently labeled Gen X “best” – yes, best.

Now, to be fair, the context of the label was in determining the comfort and appropriateness of younger generations taking leadership roles and having older employees as direct reports.  In other words, Boomers are more okay with Gen X bosses than they are with Millennial ones. This makes sense from a pure “need to earn your way/pay your dues” mentality and just generally more comfortable not taking orders from someone young enough to be your own child.  It makes logical sense, perhaps not even newsworthy, except…

The conversation goes a step further, referencing EY (formerly Ernst & Young) research where Generation X employees were “cited the ‘best’ among the generations in seven of 11 attributes including being a ‘revenue generator’ (58%), being adaptable (49%), problem-solving (57%) and collaborative (53%).”

Not too shabby for a bunch of slackers.

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