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 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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
I’ve posted about this phenomenon before, and talked about it with clients over the years, but still people have a hard time believing it is true. Yes, I’m talking about parents getting all up in their grown children’s employment business. The topic is back thanks to an article in Huffington Post Business “Millennials Now Bring Their Parents along to Job Interviews.”
HuffPost is reporting out statistics that say 3% of job seekers have their parents sit in on an interview – a number that seems statistically insignificant until you realize that until a few years ago not only would the number be 0%, the question itself would not even make it to the survey.
There is one environment where this trend makes solid sense – the US Army. In fact, the Army has been recruiting parents and children together for several years now, and it makes good sense. A soldier is more successful if he or she has full support back at home. Convincing parents that the army is a great career for their children is a sound approach, because the job is putting the child’s life at risk. The survey findings above were not Army-exclusive, however, so I must remind our younger job seekers and their parents to stop. Just stop.
We know they are the largest generation since the Baby Boomers and will have a significant impact on how businesses run in the future, but are Millennials already making leadership waves despite their relatively short tenure in the traditional working world? Recent research from Deloitte India seems to indicate so.
As reported in Forbes, Deloitte India studied the work and leadership styles of Millennials in eight countries around the world. Of the 2422 respondents, nearly half held leadership positions. 50% of Millennials are in business leadership roles? Well, yes and no. It all depends on how you define leadership.
For the sake of the survey, the researchers defined it as “someone with 3+ years of full-time working experience, decision-making authority and direct reports at an established organization…or leading their own organization/start-up.” Both definitions are fascinating, when you think about it.
Back in the day a person with 3-5 years of experience would still be considered wet behind the ears, but today’s workforce is seeking (and sometimes demanding) more recognition earlier in their careers. This is a great example of how the mentor-apprentice relationship has been flipped on its head. Instead of watching a senior leader over many years and learning from that experience, today’s employees want to try out leadership early and make their own mistakes, find their own way.
The other definition of leader – entrepreneur – is not surprising, but its prevalence so early in the career path is a true indicator of how things have changed. Now, innovation and entrepreneurialism have always been at the core of our business economy. What’s new today is how young professionals are quick to seek out environments where they can call the shots – it is not so much entrepreneurism for new ideas (though that certainly exists) but for self-expression and self-fulfillment.
The Deloitte India study speaks to the ways that Millennials have changed the definition of leadership, and, I believe, foreshadows how our business world will continue to shift over time.
You can barely pick up the paper these days without hearing about the 10,000 Baby Boomers who are reaching retirement age every day and how they will a) be a drain on the social security system and b) not “go gently into that good night.” Yet whether it is for the flexibility to visit with grandchildren and pursue travel dreams, the need for added income, or simply the desire not to be seen as past their prime, more and more Boomers are taking post-retirement careers.
Boomers that achieved executive status often return to the workforce as consultants – working flexible hours on focused projects of special interest or where their retained knowledge is especially helpful. But more and more Boomers are shifting gears completely, focusing on post-retirement careers that feed into a creative desire or relate to hobbies and personal interests outside of an individual’s primary career. Could it be that the generation that told its children to “go out and find something that makes you happy” is taking its own advice?
A recent article in the Plattsburg Press Republican speaks to this phenomena, which has been dubbed “encore careers.” The University of Hartford has a program, Encore! Hartford, specifically geared toward helping individuals find their encore careers.
If Boomers don’t really want to – or can’t fully – retire, and Xers and Millennials are seeking careers that are more about happiness than climbing the corporate ladder, businesses that figure out how to let employees find passion in their work will surge to the forefront. This doesn’t have to mean small, entrepreneurial companies are the only way to find loyalty and engagement, but it does mean that corporations will have to work harder to be the places of business where today’s employees want to work.
Boomers and Xers make up 88% of the workforce, but only about 27% are actively engaged employees, according to the most recent Gallup research. In fact, the only generation with a strong margin of actively engaged employees was the Traditionalists (I call them the Matures), whose engagement profile is 44% – yet they represent only 4% of all employees.
So what does this mean for employers? If nearly 75% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged – that is, they would considering leaving their place of employment if another opportunity surfaced or they are actively seeking alternate employment – the potential for lost institutional knowledge and increased hiring and training costs is high.
It doesn’t surprise me that the numbers stack up as they do. We’ve recognized the impact of past layoffs on future employee loyalty for quite some time. Those 4% of Traditionalists are the last group of employees who expect to spend an entire career at one company. But this doesn’t mean that companies are doomed to suffer revolving- door employment. By understanding what the different generations value most – and by creating avenues for shared knowledge at all levels of an organization – business leaders can both improve engagement and minimize the impact of turnover on knowledge retention. These are the tools and tactics we discuss in my sessions on Attracting and Retaining a New Generation of Employees.