Quick show of hands, who has heard the saying: You don’t leave the company, you leave the boss? It’s an adage in management and leadership that describes the impact managers, supervisors and foreman have on their people. Even if a company has all of the perks in the world, people will still leave if they don’t like their boss.
In today’s world, the average time a employee will remain with a company is between 2-5 years. The perception is that the younger generations lack loyalty and are bored easily. However, in our line of work, we see it more than ever that employees will cross the street for $0.50 raise or some other small incentive, which is why we need to engage our people to get them to remain with us long term. Here’s how generational thinking impacts us as an organization.
I’ll start by defining what the different generations are that exist in our workforce today;
Greatest Generation – 1919 – 1940 – Also known as the Silent Generation. Survived 2 world wars and the great depression. Worked hard to establish many systems in the country. Typically conservative, and finishing up their time in the work force. Pension focused. This is the smallest group, less than 5% of the workforce, but very present in the workforce today.
Major Events: WWI, WWII, Great Depression, Women’s Suffrage
Average job tenure (AJT): 40+ years, 1 career
Baby boomers – 1941 – 1965 – Massive spike in births post World War II. Large family sizes, typically 2+ children per household. First generation to quickly earn more than their parents before their 30’s. Also referred to as the sandwich generation, as they are taking care of their ageing parents while managing their families at the same time. Set to receive large inheritances (several billion in wealth transfer) in the next few years.
Major events: Moon landing, JFK Assassination, End of Segregation (last segregated school closed in 1983 in Nova Scotia), 60s scoops, Korean War, Woodstock
Average Job Tenure: 25-30 years, typically 2 major careers
Generation X – 1966 – 1979 – First round of children post baby boomers. Much small family units, averaging 1.2 children per household. More single income families due to high divorce rates, but a higher rate of entrepreneurialism. Advent of the internet led entrepreneurs to commit large investments to the “Dot Com” ventures, which led to a lot of lost income. Divides between entry level and management work begins to grow as Baby Boomers remain in the workforce longer, cause many to remain stagnant in their roles.
Major Events: Fall of the Berlin Wall, Challenger Disaster, Rise of Personal Computer, Watergate Scandal
AJT: 10+ years, 4-6 major jobs in career
Millennial – 1980 – 1992 – The “I, Me, My” Generation. Also known as the Social Media Generation. This was the first group to be considered digital natives, as they grew up with technology being integrated into educational systems and the computer getting more personal, as well as the major impact of cell phone and smart phones. Many movements were sparked under this generation due to being “hyper connected”; Facebook, Occupy Wall Street, Idle No More, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ movements, etc. Family sizes slowly begin to grow, average 1.8 children per house hold, and this generation has the highest education rates so far, including post-secondary and trade/technical schools. Stereotyped as disloyal or fickle, AJT is 2-3 years. Shift economy and globalization make changing job easier, and wide gaps between entry level and management cause individuals to leave organizations to lose talent as they pursue growth in their careers.
Major Events: Sept 11, 2001, Launch of Social Media (Myspace, Facebook, etc.), Legalization of Same sex marriage, 2008 recession, Election of Barack Obama, Enron crash
AJT: 2-3 years, 6+ jobs in career
Generational Make Up
Millennials are a growing portion of the work place. As of 2020, its expected that more than held of the workforce will be made up of Millennials.
1999 – 51.4% Boomer, 41.3% Gen X, 7.3% Millennial
2004 – 43.8% Boomer, 38.4% Gen X, 17.8% Millennial
2009 – 36.8% Boomer, 35.8% Gen X, 27.4% Millennial
2014 – 35.0% Boomer, 33.9% Gen X, 31.1% Millennial
Stereotypes exist for a reason, but they are not a basis for making decisions. Generations are not how people are defined and are typically a way for one person to label and put down another due to age. Baby Boomers were once referred to as the “affluent generation” and considered entitled to their ideals of freedom and individuality, and now those labels have been given to Millennials. It’s not about when you were born, it’s about your stage in life.
Generational thinking is reductionist and condescending. Regardless of who you are addressing this towards. Baby boomers are not hippies or warmongers; Gen X is not a bunch of grunge musicians who drink black coffee and get depressed; and Millennials aren’t born with phone in their hands.
Generational stereotypes are set by academics and marketing agencies to make vast generalizations about populations in order to sell their point. The needs and values of people differ greatly for many reasons, including family make up, size, geographical location, gender, age, race, sexual orientation, education level, income, health, and many other factors. We should not use stereotypes in making hiring and promotion decisions, as they do not reflect the reality that exists around us.
What’s important is the following when it comes to recruitment and managing people; get to know you people on a one on one level. Each will have strengths that will shape your teams, and your decisions on how to utilize them will be important. Diversity allows for new ideas, or to improve processes. Encourage the sharing of best practices, and engage people to bring their best to the team. Let the Safety department help you with ensuring their wellbeing, and HR to assist you in bringing new people and growing the teams as well.
Call to Action: How can we engage our diverse workforce? Their contribution needs to matter. To get more out of someone, you get what you give. Develop their skills and challenge them to bring their best self to work.
I’ll leave you today with this story; I used to work at the Apple Store in West Edmonton Mall at the Genius Bar, which is where you go to get your phones and laptops fixed. I know that telling you that now make me “your guy” to get all of your tech questions answered, but I can answer those later. One of my responsibilities was to train customers on different software they were using on their computers, and my most proud moment came when I helped a 92 year old woman learn Final Cut Pro, a high end video editing software, so she could edit of family movies. By the end of our sessions she was teaching me new things about the software!
So remember; age is just a number. Getting people engaged in the process is where they will shine!
Passionate about technology, human resources, and nurturing great talent!