Monday, October 20, 2008

Say Buh-Bye to Flexibility and Hello to Longer Hours

I went on eBay the other day to try and purchase a crystal ball. Unfortunately, the ones that were available didn't come with a guarantee, so I decided to pass.

I mean, who wouldn't want a crystal ball to see into the future -- to see how we're all going to survive this mess and whether or not the Rays really can go from being the worst team in baseball to winning the World Series in a year's time?

OK, so when the crystal ball thing didn't work out, I decided to just talk to a lot of different people about the situation on the job today. I didn't talk to just experts, but also regular folks who worry about their jobs, who wonder if their bosses are telling them the truth and if they need to be looking for a second job.

While this is unscientific, this is what my gut tells me -- after decades of covering the workplace -- what you may see come to your workplace:

1. Less flexibility. Companies already are operating lean, but because of the nervousness about how deep and long the recession will last, employers will want employees to really buckle down. And that means that bosses or companies offering flexibility options such as working certain hours or working from home may start to cut back those choices because they want to stick really close to workers right now. So that means where and when the boss works -- so will you.

2. Less tolerance for whining. Bosses are tense. I mean really tense. Maybe they're not showing it to employees, but trust me, they're very stressed by what is going on. They want to be there for employees who are worried about their jobs or the economy, but they can only take so much whining. Those workers who don't recognize when to suck it up and just shut up and work are going to put themselves in jeopardy. Remember: There are lots of great, qualified people out of work right now, and the boss's pickings to replace you have never been better.

3. More generational conflict. Things between older and younger workers have sometimes been tense, but there's always been the argument that baby boomers are going to be retiring in droves soon, so employers will be forced to pay attention to what younger workers want. But with so many baby boomers seeing their portfolios and 401(k)s tank, chances are good many of them are going to stick around much longer. And that's not going to sit well with GenX and GenY, since it mucks up their plans. Employers are going to have little patience (see No.2) for workers who can't get along.

4. Longer hours. Maybe you thought your workload couldn't get any worse. Guess what? It can.

5. Fewer benefits. Those goody packages used to attract and retain top workers are going to start drying up. Companies have pretty much cut as many bodies as they can, so they're going to look for other ways to trim costs. So, if you're thinking of using your company's tuition reimbursement, adoption assistance, gym memberships, etc., do it now. Before too much longer, they may be gone.

What other trends do you think we'll see -- or already are seeing -- in the workplace because of the struggling economy?

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Three Ways to Improve GenY's Bad Rep

Generation Y appears to have an image problem.

According to a recent survey by JobFox, recruiters aren't too keen on GenYers, and only 20 percent said they were "generally great performers" as compared to 63 percent who said baby boomers (age 43-62) were great performers, 58 percent lauding GenXers (age 29-42) and 25 percent saying traditionalists (63-plus) were great performers.


It gets worse. According to press release materials, "Gen Y was also classified as 'generally poor performers' by the largest number of recruiters polled. Thirty percent of recruiters classified Millennials (GenY) as poor performers, followed by 22 percent of recruiters who classified traditionalists as poor performers, 5 percent for GenX and 4 percent for baby boomers.

Double ouch.

But JobFox's CEO Rob McGovern thinks that managers and recruiters are missing the boat. Managers, he says, must "learn new ways to incorporate GenY views into the workforce."

OK, I agree. Managers and recruiters always need to be looking at how they can use an individual's strengths to help a company and boost the bottom line.

But I think it's more than that. I think GenYers (age 28 and under) need to be better at their own personal p.r.. I think that if they wait around to get the respect they believe they deserve, they may find themselves waiting a long time. Because whether they deserve the slacker reputation or not, the problem is that it exists.

Believe it or not, however, GenYers are being handed a golden opportunity to turn things around as the economy takes a nosedive. How? Let us count the ways:

1. Staying sane. GenY has lived a life of upheaval. They've grown up with AIDS, 9/11 and Britney not wearing any panties. They don't get rattled easily. Right now the older folks in the workplace are pretty well freaking and stressing about everything from how to make their house payment to watching their 401(k) tank. If GenYers demonstrate that -- while they understand the seriousness of the issues right now -- they are still upbeat and positive about life, it could have an enormous impact. Inspiring others to keep it all in perspective can demonstrate real leadership, and that's just the kind of reputation they need to develop.

2. Save others time. No one is more crazed these days that workers trying to balance the demands of their private and professional lives. But GenYers have grown up juggling, and have found technology enhances their lives. Young workers are in a great position to help other workers find ways to use technology to make their lives better. There's no way that anyone would be called a slacker for helping give someone more time with their kids or do their job better. Just be careful: You don't want your help to come off as smug or arrogant. Read Chris Brogan's post to make sure you do it right.

3. Provide the global view. The world has been delivered to GenY through television and computers since they were old enough to use a sippy cup. They have friends working in Darfur, they listen to bands from Japan and think nothing of IMing contacts in Istanbul or Tazmania. If they can keep their workplace informed on how events in Cambodia or Russia or Brazil may be impacting their business and bottom line, it could be enormously valuable. And let's face it -- those that contribute to the bottom line are seen as valuable -- and top performers.

While there are plenty of people telling managers that they need to treat GenYers better and learn to appreciate them, I think that GenYers may have to do some of the heavy lifting. They shouldn't wait around for someone to discover their strengths -- they should find subtle, but very meaningful ways to change perceptions that will have a real impact on their career success.

What are some other ways young workers can improve their image?

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Psssttt....Can GenYers Keep a Secret?

Generation Y (sometimes called the Millenial Generation) is often touted as being technologically savvy, great at coming up with new ways to work and influencing the workplace as never before. They’re also said to be a bit whiny and have a sense of entitlement.

Well, it also seems they can’t keep a secret.

Now, before everyone starts hitting the “comment” button to send me nasty messages, I just want to outline a conversation I had with Marian Salzman, who is touted as being one of the world’s leading futurists/trendspotters, and chief marketing officer for Porter Novelli.She noted that with the “total transparency” this generation practices, it can be a bit tricky getting them to keep their mouths shut – and their fingers away from typing or texting everything and anything they know or think.

So, maybe you're thinking this isn’t such a big deal. Maybe you think it doesn't matter what they put on MySpace or Facebook or even LinkedIn. But Salzman thinks it's a problem.

“We’re going to have to teach this generation the rules of confidentiality,” Salzman says. “We’re going to have to teach them to keep secrets and to learn the value of privacy."

This is an interesting point, I think. This generation has grown up with 24/7 news and they are accustomed to finding out anything they want with a few keystrokes. They’ve been privy to many "private" issues, from celebrity sex tapes to embarrassing conversations in the White House. They’re very comfortable sharing any and all information online.

Would it necessarily be bad if they made the workplace more open? Or, could their lack of discretion and judgment cause them to share information that could damage a company in the short or long term?

Maybe only time will tell. For right now, companies seem torn. At a time when they fire employees for blogging about the job, they also are entering -- or at least exploring -- the blogosphere.

Do you think it's a fair assessment that GenYers can't keep their mouths shut? And, does it really matter?


Subscribe with Bloglines

Add to Technorati Favorites

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

GenY and Boomers: A Formidable Alliance

Much has been made of the fact that baby boomers will be retiring in droves, leaving the field as worn-out warriors with their outdated ideas. Younger workers - GenY - will be the new face of the workplace, revolutionizing the labor force with technology and demands for more flexibility.

The problem is that this isn't necessarily what is happening. Sure, baby boomers are retiring...but not in droves. First, there is the economic necessity to remain working, especially with the increasing costs of just going to the grocery store, the floundering stock market and of course, the housing debacle.

Second, GenYers are more supportive of boomers staying on the scene, and if nothing else, employers are paying attention to what younger workers want. In fact, according to author Tamara Erickson who just completed a book on retirement, GenYers like having boomers around. "When I talked to GenX privately, they are the one who are pretty darn excited for boomers to move on, because they want to move into their jobs," says Erickson. "But GenYers see that as disrespectful, and they don't like it."

Erickson told me that GenYers have grown up listening to boomers (their parents), and often rely on their advice. They are not a generation who resents this age group, but rather sees it as valuable and an important part of their lives. GenYers, with their gift for networking, see the boomers as an integral part of their success, and understand that they don't yet begin to have the talent to completely fill a boomer's shoes in the labor force.

The truth is, GenYers and boomers may be the greatest partnership since Dean met DeLuca. Employers will be getting hit from both ends of the spectrum by younger and older workers who have key skills and want the same thing: more flexibility and a chance to use their skills to gain the lifestyle they want. It may be just a strong enough force to finally make employers realize this isn't an HR delusion, but a real change in the workforce that must be addressed through more than empty promises. Finally, we may see new policies that forever change the way work gets done.

Subscribe with Bloglines
Add to Technorati Favorites

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Study: Job Hopping Can Affect Wages

There's been some debate about the idea of job hopping. Many younger workers have no problem with it, while older workers fear the perception that job hopping will make them look less reliable to prospective employers. It appears there's some value in both arguments, which I'll discuss further in this post.

But on this first day of Spring, let's start with:

* The Five O'Clock Club provides eight signs that it's time to change jobs. I've added my own insight, and come up with this list on how you know it's time to head for the exit:
1. You don't fit in. In other words, your values don't match the company's. Why is the boss having lunch with Tony Soprano?
2. Your boss doesn't like you -- and the feeling is mutual.
3. Your peers don't like you. You've discovered that high school cliques have nothing on workplace snottiness.
4. You don't get assignments that demonstrate the full range of your abilities. In other words, the boss doesn't seem to trust you enough to park his car.
5. You always get called upon to do the grunt work. Can you say "clean out the fridge?"
6. You are excluded from meetings your peers are invited to. ("Hey...why is this door locked?")
7. Everyone on your level has an office. Your computer sits on the radiator.
8. You dread going to work and feel like you're developing an ulcer. When you start putting vodka in with the Maalox, you know you're in trouble.

* In another salvo aimed at attracting younger workers, Ernst and Young has set up what they call "EY Insight," a fully interactive website that allows someone to see exactly what's in store for them should they choose to work there.

The press release states: "Through customizable tools, such as 'EY 360◦', 'Picture Yourself' and 'Interview Insider,' firm prospects are allowed to tailor their interests and education background to explore career paths that present the best fit for them within the firm. Prospects can also view video testimonials of a 'Day in the Life' or even a 'Year in the Life' of a current employees."

* And, while I'm on the subject on younger workers, there is new research in the latest issue of the American Sociological Review, stating that workers who frequently change jobs generally end up earning less than their more stable counterparts.

The research found that any benefits of job hopping accrue in the early days of a career, and after that, wages can take a hit when you move from employer to employer.

"One reason for lower wage trajectories among high-mobility workers is their failure to accumulate valuable early tenure associated with staying up to five years with an employer. In the first five years of a job, each year of tenure is associated with approximately 2.4 percent higher wages for men and 2.9 percent higher wages for women. However, after five years with an employer, women’s gains from tenure plateau and men’s begin to erode," the study found.

The study also looked at the impact on wages when workers took time off to raise kids.


Subscribe with Bloglines

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, January 7, 2008

Everyone's a Winner!

I recently was sent an article by Mother Jones magazine, which touted the headline: "WE'RE ALL #1!"

The article included a list of the ways we have become a nation of navel-gazers, continually telling ourselves and our children that we're all terrific. Really terrific. For example:

* An analysis of 16,000 students' results on the Narcissistic Personality Profile concluded that undergads are 30 percent more self-absorbed that they were in 1982.

* Last march, a West Virginia high school sophomore sued the teacher who failed her for a late paper. She sought damages for "loss of enjoyment of life."

* You can send yourself a "standing ovation" from the Playfair website, a team-building consultant. It advises, "Don't worry about whether you've earned it."

Recently I spent some time with friends talking about the jobs held by our parents and grandparents: house painter, railroad worker, steel mill employee, delivery truck driver, cook, teacher, factory worker. At the same time, we discussed how most of our grandparents and some of our parents often worked two or three jobs, rarely taking vacations and often being home only long enough to grab some sleep or a quick meal. So, yes, there had to be workplace stress and there had to be bosses they hated and co-workers they couldn't stand.

But did our grandparents demand happiness from their jobs? Did they believe they warranted parties for a good job or feel snubbed if the boss didn't send a thank-you note?

It makes me wonder. I know my parents and grandparents worked long, hard hours, sometimes in difficult situations. But they also survived wars and the Depression and children dying young. When did work become more than work? When did we begin to expect -- demand -- that our jobs make us happy? And, is it really a good thing that we've handed so much control over our own sense of happiness to a job?


Labels: ,

Monday, October 15, 2007

Generational Divide May Be Overblown

They're energetic, often launching businesses they feel passionate about. They are committed to helping others, and want to make sure they have time to do the things in their private life they love doing, such as traveling, or spending time with family and friends.

Think I'm talking about GenY? Think again -- I'm referring to those over 50.

While there has been a lot of press given to GenY and the impact they will have on the workplace, a real shift has been taking place on the other end. The over 50 crowd -- those baby boomers who have dominated the American workplace for generations -- aren't quite ready to ride off into the sunset.

A record 24.6 million Americans age 55 and over are still on the job, a huge shift from what has been seen in the past. AARP found that 69 percent of people age 45 to 74 are working, or planning to work, in some capacity after retirement.

Why the change? One reason is that many can't afford to retire because of rising healthcare costs, or other costs of living -- such as supporting family members --that cannot be met by Social Security or other pension income.

But many other boomers report they simply don't want to retire -- they like working and challenging themselves every day.

The really interesting part of all this is how much many of their desires match those who are sometimes half a century younger. In "70: The New 50," author William C. Byham, a Ph.D., found in his research that these workers want to help others; spend more time with family and friends; work fewer hours; have more flexibility; and take more vacation time.

Gee, that sounds awfully familiar. Exactly like what GenY is saying. Could it be that instead of spending so much time and energy touting which generation is having the biggest impact on the workplace we should be channeling our energies towards these generations helping one another meet their goals?

Of course, there are differences. GenY is often referred to as narcissistic, money hungry and a great desire to be famous.

Still, I've worked with enough GenYers to know that they are not that different from where we all want to be -- financially stable, doing work we love, making a positive impact on those around us, being treated with respect for our skills and abilities, and enjoying life with good friends and family. In that regard, there is no generational difference on the job...just a real desire for the same thing.


Labels: , ,