The number one reason young people fail to move up the career ladder quickly is the failure to understand and compensate for the generational disconnect between them and their boss. For the first time in history, four very different generations are working together today: Traditionalists, Boomers, Xers, and Millennials. The differences between these generations are so vast, 60% of human resource managers at large companies say they’ve personally observed office conflicts flowing from generational differences.
Upper management tends to be comprised of Boomers, who value very different things than Millennials who are just entering the workforce today. Therefore, if you’re a young Millennial who would like to climb the corporate ladder quickly, it’s critical to understand who Boomers are and what they respond to, and act accordingly. First, this means honing your verbal communication skills. Boomers feel respected when you take the time to speak to them in person. They like to hold meetings and forge personal connections. Whenever possible (but without being a pest), skip the email and instead seek face time with upper management, whether it’s in the office or at extracurricular events.
Understand that Boomers also value a strong work ethic. So even if you find your entry level job to be unchallenging, give it 110% percent anyway. Never act as if the job you’re doing is beneath you. This will make an impression on Boomers, who feel that employees should work hard and pay their dues before moving up.
Boomers also tend to value formality in the workplace more than Millennials, which means you should always dress professionally and keep your desk area uncluttered. Keep your family pictures and desk toys to a minimum, and try to keep your paperwork neat. Never wear flip flops, as Boomers don’t consider them to be actual shoes. Men should always wear collared, tucked-in shirts, and women should avoid low necklines, bare shoulders, and short skirts. It’s an old adage, but always remember to dress for where you want to be, not for where you are.
Finally, whenever you send an email, make sure to write in complete, grammatically correct sentences, and always avoid abbreviations and texting shorthand. Never write “u, i, ur, lol, ttyl, abt2, thru,” or the like. Doing so will mark you as unprofessional and unworthy of moving up. Following these simple rules will greatly speed your path to the top.
Photo Credit Financial Hack.
Featured in Talent Management July 2009.
For the first time in history, effectively managing employees means reaching out to four distinctly different generations: traditionalists, boomers, Gen Xers and millennials. Each group has different values, experiences and expectations, which means the rules of recruitment and retention haven’t just changed – they’ve been thrown out altogether.
The one-size-fits-all programs that worked 10 years ago are now irrelevant and obsolete. Talent managers who think they can attract Xers and millennials with fabulous retirement benefits plans that kick in after five years of tenure with the company need to think again. The Bureau of Labor reports that people in their 20s change jobs on average once every 18 months. This age group grew up in the Internet Era – they have a short attention span and are used to instant gratification, which means they’re unlikely to bite if the carrot that’s dangled in front of them is only good five years out. They’re more likely to be enticed by a company iPhone – which costs a lot less than an extensive retirement package.
It might be tempting to ignore the wants and needs of these apparently flaky job-hoppers altogether. But failure to tailor corporate recruiting and retention efforts to attract this demographic can spell disaster for any company. The Department of Labor reports that the number of employees aged 55 and older increased by 30 percent between the years of 2000 and 2005, while the number of 25- to 50-year-old employees increased by just 1 percent in the same time frame. As older workers retire, there will be a shortage of young people to fill their shoes. Companies that are not effectively recruiting younger generations will experience a labor shortage that could produce a catastrophic interruption in business continuity.
The good news is millennials and Xers are not as flaky as their managing boomers and traditionalists might think. High turnover among younger generations is often directly linked to management’s unwillingness to tailor corporate programs to meet younger worker’s needs. Millennials are fiercely loyal and have faith in institutions, as long as those institutions make them feel valued and appreciated. However, traditionalists, boomers, Xers and millennials feel valued in very different ways and require different incentives.
Forget About One-Size-Fits-All
So how can talent managers design a uniform program that will effectively recruit, motivate and retain all four generations? They can’t. Companies that expect to compete in today’s marketplace implement incentive programs that offer options. Deciding which options to offer is as simple as surveying employees to find out what they want. Many companies never think to ask.
HR professionals have seen a strong disconnect between what managers think their employees want and what the employees actually want. For example, managers think high wages and job security are at the top of the list. But today’s workforce would rather have appreciation and better communication – two things that require little money to implement but can produce dramatic boosts in job satisfaction and employee retention rates.
Photo Credit Zichi.