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People always criticize whats new. Change is scary, but the pace of change isn’t phased by our emotional preferences or blockages. The pace of today’s change is as fast as your internet connection on a high speed router. People who are under 35 years old today, will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025. Yes, what I said was “People who are under 35 years old today, will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025”. In a few short years that means half of the workforce will be way younger than we are! The way we did things “before” is not only less relevant today, but in a decade, will be totally irrelevant. Popular values have gone from submissive, hard working, loyalty, who had never-used-a-key-board, to confident, entitled, fun loving, moral, realists with street smarts and social connections from Islamabad to Phoenix, Cape Town and Stockholm without missing a status update. Currently, Gen X is running the show and easing ourselves into a quickly moving world which is changing shape before our eyes. Like voyeurs we watch ourselves becoming outdated in real time!

Whether we like it or not, the values embraced by those who will be dominating our workforce are those we need to work with, rather than criticize for their surprising in-congruence with our own. Although today we might appear to be “in control” and “our values are better” and “how dare they not try to be more like us to get a job, heck knows we did”, simply wont cut it. We are no longer in control – really.

As chief executives and decision makers today in all areas of business, we are gagging for good skills and engaged employees who want to be here and give their all to our companies. Even in our recessionary economies, with high unemployment, good skills are hard to come by. The commodity has shifted from a sellers market of jobs to a market where, how companies make employees feel today impacts these companies immediately.

Those we are relying upon today to power our companies have their own demands and they are not taking wait for an answer. The growing workforce (which I resist calling a generation because its not only a generation; its everyone in the workforce today who is 35 or younger and the trend is not changing) seeks answers immediately and gets them. Making sure your company is on the right end of the answer is more critical today than ever before. This socially connected workforce knows it in real time.

The XY EquationGood skills + what companies need to do and embed in their culture to attract, engage and retain Gen Y talent = Business Success

Thinking about what they value and how to align them with what you do is the way to begin engaging them, joining their conversations and inspiring them to remain on side. How?

Well, here are just a few examples to embed in your company’s culture:

  • increase abilities to work flexibly by letting go of traditionalist views on where we need to be at what time to do our jobs, especially if its not really necessary to be there all the time,
  • allow access on company computers, cell phones and tablets to social media sites (they use these to help your business if they believe in it!),
  • find out what floats their boats in terms of volunteering or causes and make use of transferable skills they demonstrate there in your company’s workplace (they have strong sense of civic and moral duty),
  • cross-train and challenge them with their own development and then support them with plenty of feedback and provide them opportunities to grow with you,
  • ensure career plans are in place which address their desire for speedy progression (back this up with creative ways for skill acquisition),
  • train managers really well in the “softer skills” such as staying connected, communicating, career development and understanding employee aspirations,
  • understand social networks – how they master them and globalization – how much it impacts them;and
  • culture, culture, culture…its all about the behaviors that you celebrate and reward that builds the atmosphere you strive for.

If you can’t beat ’em join ’em has never been more apt than when it comes to an insurance policy for corporate success in 2020 and beyond…and the preparation for that is short and its now.
Carpe diem!

(1) An approximate summary of the generational charts but don’t quote me:
(Traditionalists 1927-1945) – loyal, hard work, submissive, tech challenged, traditional
(Boomers 1946-1965) – work-centric, independent, goal-oriented, personal gratification, team oriented, competitive.
(Gen X 1965-1980) –  highly-educated, pragmatic, self reliant, seeking balance
(Gen Y 1981-2000) – achievement, confident, fun!, needy, social, global, techy, immediate, street smart, realistic.

Belinda Morris of Peoplescape LLC.
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