Gen Off

the who

Enough already.  Just stop now.  It’s been said.  It is over.

What am I am complaining about?  All this never seemingly ending stream of generational stuff (or should that be guff?).  My journey with it all began at mildly interested following through to indifference, on to boredom and then parody.  I have now arrived at Extremely Irritated.

Yesterday evening I was browsing LinkedIn and clicked through to three articles.  Each one contained some generalisation about generations.  If this debate was even once worth having, then that time has come and very much gone.  I recently had a quiz highlighted to me on twitter, in which you could determine which generation you belonged to by answering questions including ‘do you have any tattoos?’ and ‘do you vote Conservative’.  When you have reached this level of debate then there is quite simply nowhere else to go.

I’ve blogged on this subject before, and so have others.  Check out a couple of pieces from Mervyn Dinnen’s excellent blog here:  I’m returning to the subject because it just won’t go away.  More than any other function I have seen, HR people give themselves a hard time.  We worry about whether we are strategic, at the top table, seen as quite so relevant as other key business functions.  This is a whole other debate, but what I will say, is that if you are a HR person, and if you are being influenced by this conversation, talking about it to your senior managers or trying to use it to make decisions then please, just don’t.  Stop.  Because it’s adding nothing to the party.  All we need to do is treat people according to their individuality.  Their age just isn’t that relevant.  Just like all the rest of their protected characteristics.  Offer choice and flexibility, treat people well and that will usually be enough.

So here is a revolutionary thought: this generation is different to the last.  The future of work and its workers will be different again; people will want different thing, have different challenges, needs, desires and wants and their own particular context.  It has always been so.  And it always will be.  The world changes fast, and work changes with it.  So prepare for it, but without making sweeping generalisations about people based on the year in which they were born.  It’s barely one step up from astrology.

Generations schmenertions.


Generation Blah

Am I alone in thinking that there is far too much being written about the differences between generations? Well I know I’m not completely alone as I know @TimScottHR and @HRtinker agree with me, as we have chatted about it on twitter.

Lots have been written about the generations. I’ll admit to sharing quite a bit of it myself. I was pretty interested in the whole concept when I first heard about it (years ago). Among lots of other things, we are told than Gen Y are different. They put their work life balance above pay and benefits. They are more interested in an organisation’s approach to CSR than any generation before them. Gen Z are going to be even more different still, apparently. As for what is coming after them, I’m not sure. I’ve seen references to Generation Facebook, Generation Connected; perhaps it will be like car registrations and we will start from the beginning of the alphabet again.

Are desires, wants and needs really that generation specific? I’m starting to think it might be just a little bit patronising to make such sweeping generalisations as those I have seen lately through a variety of articles, infographics etc. What is certain that in a few short years we will have five generations in the workplace, and we have to make space for the desires, demands and wants for every individual – without necessarily, in my view giving them labels, or indeed falling into the trap of pigeon holing anyone based on when they were born. Talent acquisition and retention, engagement and motivation will only be achieved by flexibility of approach.

But, perhaps it’s just my age……

Is the death of long service greatly exaggerated?

One of my team hit 20 years’ service a couple of weeks ago. This isn’t anything new where I work; at a mere seven years I am practically a probationer. What got me thinking though was that she had started with our company as a teenager.

If you read a lot of what is said in the media about Gen Y and Z, you would believe that this sort of long service will soon be gone from our working culture. There are articles that suggest this generation will demand everything from different office environments to leadership styles. According to various articles I have read, they are more interested in a company’s approach to CSR, want to know about your social media policy before they will take a role with you, and are more interested in life/work balance than salary.
We are told that this group of people won’t want to stay with one employer, they will want portfolio careers and shorter service will be more typical. However, at the same time we are seeing large companies who once recruited tons of graduates now including school leavers in their target market, putting them through their degree with a long term incentive to stay. So how do the two square up?

There have always been students who took things seriously at a young age. When I was a university they were the ones who joined the Law Society, entered mooting competitions and worked for free at solicitors during the summer holidays. Then there were the rest of us. When I got to the end of my final year I realised the only Bar that I would be called to was the one in the student union and I promptly became a recruitment consultant. A recruitment consultant that did all manner of things that I now would consider to be a disciplinary offence. The point I am making here (there is one I promise) is that there have always been generational differences and attitudes about work. Young people have often had different attitudes to and at work then those before them, as I did, but as you get older then something changes. Like having a mortgage. I either matured or conformed, depending on your point of view.

Predicting the future is a notoriously tricky business. Just ask the producers of Back to the Future (I’m still awaiting my hover board). I do wonder if we are in danger of stereotyping Gen Y et al too much. It will also be interesting to see how what impact, if any, the current economic situation coupled with the high cost of going to university has on the predictions about the wants and needs of this generation and the next. Large tuition fee debts might impact significantly on the salary v WLB issue. How important will it be for an organisation to have a BYOD policy when you’re relying on the bank of mom and dad? On the converse, this might make job offers for more money more tempting, adding to the possibility of short tenure.

Whatever happens, it’s a given that Gen Y and Z will also face competing for jobs in an increasingly global talent market, will probably work for considerably longer than their parents, as well as work with a vast array of technology that will change the way we learn and work on a daily basis. Employers will need to make some changes; for example a one stop benefits shop simply isn’t going to cut it when you have five generations in the workplace.

Gen Y will make up around half of the workforce by 2020, so HR practitioners need to get preparing. The question for me is how much do we need to do; will Gen Y bend to the workplace, or will the workplace bend to Gen Y? I’m at the Future of Work Consortium this week, so I’ll update………..