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Are you Ready to Rumble with Gen Y?

By Carol Piras, Managing Partner, The Piras Group

By Carol Piras, The Piras Group

A hot topic in the last few years has been the challenge of 4 generations now working side by side in corporate America.

What changes will this bring to the workplace?  Can we all learn to get along?  How can we leverage the strengths and skills of each generation to its fullest?

These are thorny questions that companies are beginning to grapple with.  If you look at the statistics, they are telling:

U.S Workplace Trends by the Numbers

  • 65% of employees say generation gaps make it hard to get things done
  • By 2010, nearly 1 in 3 workers in the U.S. will be over 50
  • The skilled-worker gap will grow to 5.3M by 2010, and to 14M by 2020
  • 50% of companies expect a significant knowledge vulnerability by the exit of mature workers
  • 72% of “matures” said they plan on returning to work in some capacity after formal retirement

* Source: Communication World, Jan-Feb, 2007


Companies must begin to operate with urgency in both understanding the underlying motivational drivers of each generation, and to learn the experiences that shape how these cohorts will affect workplace policies, talent development,  work assignments, and values.

Gen Y with 85M people born between 1982 and 2001 are just now entering the workforce in droves.

This is the largest generation to occur, topping the baby boom generation with a mere 77M people.  Recent statistics show that baby boomers are just now starting to retire, with numbers expected to increase in the next few years.  In the same way that boomers shaped the environment and corporate life with their sheer numbers, Gen Y is starting to make its mark as well.

 Gen Y brings tremendous technical savvy and optimism. 

It also brings a sense of entitlement, different work ethics, a demand for development and learning, a desire to move up quickly and to make money. Managing this generation has its challenges.

Companies need to re-evaluate outdated work policies, create telecommuting and social media policies, change training and development to be global, interactive and relevant, and to adopt different work assignment and feedback loops, to name a few. Several recent articles suggest that the old “8-5 at the office” is an outdated paradigm. 

In the same ways that businesses need to reinvent themselves to be profitable and sustainable, the same holds true for managing the workforce. Without evolving new ways of working, learning and growing, companies will find they cannot attract or retain qualified knowledge and technical workers.  With a shortage looming, you can’t afford not to.

Generations Chart

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