We hear a lot about the changing workplace these days.
Those entering the workforce are encouraged to get into the trades. It’s good advice. You can make good money, and quickly.
Getting a post-secondary education, whether college or university, is also great advice. We’re still going to need doctors and lawyers and dentists okay, two out of three isn’t bad.
Much of our focus is on the employee. Sadly, not enough attention is paid to the changing demographic of our workforce.
The people entering the workforce now are vastly different from those entering the workforce 40 years ago or even 10 years ago. Workplaces have to adapt if they want to retain employees.
Generation Y, which current 20-somethings are often referred to, come from a different world than that of the Baby Boomers who are now running the world.
Gen Y workers have grown up in a society where everyone gets a medal just for participating, and where family and friends are more important than working a 70-hour week so someone else can reap the big benefits.
Gen Y workers put themselves first when it comes to their jobs. If it isn’t working for them, they move on.
The current labour market works in their favour in this regard. With shortages across the country, workers can pick and choose where they want to work.
It’s not that Gen Y workers are lazy or not motivated. It’s just that they focus their energies in different directions. For Baby Boomers, working a 60 or 70-hour week for no extra pay is often viewed as a badge of honour. For Gen Y workers, working 60 or 70 hours a week isn’t a high priority.
Baby boomers usually couldn’t wait to get a job and get out in the real world.’ Gen Y workers, however, see nothing wrong with staying at home longer saving money on food and lodging and getting mom and dad (who are Boomers by the way) to help, not only with finances but with job hunting, dealing with employers, etc.
It’s not that it’s bad, only different.
The point is that in today’s changing workplaces, employers have to be able to adapt to the changing workforce if they want to keep their employees. Gone are the days of the boss screaming “do it or else,” being the prime motivating tool in an employer’s bag of tricks.
Employees will now choose the “or else,” because it isn’t a dark prospect. In today’s changing workplace, the businesses that will survive are the ones that can adapt to the changing workforce. They do this through different incentive plans, flexible hours that accommodate the external needs of employees, and a change in the old attitude that the employee should be thankful the employer even hired them in the first place.
The Boomers might not like it, but as more and more of them march into retirement the fact of the matter is, the bulk of the workforce will soon be the children of the Boomers.
And, just like the Boomers before them, the Gen Y workers are undoubtedly the product of their parents but, at the same time, nothing like their parents.
Bill Phillips is the winner of the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s 2007 Outstanding Columnist Award.