The Employee of the Future

peggyI‘ve partnered with Spherion to provide insight and information from the 2015 Emerging Workforce Study published in part by CAHI but all opinions are my own. Please see below for additional disclosure.

I don’t dispute the very obvious fact that there are generations; I think we all get that. That’s always been the case. So why, as we head into the sunset of the year 2015, do we continue to denigrate one specific generation? The largest one by the way. According to the population projections released by the US Census Bureau earlier this year “Millennials (whom we define as between ages 18 to 34 in 2015) are projected to number 75.3 million, surpassing the projected 74.9 million Boomers (ages 51 to 69). The Gen X population (ages 35 to 50 in 2015) is projected to outnumber the Boomers by 2028.”

Obviously crap topics like “How to Manage Gen Y” still sell or these sessions wouldn’t continue to have massive attendance at every HR conference and articles and blog posts covering the subject wouldn’t get clicks and shares. But I, for one, had enough about 4 years ago. Really. Get off my lawn.

The tension – the push and pull – between the generations in the workforce has always existed. Let’s take a look at a youngster entering the workforce with whom many of us are familiar. OK, the “imaginary” workforce, but bear with me.

Peggy Olson was born (according to her official Mad Men bio) on May 25, 1939; 5 months before my mother (well, you know, if Peggy were real). On the show we saw her start her career as a timid secretary (at the age of 20) and, when the story ended in the fall of 1970 she was blasting her way up through the glass ceiling as a 31-year old advertising executive.

Peggy rocked.

She was brave, spirited, and complicated; she took us on a journey through the decade and showed us what it was like to be an eager goal-oriented woman breaking into the old-boys club. She put up with sexism and all the assorted biases and constraints imposed upon her by her coworkers, managers and clients. She kicked ass at her job, explored the counter-culture, smoked weed, and demanded to be treated with respect.

And, at her age, many with whom she worked considered her a kid. Agency Partner Bertram Cooper was born sometime in the latter part of the 18th century and Roger Sterling arrived around 1917. Ida Blankenship was, I would imagine, pushing 70 when she died at her desk in 1965. (RIP Miss Blankenship). Don Draper/Dick Whitman, Peggy’s mentor, boss, and eventually her subordinate, was born sometime circa 1925.

The workforce was changing and I would imagine that over 3 martini lunches they pissed and moaned about the lack of work ethic, lack of attention to proper professional office attire, and wacky hairstyles too.

Fast forward to 2015 when Peggy would be 76 years old, and, no doubt, the Chairman Emeritus of some Advertising Agency. What would she, and her executive team, leaders and HR team be thinking about when contemplating the workforce of the future? If they dove into the Spherion study they would learn:

  • There are more generations in the workplace than at any other time in history and employers are faced with the challenges of recruiting, managing and retaining workers with vastly different wants and needs. (I don’t know; Miss Blankenship and Peggy had a 50-year age gap and both managed to get their wants and needs met at work).
  • Many employers are concerned with the growing skills gap and know that narrowing the gap is critical to their future success.
  • 82% of employers say recruiting and attracting Generation Y workers are critical to their company’s future success. (Really? You haven’t yet figured out how to recruit a 30 – 34 year old employee? They are Gen Y too…)
  • One-third of employers are concerned about turnover and retention; a significant jump over last year when not even a quarter (23%) of employers shared the same concern.
  • 70% say that Baby Boomers exiting the workforce will leave a major skills gap within their organizations. (We’ve been singing this song for 10 – 15 years already; time for a new tune).
  • 58% report they are already preparing to attract and recruit Gen Z to stay ahead of future talent needs. (I was targeting and pre-sourcing middle school and high school students in the mid 90’s when I worked for a science and research organization; don’t smart recruiters in high growth professions/companies always do this???)
  • Gens Y and Z are least loyal generations and most likely to leave current employers. (This is utter crap. Talented and in-demand employees will always leave bad employers and toxic workplaces; it has nothing to do with generations. See Peggy Olson’s picture above. #WorkIt.)
  • Gens Y and Z engagement and job satisfaction are low. In addition, the online reputation of a company is important. (Reference Amazon. Am I right?)

The study gives us good insight into what many employers are thinking. Check it out. Then, once it hits about 11 AM, feel free to loosen your tie, pour yourself a drink, and relax in your office as you contemplate the immortal words of Roger Sterling:

“Maybe every generation thinks the next one is the end of it all. Bet there are people in the Bible walking around, complaining about kids today.”

Disclosure Language:

Spherion partnered with bloggers such as me for their Emerging Workforce Study program. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about any idea mentioned in these posts. Spherion believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Spherion’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.


4 thoughts on “The Employee of the Future

  1. Robin:

    What a spirited and delightful post. I’ve smiling thinking of Peggy as she continues on into her senior years – ha. Also appreciate your commentary on the survey findings – this conversation around generations still has meat and merit. Go figure– thanks for making me giggle. Katrina

  2. I absolutely agree. I am at the end of the Boomer generation and I can tell you for a fact that my work ethic stunk when i was a young 20-something. The difference was that I was lucky enough to work for a man who saw my potential and took it upon himself to become my mentor. Instead of complaining about me, he held me accountable and taught me to envision my future. Coming from a family with a steelworker father and a stay-at-home mother, I had no role models growing up who had ever had to deal with the politics in a large company. My dad’s work ethic was as solid as a rock, I can tell you that, but it wasn’t genetic. Someone had to take the time to make time for me. I will never forget my mentor. He took raw clay and molded an eventual executive. Don’t waste time complaining – make a difference in some young person’s life!!!!

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