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Saturday, December 31, 2005

The New Workers

Parents of children coming up to wage-slave age should take note of the January edition of FastCompany and Danielle Sacks' fascinating Scenes from the Culture Clash.

It's a look at the dilemma facing companies "just now waking up to the havoc that the newest generation of workers is causing in their offices."

I subscribe to FC, so the Clash link works for me, but just in case, I don't think I'm revealing any state secrets you yourselves can't look up on the news-stand:

  • Page 10 of the edition with Shanghai Tang's pouting Joanne Ooi adorning the front cover.
  • Use the home page link and enter access code FCJANSOCAP

    Sacks has done her research:

    • 76 million children of baby boomers born between 1978 and 2000.
    • Four generations are being asked to coexist at once:
      • Traditionalists (born before 1945)
      • Boomers (born 1946-1964)
      • Generation X (1965-1977)
      • Millennials (alternately known as Gen-Y, Echo Boomers, Net gen, and even "Generation Why," because they never stop questioning the status quo).

    As Sacks points out,

    "Managers will be challenged to minimize the friction and maximize the assets of four distinct sets of work values and styles simultaneously.

    The latest generation to join the mix is disruptive not only because of its size but because of its attitudes. Speak to enough intergenerational experts who study such things and you begin to get the picture:

    Millennials aren't interested in the financial success that drove the Boomers or the independence that has marked the Gen-Xers, but in careers that are personalized.

    They want educational opportunities in China and a chance to work in their companies' R&D departments for six months.

    "They have no expectation that the first place they work will at all be related to their career, so they're willing to move around until they find a place that suits them," says Dan Rasmus, who runs a workplace think tank for Microsoft.

    Thanks to their overinvolved Boomer parents, this cohort has been coddled and pumped up to believe they can achieve anything. Immersion in PCs, video games, email, the Internet, and cell phones for most of their lives has changed their thought patterns and may also have actually changed how their brains developed physiologically.

    These folks want feedback daily, not annually. And in case it's not obvious, Millennials are fearless and blunt. If they think they know a better way, they'll tell you, regardless of your title."

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