Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Scenes From the Culture Clash - Danielle Sacks

In a very timely article in the Jan/Feb issue of FastCompany Magazine, Danielle Sacks brings us stories from the frontlines about our newest generation of employees. It makes me glad I left the field of Human Resources in 1994. The very fact that Human Resources is now asked to deal not only with employees and their issues, but also with their parents, is not something I could have conceived of a decade ago.

This article supports what Eric Chester articulated in his book Getting Them to Give a Damn. It's a brave new world and adapting is essential to companies surviving this influx of young people. Sacks tells us there are 76 million children of baby boomers born between 1978 and 2000, and they are flooding into our workplaces where three other generations are already trying to productively coexist: the traditionalists (born before 1945), boomers (born 1946-1964) and generation X (born 1965-1977).

Their expectations are simply different and centered much more around the idea of a work/life balance, with the "life" factor featured most prominently. They don't live to work, they work to live, and they fully expect companies to understand and accommodate that worldview. And companies are doing just that - including bastions of tradition such as law firms and consulting firms. In order to attract the best and the brightest, they are learning to adapt age old systems to new age demands. There's a great deal to be gleaned from some of the companies who are taking these bold new steps to meet this generation of workers head on. In the real estate world, it's not just employees who are looking for these accommodations, but future real estate agents as well. How they choose to structure their life as an independent contractor will likely change how some firms decide to recruit, train and support this new cadre of professionals. The millennials are a force to be reckoned with, and companies of every size in every industry would be wise to reckon with them now.

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