Soundview Executive Book Summaries


Age Profiling in the Workplace

In my blog post back on April 11th, I wrote about the need for companies to develop a work ethic among Generation Y employees as part of my coverage of our webinar with Eric Chester. But as I was writing, I couldn’t help but think of several young adults I know who have a very strong work ethic. Is it fair to toss them in with the rest of Gen Y?

Over the past decade a host of books have been published on the differences between the generations of workers, with labels like Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Millennials and so on. As you read books like The 2020 Workplace, Bridging the Boomer-Xer Gap, Generations at Work and similar titles, the authors use the differences between the generations to talk about their skills and weaknesses as groups, and how to take advantage of the skills and overcome the weaknesses.

These are very helpful books in dealing with the big picture of the mixed bag which is our employee pool. These authors answer the important question of how we make the most of each generation’s abilities and also smooth over the wrinkles that appear as these generations mix in the workplace.

But at the same time we must recognize that not every individual of a certain age-range is going to be the same as their peers, and that there is a great overlap between these generations. Also, other factors come to bear in what makes people different including other demographic factors and upbringing.

Mary Anne Osborne, in a guest blog for Sage HR, warns us of the risks of age profiling. She states “But of key concern here is not letting externally perceived notions of generational tendencies cloud judgment of character.” The danger of making assumptions about a person based solely on their generational group can lead to costly mistakes in hiring and training.

Osborne give the example of Generation Y, which some characterize as needy, disloyal and self-entitled. And yet this generation has brought us Groupon, Facebook, Tumblr and foursquare.

The key lesson here is to make use of what we know about the general characteristics of each generation while always giving each individual the benefit of the doubt. The old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” applies here. Don’t judge a person by their “generational cover” – give them a chance to show their true merits.

Advertisements


Working With “Y”

I was tempted to write a clever introduction concerning whether or not members of Generation Y (those born between 1980 and 1999) are in your midst. Then I realized something vital: this is a blog … on the Internet. There is no other generation who has lived the double-life of virtual and physical existence more than this group. Something tells me that of the numerous readers I have, a good portion of you probably count your birthday somewhere between the years listed above. So, let me start over …

This article came up from the folks at the Guardian in the United Kingdom. While I think the first sentence in the article does more than its share of negative stereotyping, it’s interesting to see that the subject of Gen Y in the workplace continues to get press. We’ve covered it ourselves, both in summaries and in reviews. We’re at a critical juncture in the history of the American work force, and it seems to me that everyone is a touch anxious over where we will go. Suffice to say, Gen Y is currently experiencing one of the roughest job markets in which to enter a work force.

One also has to appreciate the fact that Baby Boomers, the generation that in its youth shifted the focus of everyone from advertisers to political campaigners to the young, are now scratching their greying heads trying to figure out what’s going on with “these kids.” My years may be showing here, but I seem to recall coming of age in an era of economic uncertainty where foreign war made headlines and the environment, social issues and the generation gap were on the minds of many. Throw in a reference to Facebook and an e-mail address, and we’d be looking at Gen Y, wouldn’t we?

The more things change …

P.S.: I mentioned that we reviewed a book on Gen Y. To read it, and dozens of others for FREE, simply sign up at Summary.com.