Over the 235 years of existence of our country, the workforce of the United States has undergone drastic change. We have gone from a primarily agricultural economy to a manufacturing economy to, now primarily, a service industry. Companion to our "changing economy," employers have had to deal with and satisfy a "different type of workforce." As we move forward in the 21 st Century, workforce dynamics will undergo another very substantial change!
From the 1920s to the mid-40s, the employment workforce was mainly composed of the "Silent Generation" that was extremely hardworking and, with rare exception, a group of employees who did not necessarily demand a lot of their employers. It should be noted that this was the beginning of serious unionization of the workforce so "some demands" were made. The next generation, covering the time frame of the mid-40s through the mid-60s - the Baby Boomers, of which the author is a member - was certainly the blessed generation that had all possible opportunities for education, business opportunity, and growth, and provided a "loyal" work group. The next generation - Generation X, which covers the group from the mid-60s through the early 80s - was highly educated and very challenging to supervise a group that questioned everything. The current generation is Generation Y, which covers those born in the early to mid-80s through 2004, and is the future of the workforce.
Currently, the Generation Y group, also known as Millennials, represents approximately 15% of the United States workforce currently but will certainly be a substantial majority of the workforce by 2020. This generation of potential employees has some very different and unique characteristics for which employers must prepare. They have been raised in a somewhat privileged environment (gifted classes, highly mobile parents/families) and mostly have not wanted or been denied a lot. Generation Y members are extremely goal-oriented and tech-savvy. They have a greater entrepreneurial spirit and are much more tolerant and socially conscious. In the future, this generation, which has been noted for being rewarded for "participation in activities" (trophies for participating in youth sports and other youth events), will be looking for the same type of rewards from employers. They will want "tangible/touchy-feely" rewards and the amount of pay will not suffice as that reward.
This generation of future employees probably will not be as tolerant of "rules and regulations" and employers will need to provide a work environment that will stimulate the Generation Y people. That "stimulation" may require more open recognition of achievements ("parties and balloons"?) and more varied benefits, perks, and professional development opportunities. The workplace itself may change from a "work-only" atmosphere to a more social environment (onsite exercise facilities; refreshment areas - onsite Starbucks??).
The employer of the future will have to prepare and deal with the "new Generation Y workforce" - Are You Ready????
Questions? Contact Walter J. Liszka in the Chicago office at [email protected] or by phone at (312) 629-9300.