According to the pessimists, the younger generation has been "going to the dogs" ever since the dog was domesticated. Every older generation has been convinced that nothing good could arise from the attitudes, values and behaviors of the younger crowd.
Don't you believe it. Today's young people are as smart, ambitious and ethical as those of any other generation. They have grown up in a different environment from their elders and, like every other generation, their values have been shaped by their environment.
They are your future work force, and they can make your business a winner if you know how to develop them and how to provide them with a motivating environment.
These young people are often referred to as the "Baby Bust" generation, because they came along at a time when small families were the fashion and the pharmaceutical industry had given us the tools for family planning. Hence the "Baby Boom" turned into a "Bust."
Here are some of the values that they hold:
Impatience. The younger generation, like every generation before them, yearns for the good life. Because they grew up in a fast-paced society, they look for rapid advancement. They want as much as possible as fast as possible.
Autonomy. Baby Busters are far more likely than their elders to ask "What's in it for me?" They will give you their loyalty, but only if you can show them how loyalty to the company serves their personal interests.
Self-Fulfillment. They're looking for jobs that allow them to work at the things they enjoy, while allowing them the leisure to pursue off-the-job interests. They are likely to see their jobs as means to an end -- the end being a high-quality life full of fun and enjoyment.
Cynicism. They think the preceding generations have handed them a raw deal in the form of messy world problems and a sluggish economy that shows few signs of catching fire. They fear that their generation will never be as well off as their parents' generation.
Extended adolescence. A high percentage of them are products of broken homes, and grew up with absentee, workaholic parents. As a result, they tend to marry later, stay in college, and live with their parents longer.
A need for attention. The Baby Busters who did not enjoy two-parent households, or who had to shift for themselves as latch-key kids, may feel cheated out of normal childhoods. Therefore, many of them look for managers and supervisors who can give them the time and attention their parents were unable to give them.
Self-Reliance. Often left to themselves by working parents, they've learned to make decisions on their own. Therefore, they're less likely to be impressed by the institutional authority represented by managers and supervisors.
Of course, these characteristics don't describe all members of the rising generation, but they do show a decided generational shift in attitudes.
Businesses that plan to succeed must take this shift into account. It might help to keep these points in mind:
The younger generation's work-place values may be different from yours, but they are just as valid to the youngsters as your values are to you. Condemning those values will only build resentment. The wise executive will help the Busters find ways to live up to their values while serving the company's interests. Remember, people do things for their own reasons; not for yours or mine. To mobilize the Busters' talents and energies behind your corporate goals, you have to show them how their best interests are served by these goals. If they can see personal benefits arising from your corporate goals, then they will become involved in fulfilling them.
Members of the younger generation are no less intelligent than older people, but many of them are lacking in educational and skill requirements.
Before we condemn young people as ignorant and untrained, let's consider what the work place demands of them. As one Ford executive put it, "Suddenly, we are asking employees to be self-directed team players who contribute to the organization and efficiency of the work place. This demands skills that have never before been expected from line workers."
More than half the new jobs being created require education beyond high school, and one-third of them require college degrees. I've heard many executives complain that workers in the new generation are unable to do even the simplest of mathematical calculations -- such as figuring the correct change. They're helpless if their computers or calculators go down.
Businesses must educate and develop the younger generation. It's the only generation we can turn to.
The new generation presents the business world with a sharp reduction in working-age population. There were 41 million Americans in their 20s in 1980 compared to an estimated 34 million in 2000. As the Baby Boomers reach retirement age, American business will face a dwindling pool of talent, with a different set of values. In the long run, our only option is to help young people become productive employees.
This task involves more than simply drilling them in basic job skills. We must help these young people achieve productive, quality-conscious, winning attitudes.
As the American Society for Training and Development observed in a special report, "Work in the new economy calls for a whole new set of skills and a range of knowledge that is both broader and deeper than currently required."
The Baby Busters must be shown how working toward corporate objectives can help them achieve their goals in life. And they must become quality conscious through an educational process that produces a quality-oriented culture.
Businesses must educate their managers and supervisors in the attitudes and skills necessary to lead the younger generation. The new workers cannot be effectively bossed. They will require skillful coaching and mentoring by leaders with strong people skills. When you communicate with Busters, it's not enough to tell them what to do. They want to know why they should do it. Many of them were latch-key children who developed an independent spirit fending for themselves while both parents were at work.
Busters don't want to be kept in the dark. They want to know what's going on in the company, and they want it from a reliable source -- management -- and not from the rumor mills. They also want to be involved in the decisions that affect them.
This calls for corporate leadership committed to the principles of participative management.
Participative management requires an educated work force. So businesses that succeed will have to commit themselves to continuing education and development. They can't avoid it.
In the past, only a small minority of American businesses have made significant investments in employee development. This will have to change in the future.
We can make the next generation a generation of winners. Our challenge is to show them how to achieve their personal objectives by working toward corporate objectives.
To learn more about Nido Qubein and/or to receive 20% off when you order his audios or books, visit www.yoursuccessstore.com.