There’s no question that generational issues play into job search. I wanted to share a few key details I learned in the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Atlanta’s conference this week, “What’s Age Got to Do with It?” Presented by Maureen Kelly, Atlanta Regional Convention, Heyward Williams, Georgia Power and Rosalia Thomas, IBM, the talk focused on how companies can help retain workers who may be retirement age and touched on generational issues in the workplace.
The session addressed the issue of how companies can plan for and harness the power of their more experienced workers who may plan to retire in search of flexibility, but may still be willing to and interested in contributing to the organization’s brain trust. Job seekers may not realize that some companies are actually concerned about the fact that their more seasoned, knowledgeable workers may leave the organization high and dry when it is time to leave. With the projected number of people aged 65+ expected to grow exponentially, it’s an important topic to consider.
The presentation shared the following statistics:
– By 2010, 40% of the U.S. workforce will be over 40.
– Regarding the federal workforce (1.6 million civilians):
- 50% can retire in the next 5 years
- 70% are supervisors
- NASA: scientists and engineers over 60 outnumber those under 30, 3 to 1.
In 1991, 11% planned to continue working past age 65.
In 2010, 33% expect to continue working past 65.
When I was tweeting this session, I heard from several Twitter friends questioning if people really wanted to stay in the workforce, or if financial considerations were primary decision factors. In fact, the presentation suggested that 71% of these workers are happy with their job and do not want to leave. (Per CNNMoney.com). (Of course, this is just a statistic, and will vary from person to person, but there was a strong feeling in the room that people WANT to work because they enjoy it and want to continue to contribute.)
The presentation noted these companies as having best practices regarding keeping their experienced professionals engaged in programs such as mentoring, consulting, advising, etc: Pfizer, Georgia Power, IBM, WellStar. These are companies that value age and experience. This is important to note.
(An aside: for those interested in exploring “encore careers” – work that combines passion, purpose and income, check out http://www.encore.org/.)
At the end of the talk, Rosalia Thomas from IBM shared some interested points regarding her impressions of Gen Y employees. In her view, Ys want everything quickly, want to move up and quickly take on leadership roles. They don’t offer any loyalty. She believes they focus mainly on how they will benefit from the job and how they can move to the next job. In fact, she related a story of a young hire who explained that she was only in the job for as long as she was benefiting, and planned to move on as soon as it was feasible. While Ms. Thomas’ explained that Gen Y job seekers have seen their parents burned by loyalty, the explanation didn’t seem to temper her opinion of employees so blunt about their goals and plans.
Ms. Thomas seemed very concerned with the trends she is seeing with Gen Y employees. It is important to point out that, while being loyal to a company may not be realistic or even expected, it may not behoove entry-level workers to be quite so direct about their plans. There is a lot of focus on authenticity in the blogosphere, but, for Gen Yers who wish to gain traction in certain companies, this talk was a reminder that those sentiments may not be received well.
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