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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the April 30, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Excerpt: `Generations Collide’
In this excerpt from When Generations Collide, a book
by Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman, who speak at the
first annual Cornerstone New Jersey Weekend on May 2 and May 3 in
Cape May, the authors talk about how easy it is to overlook whole
groups of job candidates, and explain why it is a mistake to do so:
young people that they are ignoring one of their most valuable resources
— Traditionalist employees. Traditionalists, the group born prior
to 1946, have the skills, qualifications, experience, and maturity
organizations need to retain, and they’re right under our noses. Rather
than losing them, companies need to springboard them back into the
labor pool long before they all end up poolside in Miami. Unfortunately,
in our survey, a surprising 40 percent of Traditionalists disagreed
with the statement "My company does a good job making me want
As employers continue to fight the war for talent, they complain constantly
about the quality of applicants. Yet applicants of quality are right
under their noses. Traditionalists are ready, willing, and able to
work if only we can look past a few gray hairs and see the characteristics
that truly made them the greatest generation.
Traditionalists are the generation that invented the one-page resume.
Job-hopping was almost unheard of, and many stayed with the same company
their whole career. Ralph Thorp, a 71-year-old district representative
for Lutheran Brotherhood, has been with that company 44 years. "When
I do retire," he commented, "I want to be sure my customers
are taken care of. The company relies on me for that." How many
would kill to have Ralph’s attitude rub off on their employees?
In times of rapid change, these seasoned workers can provide much
needed continuity. They’ve lived a company’s legacy, and they need
to be around to share it so that customers are served, mistakes get
made only once, and golden opportunities are not missed. Ralph Thorp
is busy training younger salespeople. "I have a history to share,"
he says, "and best of all, they are interested in listening. We
can learn from each other."
The good news is that most Traditionalists have bigger plans than
sitting on a porch swing all day drinking ice tea. The bad news is
that most managers aren’t so good at identifying the high potential
Traditionalist candidates. They might be great at singling out the
25-to-35 year-old with spunk, but few are taking time to spot the
62-year-old with the energy to morph into new roles.
it comes to Millennials, workers born after 1982, organizations are
making two costly assumptions:
Some assume that the Millennials will be just like those who have
gone before them. Nothing could be further from the truth. If there’s
one thing we’ve learned about the generations, it’s that each one
has its own generational personality. Organizations will have to get
to know the Millennials without making the same mistake so many made
with Generation X.
Millennials, too, will have a unique set of values and expectations
about work, and unless their viewpoints are clearly understood, history
is bound to repeat itself.
Others assume there’s no hurry to get to know the Millennials —
after all, most companies are still struggling to figure out Generation
X! The fact is, the time to recruit them is now.
In many industries, such as high tech, Millennials are being recruited
while they’re still in trade school, high school, or college. At Vir2L,
one of the hottest Web design firms, the average age of a top designer
isn’t 25 to 45; it’s 17 to 24! Smart industries are forming connections
with schools through internship programs and mentoring opportunities
that can introduce Millennials to their companies in positive ways
— long before they’re ready to hit the workforce full time.
The Fibre Box Association, for one, isn’t waiting around until the
Millennials have all decided where they want to work. It can’t afford
to. The Fibre Box people know that not many Millennial designers are
sitting around computer screens pondering the future of the litho
label. So Fibre Box has gone on the offensive and formed relationships
with trade schools to introduce Millennials in computer-aided design
programs to the industry. It’s a real eye-opener for young designers
who might never have thought about where that colorful Cap’n Crunch
box came from. By providing job placement opportunities with the manufacturers
who are their members, this old world industry is carving out a brave
new world by opening Millennials’ eyes to an exciting career option.
went, you’ll always get what you always got. To find new employees
to fill new niches, you’re going to have to step outside the status
quo. Sometimes this means tapping into a generation you’ve never hired
before. Other times that’s not enough. But once you understand who
the generations are and what makes them tick, you can use that knowledge
to discover generational niches that are the equivalent of buried
recruiting battles in the country are being waged in the field of
education. As the Millennial boom has exploded into schools, the battle
to fill teaching positions has reached crisis proportions. In California
alone, 200,000 teachers will be needed in the next 10 years. In Minneapolis,
Minnesota, districts have had to hire so rapidly that 65 percent of
the city’s teachers have less than five years’ experience.
Newsweek reported that administrators in Chicago are
recruiting retirees as a way of boosting the rolls of available substitute
teachers. "Creating an itch" means first finding the retired
teachers, letting them know how much they are needed as subs, and
then providing transportation to and from school via van shuttles.
It seems senior subs tend to turn down assignments located too far
from public transportation, but they’ll fill a niche if they have
a built-in way of getting to and from work.
To bring in the Boomers, Las Vegas’s Clark County School District
has developed a new program called E-March, aimed at snatching up
retiring military officers.
That means getting out to military bases and targeting those 40 and
50-year-olds who have put in the 20 years necessary to be eligible
for a full pension and enticing them with the idea of a new career.
But the Las Vegas district doesn’t stop there. To extend a hand to
Xers, it is enticing them with promises of year-round sunshine, sans
blizzards and state income tax. For candidates who can’t afford to
fly to Vegas for an interview, the district provides high-tech videophones
to interview them remotely. Techno-flexibility has convinced Gen X
teachers from 42 states to pack their bags and relocate.
which has been experiencing a dearth of qualified candidates to become
insurance agents, is doing its part to make the teacher shortage even
worse. The company created a profile of who makes the best agents
and then opened their minds to search the universe for where that
new niche of candidates might exist.
Boomers and Xers who are established, successful teachers sprang to
mind and onto the pages of a new recruiting campaign. While it’s probably
not too popular with school principals, the Farmers strategy makes
sense. Schoolteachers are well-organized, people-oriented self-starters
with vast numbers of contacts within their communities to help them
get launched in sales.
effort to identify creative new generational niches, you might have
to create your own. The CIA did just that in Silicon Valley. Unable
to compete for the brightest Generation X workers and the hottest
new technology against the glitz, glamour, and cold hard capital of
Silicon Valley, the CIA decided to become a player.
The result is a newly formed venture capital company called In-Q-Tel,
a private nonprofit funded with $28 million authorized by Congress.
Its mission is to "invest in high-tech start-ups that will help
the spy agency regain the edge in gizmos and gadgets that it once
held over the private sector."
Forming a new entity with a hipper style enables the CIA to get the
best of both-access to the Gen Xers they want and acquisition of the
technologies they need to thrive in an, increasingly competitive global
environment. Even In-Q-Tel’s style is a sharp departure from the buttoned-down
recruiting approach you might expect. Their website promises freewheeling
techies the opportunity to work on "cool s-!"
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