The Wall Street Journal provides an article that does a nice job of laying out the upcoming shortage of workers. The focus is upon the different generations and the general drive behind each. The article is rather rudimentary, but it provides a clean view of the problem.
Americans of childbearing age simply are not producing enough kids to meet the economy’s future need for workers, notably in fast-growing fields such as medicine and engineering. The shortfall is coming largely because the fabled baby boom generation was so huge—75 million Americans born in the 18 years from 1946 to 1964—that no other generation can be expected to match it any time soon.
Ok, that point leads to this:
They are being replaced by two younger generations, each with its own desires regarding the opportunities and rewards available at work. The challenge for hiring managers is to figure out what these workers’ needs are, so that employers will be able to find them, hire them, and keep them on the job.
Retention is going to be a top business initiative over the next couple of decades which is a simply outcome of supply and demand.
The baby boomers: They place a heavy emphasis on work and successfully climbing the corporate ladder. Work is an anchor in their lives.
The Gen Xers, born between 1965 and 1980: They enjoy work but are more concerned about the work-life balance.
Generation Y, also known as Millennials, born after 1980 and now age 28 or younger: They often have different priorities than their Gen X and baby boomer counterparts, Smith says.
“Because of their reliance on technology, [Millennials] think they can work at any time and any place and believe they should be evaluated on the basis of work produced—not on how, when or where they got it done. Curiously, most Millennials want long-term relationships with employers, but on their own terms,” Smith says.
And finally, here is the rub we have seen between Baby Boomer managers and Gen Y employees:
The Millennials respond poorly to those who act in an authoritarian manner and those who expect to be respected due to higher rank alone. They believe they can learn quickly, take on significant responsibility and make major contributions far sooner than baby boomers think they can.
Exactly. There has to be a balance between the boomer manager allowing the Gen Y worker to grow quickly in the role and the Gen Y worker not expecting too much, too fast. There is distinct tension between these two goals.