People under age 48 in 2012 (Gen Xers and millennials) don’t think work–life balance is a perk you earn from having been employed by an organization for a long time. Instead, they think of it as the way a reasonable workplace is run. Organizations benefit from increased employee goodwill when they have policies such as flexible schedules that are truly ingrained in the company’s culture, so that younger staff can take advantage of them without fear of damaging their careers.
Beyond the Hype
These are difficult times for recent college graduates looking for work. They are part of a large and well-educated generation, and now also have to compete with the millions of more-experienced workers who have been laid off. Although many would like to think that everything will work out for these young people when the economy turns around, the research results are much less positive than that. For example, Yale economist Lisa Kahn has shown that entering the workforce in a bad economy has a long-term negative impact on earnings. (See “When It Pays to Stay in School,” by Matt Palmquist, s+b, Autumn 2010.) It is important for organizations to realize that today’s difficulties may affect millennials’ morale in the long term.
Ensuring that millennials are engaged contributors to the workforce is going to be critical for every organization’s long-term viability. Rather than trying to figure out what particular incentive or gimmick is going to make millennials more committed and less likely to leave, focus on making sure they are fairly compensated; have interesting work to do; and have the opportunity to learn, develop, and advance. Executives can best manage a multigenerational workplace if they understand and address the reality of what their younger employees think and what really motivates them. The key is to separate myth from fact, and focus on creating an organizational culture that supports all employees regardless of when they were born.
Reprint No. 12102
- Jennifer J. Deal is a senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership in San Diego, Calif., and the author of Retiring the Generation Gap (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2007).