A New Generation of Talent

Does anyone know the name of the generation before the Baby Boomers? They are the Traditionalists.

It is astonishing to realize that of our children who are in kindergarten today, 75% of them will end up in jobs that don’t even exist today. Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that 50% of today’s college freshman’s knowledge and learning materials are obsolete by the time those same freshmen reach their senior year!

We are dealing with a new generation of workers today and our workforce revolves around talent, instead of just manpower.

Workers used to be simply equated with balance sheet variable costs and depreciations, as they completed various replicable tasks associated with hard goods. Now, labor has moved in the direction of talent instead. What I mean by this is that workers today are agents of intellectual property and service business, and fewer businesses are focused on hard good production. Worker motivation has become a more complex task as well, since leaders have to be cognizant of the idea that talent can walk. Who are the best workers in the world? By far it’s Volunteers! Talented workers have a wide variety of choices available to them and intrinsic motivations are everything to do with worker engagement. In this environment leaders need to understand the motivation of workers, because carrots & sticks, shiny watches, time clocks and fear of punishment won’t work with today’s workforce. We need to think of our talent as volunteers, and we will talk with them differently.

The adage in business has changed from:

Big beats Small

Now it is:

Fast beats Slow

The world is changing, and Tom Peters has said, “I like watching 2 big Pharma companies merge. It’s like … 2 dinosaurs, mating to try and produce a gazelle.” So funny! Not surprisingly, it also points out to us that we have to change our approach, or we will be obsolete!

This generation doesn’t even use the same language. I ask people I meet in airports or in my neighborhood things like, “What kind of work are you in?”

My kids don’t say that. My graduating kids say to their friends, “What are you up to? What do you like to do? What’ s going on for you? Yo, what up?”

This generation doesn’t even use the word ‘work’ to discus themselves, or their job. They don’t refer to their work as what they do. Work is associated with chores and unpleasant tasks. Work is what you had to do to get paid. Today’s generation wants autonomy, mastery of a skill, a challenge to learn and grow, and a clear purpose to what they are accomplishing. Today’s generation wants to know, that who they are, and what they do matters to create a bigger outcome.

When I was growing up I was merely entertained by TV and movies, and today is less about being entertained and more about being involved – to be integrated and interactive with our world. We actively participate in games – Wii, texting, Twitter, and blogs – and all aspects of entertainment and work, are melding.

Just the other day, a neighbor and I were talking about his inability to hire into his IT company a top talented kid who recently graduated Harvard. He offered this talented prospect a 6-figure income, and the kid’s response, was, “Sorry, man, you’re messin’ up my powder.” My friend Mark asked me, “What does that even MEAN?” I asked him where the kid lived, and he said, “Colorado, outside Denver.” I said powder, is related to his skiing, and he was saying he’s not going to take those Monday morning conference calls, or the mid-week staff meetings, because he wants to be skiing all the time. He’s going to make his work hours around his ski hours, and it won’t be the 9-to-5 work timeframe.

We have to lead people inside all of these parameters to get WORK done, and be productive. Our parents were handled or heavily managed to get their productivity higher, in a world that marched to a drum beat of 9-to-5.

The term 9-to-5 won’t exist in 10 years.

Going forward, research shows we grew up getting the best grades, to get into the best schools, to get the best job, to make the most amount of money in the shortest period of time, to retire as early as possible, to then eventually have FUN. This is not true for today’s generation. The new generation believes in work, learning and fun as one big ball.

For me, after all the reading, research and discussion, it comes down to one question.

What value do we provide to our employees?

What do we do to value our employees? The more we genuinely understand their internal motivations and praise and recognize them for the things that intrinsically matter to them, the better chance we have to lead them into a new generational union! Otherwise the “gap” will continue to widen if we don’t lead through our ability to have them feel valued. It is less about what we say we are doing, and more what they tell others we are doing.

Here’s to closing the generation gap and

Building a new generational union!


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