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Annual Survey Finds Generational Gap Exists Among American Workforce


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May 28, 2008

Annual Survey Finds Generational Gap Exists Among American Workforce

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Harmony within the workforce requires a delicate balance within the environment, one that must be facilitated and supported by management. In order for this to be a reality, management must fully understand how to create such an environment, and the dynamics that exist between different personalities.

Randstad USA’s annual 2008 World of Work survey, uncovered a critical factor that is expected to contribute to a very real talent shortage. The firm found that the four generations of workers that comprise the U.S. workforce, Gen X, Gen Y, Baby Boomers and Matures, rarely interact with one another and often do not recognize each other’s skills or work ethic.

As a result of this phenomenon, U.S. businesses risk a shortage of skilled labor due to the limited transfer of knowledge. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Gen Ys in today’s workforce (79.8 million) outnumber Boomers (78.5 million) who are perceived as retaining the bulk of working American’s institutional brain trust.

With a pending generational shift in the workplace, businesses need to focus on building professional relationships with their employees while also developing employees’ skills, something Randstad labels “employership.”

Successful employership relies on the encouragement of employee collaboration to achieve company goals. This relies partly on employers recognizing employee value, cultivating mutual respect and generating trust throughout the organization.

Randstad's 2008 World of Work survey suggests that companies which maintain an ongoing focus on employership, regardless of demographic or economic changes that impact the workplace, are better able to successfully meet employee expectations and achieve business goals.

Even though Boomers and Matures have much to offer Gen Y in regards to knowledge and experience, 51 percent of Boomers and 66 percent of Matures report little to no interaction with their Gen Y colleagues. Additionally, three of the four generations report that they have little to no interaction with the most experienced workers – Matures.

"The workplace is on the verge of real change," said Eric Buntin, managing director, marketing and operations for Randstad USA, in a Monday statement. "At Randstad, we believe companies that enact a culture of 'employership' can successfully navigate the changing workplace, regardless of economic and demographic shifts.”

“By focusing on and encouraging the professional contributions of all employees, employers can help close the knowledge gap by instituting ways for each generation to recognize their strengths and value to all colleagues," Buntin added.

Although Gen Y is perceived as the overly-demanding generation, it is lowering its expectations. Specifically, Gen Y is establishing more realistic views of the workplace, and their once idealistic job expectations seem to be maturing.

"The declines among Gen Y's expectations regarding hard and soft benefits are, on average, more dramatic than among employees as a whole, perhaps because Gen Y's expectations started out higher and more out of reach," said Buntin. "In fact, Gen X and Boomers are actually somewhat more interested in soft benefits than younger generations."

According to the survey, when it comes to staying in current jobs, employees from each generation associate varying levels of importance toward soft benefits.

"Based on their self-described generation personality, Gen X has the potential to bridge the generational gap between the youngest and oldest generations of workers," said Buntin. "Leveraging this knowledge about generational strengths and value is part of employership, and something employers should act on to be a great place to work."
Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMC (News - Alert) and has also written for Market Drive News. To see more of her articles, please visit Susan J. Campbell’s columnist page.
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