Generational Workforce Shift: What Does It Really Mean?

Generational Workforce Shift: What Does It Really Mean?

There is a great “generational shift” under way in the workforce that is already having an enormous effect on workplace learning.

It’s now half a century since the last Baby Boomer was born (1946-1964). It’s been 20 years since the first Generation-Zers were born (after 1994). And it will be another 20 years before the last of the Boomers retires. This means that we are now into a period when the workforce is composed of no less than four generations.

And it’s not only a generational shift in the numbers in the workforce, but an epic turning point. The workforce is aging on one end of the spectrum and getting younger on the other. In the middle there is a gap, with the prime age workforce shrinking as an overall percentage of the workforce.

Judging by the results of an extensive research project by Hudson, “We believe the actual nature of leadership could be changing. The old traits of persuasion and influence are on the wane among today’s younger generations; they simply score lower on these personality traits. Today’s workers do not need to be persuaded of the facts (they can check Google). Rather, they seek leaders who can sift through mounds of data and translate it into meaningful insights.”

Meanwhile, Bruce Tulgan and RainmakerThinking have been tracking this transformation for more than 20 years. RainmakerThinking’s latest whitepaper, “The Great Generational Shift: The Emerging Post-Boomer Workforce,” presents the latest findings from an ongoing generational shift study.

Tulgan and the experts at Hudson agree that the generational shift is no ordinary generation gap in the workplace. Because this is an era of profound historical changes, generational difference today is a powerful lens through which to understand changes in the very nature of the workplace. According to Tulgan:

>> The myth of job security is dead.

>> Short-term rewards and benefits are the “new normal.”

>> Employees today are much less likely to believe an employer’s long-term promises.

>> The free-agent mindset is now the prevailing workforce mindset.

The generational shift affects all members of the post-Boomer workforce: employers, workers, leaders, managers and supervisors.

Hudson data shows that Boomer males score significantly higher in the traditional leadership traits like decisiveness, motivation and persuasion. Meanwhile, Generation Y (born 1980-1994) has a much stronger preference for abstract and conceptual thinking, and traits like curiosity and insight can be more very important when selecting high-potential talent.

Hudson is a global talent management firm with 13 U.S. offices and author of a whitepaper titled “The Great Generational Shift.” RainmakerThinking is a management research, training and consulting firm and a leading authority on generational issues in the workplace.

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