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Hard Hit by the Auto Industrys Troubles, Detroit Aims to Keep Its Young

May 28, 2008
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Related Topics: Benefit Design and Communication, Diversity, Workforce Planning, Featured Article
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Y ou want what? Daily feedback, a sympathetic boss, a sneakers-and-jeans dress code and a resumé where no job lasts longer than two years?

    These are a few of the items on the wish lists of the Millennials—workers born between 1977 and 1989.

    Their job wants came from recent research on Millennials’ career concerns and priorities by staffing firm Robert Half International Inc. and Yahoo Hot Jobs. Other findings: Millennials take a long-term view of their careers, job-hopping aside, to focus on pay and benefits now and adequate retirement planning.

    Experience still counts. In today’s workforce, how much it counts depends on whom you’re asking. Companies may employ several generations of workers—and each group has an opinion about whose way is the best.

    "Addressing generational differences in the workforce is critical," says Ron Cooper, regional talent director for the North Central region at Deloitte Services. "We have four discrete generations interacting in the workplace. We help senior managers understand that one-management-style-fits-all will not be appropriate going forward—that’s the reality of our marketplace."

    What are the key differences? "All generations have their strengths and weaknesses. Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) have a genuine appreciation for employment," according to Andrea Linn, franchise owner, Adecco of Ann Arbor, Michigan, a large employment agency. "It’s a positive thing and consistent throughout their lives."

    "Gen Xers (born 1965-1976) are happy to get a job, but anxi You want what? Daily feedback, a sympathetic boss, a sneakers-and-jeans dress code and a resumé where no job lasts longer than two years?

    These are a few of the items on the wish lists of the Millennials—workers born between 1977 and 1989.

    Their job wants came from recent research on Millennials’ career concerns and priorities by staffing firm Robert Half International Inc. and Yahoo Hot Jobs. Other findings: Millennials take a long-term view of their careers, job-hopping aside, to focus on pay and benefits now and adequate retirement planning.

    Experience still counts. In today’s workforce, how much it counts depends on whom you’re asking. Companies may employ several generations of workers—and each group has an opinion about whose way is the best.

    "Addressing generational differences in the workforce is critical," says Ron Cooper, regional talent director for the North Central region at Deloitte Services. "We have four discrete generations interacting in the workplace. We help senior managers understand that one-management-style-fits-all will not be appropriate going forward—that’s the reality of our marketplace."

    What are the key differences? "All generations have their strengths and weaknesses. Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) have a genuine appreciation for employment," according to Andrea Linn, franchise owner, Adecco of Ann Arbor, Michigan, a large employment agency. "It’s a positive thing and consistent throughout their lives."

    Gen Xers (born 1965-1976) are happy to get a job, but anxious to move up the career ladder fast," Linn said. "As supervisors, they want to get the job done, but they’re also kind.

    "One of the biggest barriers to employment for the youngest [Millennials] is understanding that work rules exist and that it isn’t personal to be held to these standards."

    It’s hard to avoid the boomers. They’re by far the largest generation in the workforce.

    That seems true for Oakland County, Michigan, in particular, according to United Way research director Kurt Metzger. "Oakland County is baby-boomer central (46.6 percent of the working-age population versus 44.3 percent for the tri-county area), and it’s short on 18- to 27-year olds, probably because most of them get college degrees and have more options open to leave town," Metzger said.

    The good news: The group that is younger than 18 years old—1 million strong—is big enough to take care of Detroit’s future job openings, if they stay. That is the focus of efforts by several business groups, including Michigan Future Inc., an Ann Arbor think tank.

    A 2006 survey by consumer research firm Yankelovich found that of 25- to 34-year-old college grads, two-thirds choose where to live first and then look for a job.

    Doing well with a multigenerational workforce requires leaders willing to create a new company culture. "We must think strategically to develop the new leaders of the next generation," said Lynn Wooten, clinical assistant professor of strategic management at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. "It requires training and employee retreats. The companies most willing to make the necessary changes are those in crisis or problem mode."

    By contrast, some organizations find a balance. At Internet2, an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit consortium working on research and development of the Internet, scientists and engineers of all ages work well together, said Emilie Stawiarski, senior human resources manager.

    "We have a diverse staff—50 percent boomers and 50 percent Gen X. The culture is unique because it’s an academic base," she said.

    "Everyone is dedicated to what Internet2 does. They are thoughtful of different opinions. People collaborate. Our boomers and Gen Xers have common interests. All engineers speak the same language."

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