What is the Why Generation? What qualities and traits distinguish it?
The Why Generation is my term for Generations Y and Z, which include basically everyone under 40 today. Collectively, I call them the Why Generation because they want to know the reason behind everything. And this is exactly how we reared them. A lot of older-generation folks in management roles often perceive this as disrespect or insubordination, but it’s actually not. Young people want to know the reason why so that they can fully understand what they are being asked to do, and even more than that, so they can see if there is a way they can improve the process. They want to bring their own unique, special, and important contribution to the success of the plan, whatever it may be. They want to be engaged; they want their work to be relevant and mean something. They are not being rebellious when they ask why; they really want to know. They want purpose, and they will perform to the expectations we set for them (whether high or low). We have to answer the big question they are always asking in one way or another: why?
They place great importance on their personal values, which are often characterized by social and environmental activism. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves, and once they buy into a cause, they’re committed. Every decision they make is influenced to some extent by how it affects their desired lifestyle.
They’ve brought a fresh perspective to the working world. Both the Millennials and Generation Z want their work to be about more than the paycheck. They prioritize a flexible working environment that allows them to work from home and/or work nontraditional hours, and many companies are taking these preferences into consideration. They also want to rethink the ways things have always been done to create new processes to complete the work more efficiently.
They’re also digital natives who have grown up surrounded by technology. It’s their norm to have multiple screens going as they maximize their digital experience. Because they believe they’re unique, special, and important, they are constantly looking for ways to tell their story on the vast array of social media options. They also communicate differently, much more briefly than older folks are used to.
Only 11 per cent of business leaders perceive college graduates to be ready for work, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Is today’s generational divide greater than the ones that have come previously?
Yes, the difference surrounds how this generation was raised versus others. The first difference is technology. The rapid change in it and the connectivity in the world and dynamics of social media have changed the nature of who we are and how we interact. We have focused less on the interpersonal and more on the phone or device as a means of communication together with the immediacy of action. This generation wants action and now. Millennials are not schooled in relationship-building skills, so they are not wired to connect. This is the biggest difference. Instead of dealing with the differences, we are just complaining that millennials are not good enough.
The biggest gap involves perspective and myths. Each side is completely steeped in their views that the other perspective is flawed. For example:
Do the following statements about millennials ring mostly true or mostly false?
They have a sense of entitlement, and expect everything now!
They’re lazy and don’t want to work hard like we did; work/ life balance is more important than hard work.
They are disloyal and jump ship if they are not engaged or growing.
They need feedback all the time, 24/7/365. (“Please tell me how great I am. Every day. Twice.”)
They have different career goals from non-millennials.
They want everything digital.
They don’t deal well with authority.
Here’s the answer: It was a trick question.
All these are true . . . and false . . . and none of that matters. They are assumptions—myths, really—and there is no right or wrong when it comes to them. That’s because while myths, assumptions, stereotypes—whatever you want to call them—may be false as blanket statements (“all Americans are overweight” and “all fashion models are anorexic”), they come from a place of partial truth (more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight and many models are unrealistically thin). But who wants to be viewed through the lens of myths like these?
Consider the quiz from the other side. Do the following statements about non-millennial managers ring mostly true or mostly false?
They obey the Golden Rule: “I’ve got the gold, I make the rules!”
They are only in it for the money.
They are inflexible and don’t like change; they’re stuck in their ways.
They are so not tech savvy.
They don’t care about their teams or people.
They are “hard graders” and couldn’t care less about recognizing others.
They are afraid of nontraditional approaches.
They are willing to trade the pursuit of true passion for stability.
If you are a non-millennial manager, does this sound like you? Or sound like how you want to be perceived in this world? Well, these are the things most millennials say about us. How much is true? Not much. Just as you are guilty of creating myths that lead to disconnect and frustrations with millennials, they are guilty of perpetuating myths about you.
Work from the Inside-Out
What do you mean when you say to “work from the inside out?”
The secret to job and life satisfaction is internal self-awareness and growth. Youth in general is a time where, if we can understand ourselves, we can start to create a journey to build great careers and lives. Millennials in particular require training on how to understand and accomplish learning about themselves to impact the world. We believe the secret to success is predicated on understanding yourself to impact others, and they need help to learn how to engage themselves in the world and subsequently to create a talent and career track. If we can have them connect to their inside motivation and goals, we can universally have them succeed along their journey.
“Focus on where you want to go; not on what you fear.” -Tony Robbins
How we work is changing. Technology is ushering in new possibilities. New generations enter the workforce with different expectations. With all the changes in play, there are some things that stay the same: the desire for fulfillment and purpose, the need to balance the professional with the personal.
Mason Donovan tackles these challenges in his new book, The Golden Apple: Redefining Work-Life Balance for a Diverse Workforce. Mason is managing partner at The Dagoba Group, a New England-based diversity and inclusion consultancy. I had the opportunity to ask him about the changing nature of work, including generational changes, balance, mindfulness, and inclusion efforts.
Success Tip: Balance improves your relationships, satisfaction and productivity.
Is work-life balance possible? Why is it so important?
Work-life balance is possible. There are a lot of gurus out there that say it is not in order to capture your attention in this crowded field. Emphasis is on the word balance. If you ever walked on a high beam or anything else in which you needed to physically balance yourself, you most likely fell off a few times. Your balance will fall off to one side or the other. It is important that you anticipate for these moments of imbalance, so you have a plan to get up.
Achieving balance will make you more productive in and out of the workplace. It will enrich your relationships and allow you to achieve greater satisfaction in life.
“Alignment of purpose allows for the elimination of distractions.” -Mason Donovan
In the book, I tell the story of executives on an interpersonal retreat climbing a mountain. Their primary purpose was to reach the summit without talking about business. The objective was for them to get to know each other better personally and share an accomplishment. Without spoiling the story, their original goal is interrupted because they lost their purpose.
In order to know where you are going in life, it is important to understand why you are going there. Work-life balance is no exception. Only a handful of people actually stop and reflect on why they get up every day to spend the majority of their waking life in an organization. When that somewhat simple-but-necessary reflection does not take place, you will default to acquiring things and making money, which almost inevitably leads to the golden handcuffs phenomenon. You work more because you have to make more money. You make more money so you can acquire things that require you to work more.
There has been a societal shift in why individuals engage in work. Part of that shift is due to generational changes, while for others it was their awakening due to the Great Recession. Aligning your personal purpose in life with your work and organizational purpose will help you eliminate all of the noise that does not fit that purpose. Balance comes from awareness. In The Golden Apple, I provide simple exercises to not only develop, but also align your purpose at each level.
What are you finding in terms of generational changes? What are the new generations demanding at work? What’s the best way for current leaders to respond?
It is important to note that we are all unique individuals but are influenced by our shared group memberships such as our generation. Clumping everyone together and solely defining them by generational attitudes can overgeneralize any particular person. It is helpful to understand the influence of generational membership, which will give you a starting point when discovering their individuality.
Each generational cohort has a defining moment in the shaping of their shared psyche. When it comes to employment, for Generation X it was the broken promise of the organizational loyalty which fostered the cradle to grave jobs their parents subscribed to. Millennials were highly influenced by the Great Recession which ushered in massive layoffs, foreclosures and lowered career expectations. These defining moments create a collective influence on how cohorts view the work-life equation.
PwC’s NextGen study uncovered a generational shift when it came to work and personal engagement for their Millennial population. Uncovering this shift was important to them since by the year 2020, they expect that fully 80% of their employees will be Millennials. In short they found this group was far less likely to give up their personal life today for the prospect of a partnership down the road. The value structure was shifting more towards experiences than acquiring things.
Interesting to note is how this new value structure is also being reflected in Baby Boomers. The Great Recession robbed them of the ability to retire early as they saw their investments fail. It required them to reassess what they valued in life: time or things. Most have decided to choose to have life experiences in the time they have remaining. Downsizing acquisitions and upsizing experiences has become the trend for this generation.
Leaders need to better understand the value they offer to their current and future employees. By integrating work-life balance into their overall package, they will increase engagement and retention. They should look at this challenge through a holistic lens so they do not perceive it simply as a specific generational or gender issue. Policies and practices should be geared towards an inclusive solution that impacts the overall workforce.
Study: long working hours made 58% more irritable and over 25% depressed.
When you’re young, you feel like you will live forever.
Soon enough, you realize that time is both fleeting and speeding by at a faster pace with each passing year.
Living to age 100 was once incredibly rare. When I was a teenager, I regularly visited a local nursing home, and it seemed most were in their 80s. Today, I know many people in their 80s and even 90s not only living on their own, but thriving, going to exercise classes, and even still driving.
100 just doesn’t seem impossible anymore.
Turns out, it’s not only possible, but now so common that it’s changing everything from the way we think and plan our lives.
Written by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, this book is full of surprising statistics and the implications for all of us. I recently spoke with author Andrew Scott, Professor of Economics at the London Business School about their new work:
Copyright Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, Used by Permission. Oldest age by which 50% of babies born in 2007 are predicted to still be alive.
It’s well known that we are living longer, and there are more old people. However there is less understanding that there is strong evidence that each generation is living longer than the previous and is in general healthier for longer. Life expectancy has been increasing by about 2-3 years every decade for the last 200 years. That means that each generation lives around 6-9 years longer than the previous generation. There are major debates about how long and at what rate this can continue, but the signs are that best practice life expectancy is continuing to increase.
In our view people mistakenly take the fact that we are living for longer to mean that we are older for longer. They focus more on aging than longevity. However longevity means we have more years of life and will restructure our life accordingly. Many of our economic, financial and social patterns of behavior are based on an outdated view of life expectancy of around 70. We need to restructure to account for the likely possibility of a 100 year life.
With a long life we will see the end of the dominant model of a three stage life of education, work and retirement. Just as the twentieth century saw the emergence of new stages such as teenagers and retirees, so longevity will bring about whole new stages of life. Further in a multi-stage life, lockstep comes to an end. There is only one way to structure a three stage life – education, then work and retirement. There are many ways to structure a multi-stage life, so we will see the end of a strong link between age and stage. In the future you could be an undergraduate and be 20, 40 or 60. You could be a senior manager and be 30, 50 or 70. To support this multi stage life we will, and are already, seeing changes in how society structures itself. When life extends you reach previous milestones (such as marriage, having children, etc.) at different times, and ages are redefined.
“The antithesis of vitality is stress.” -Gratton / Scott
Work-life balance may become more important. What’s emotional spillover and how do we positively impact it?
If you take a 100 year life seriously and calculate how much you need to save for a pension, it’s likely that people will have to work in some form into their late 70s. This is why we think a three stage life can’t survive as it involves a 60 year career. While working for 60 years may solve your financial problems, it does nothing to solve the deeper issues. We emphasize that living a good life requires investing in intangible assets – productive assets such as skills and knowledge, vitality assets such as health and friendships, and—of growing importance—transformational assets, the ability to deal with change and transitions. While working for longer solves your financial problems, it means your productive, vitality and transformational assets are run into the ground. This is why we think a multi stage life with breaks and transitions is inevitable, with people spending time in between stages recuperating and rebuilding their strength and talents. A longer career also means that at some points you may well take on a traditional job where financial assets are your main focus but at other points you will seek jobs that better balance life and work.
Stress at work is associated with a 20% increase of heart disease.
Talk about education and how its value may change.
If working life extends over 60 years, it’s hard to think of any education you can learn at 20 that can last that long and remain that relevant. This is especially true if you believe the stories of technologists and the rise of Artificial Intelligence. Either because your industry becomes obsolete or because your knowledge becomes outdated, you will need to seriously reinvest in education at different stages later in life. Perhaps this education will in part be provided by traditional sources, but it is also likely that we will see new organizations develop to fill the gap.
It is an interesting question then what you should learn when young if you know that at some point this knowledge will become obsolete. One common sense prediction is that when young you learn how to learn, how to think creatively and critically, and how to evaluate from a broad-based disciplinary perspective. Then you may add to this with some detailed specific technical knowledge knowing, however, that in a decade or more this may become irrelevant.
“In the end, long life is the reward, strength, and beauty.” -Grace Paley
What are the implications for retirement? It seems daunting enough today to save with current lifespans.
As currently understood retirement is a product of three stage life thinking. It is already being undermined with a century long downward trend in those aged 65 staying on at work reversing itself. More and more people are either working past retirement or working after retirement.
Copyright Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, Used by Permission
In a multi-stage life you will need to prepare not just for eventual retirement but also for career breaks and career transitions, all of which will require financing. Lifetime planning will not just be about end of life planning.
Retirement will still exist, e.g. a time when you stop work, but it will occur later. At traditional retirement age you will see more varied behavior. Either people will choose to carry on in their existing roles and continue to earn if their skills and firm allow, or they will break and do something different. We are seeing a rise in entrepreneurship in people in their 60s. Becoming what we term “an independent producer” is an interesting option. In this stage of life you do something that blends work and fun together, earn just enough to cover your expenses and so keep your savings intact.
“If you want to live a long life, focus on making contributions.” -Hans Selye