Be­ing true to their gen­er­a­tion

Austin American-Statesman - - OPINION -

Cleve­land fans who had as­sumed that LeBron James would re­main un­fail­ingly de­voted to the Cava­liers are mor­ti­fied that he’s pack­ing his bags for Mi­ami. But his move sim­ply puts him in step with oth­ers of his gen­er­a­tion.

If younger work­ers have dis­played any­thing as em­ploy­ees, it’s that they prize mo­bil­ity more than they do fidelity to their em­ploy­ers.

“Sta­bil­ity and com­pany loy­alty are high val­ues for ... those whose world­views were shaped by ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the Great De­pres­sion in their for­ma­tive years,” Chip Espinoza, Mick Uk­leja and Craig Rusch write in their book “Man­ag­ing the Mil­len­ni­als.” “But the work world has changed.”

Much of this at­ti­tude is be­ing driven, of course, by the be­hav­ior of those do­ing the hir­ing. Rock-solid pen­sions, gen­er­ous health ben­e­fits and job se­cu­rity — all sta­ples of the so­cial con­tract be­tween em­ployer and em­ployee from the mid-1940s through the late 1970s — have evap­o­rated as com­pa­nies have braced for global com­pe­ti­tion and as a per­ni­cious share­holderis-all men­tal­ity has taken root.

A re­cent anal­y­sis by Prince­ton econ­o­mist Henry Far­ber shows that the per­cent­age of pri­vate-sec­tor male work­ers who’ve been with the same em­ployer for at least 10 years fell from 50 per­cent in 1973 to just 35 per­cent in 2006, and the pro­por­tion of those with 20-year tenures dropped from 35 per­cent to 20 per­cent over the pe­riod.

But the ero­sion in loy­alty is not merely a func­tion of cor­po­ra­tions be­ing greedy or gird­ing for the rough-and-tum­ble of to­day’s mar­ket­place. On the flip side, nu­mer­ous stud­ies have con­cluded that younger peo­ple, in par­tic­u­lar, don’t have as much al­le­giance to their em­ploy­ers as do baby boomers or even Gen X’ers.

One sur­vey, re­leased in 2004 by Har­ris In­ter­ac­tive, found that only 47 per­cent of those 18 to 34 years old “re­ally care about the fate” of the en­ter­prise for which they work. That com­pares with 64 per­cent of those 55 and older.

In any case, these younger work­ers don’t imag­ine they’ll stick around very long. In his book, “The Tro­phy Kids Grow Up: How the Mil­len­nial Gen­er­a­tion Is Shak­ing Up the Work­place,” Ron Al­sop cites a study in which two-thirds of 18-to 28-year-olds said they plan to “surf” from one job to the next. And 44 per- cent, he re­ports, go so far as to say that they’d re­nege af­ter hav­ing ac­cepted a job if a bet­ter of­fer came along.

To be sure, the re­ces­sion and a stub­bornly high un­em­ploy­ment rate have damp­ened the abil­ity of many young peo­ple to be so desul­tory. But at some point, the down­turn will pass, and ev­i­dence sug­gests that Gen Y work­ers — es­pe­cially those who are col­lege ed­u­cated — re­main ea­ger to job hop when they can.

“Just be­cause we’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an eco­nomic melt­down for the first time does not mean that we’re go­ing to hide in the corner,” Re­becca Thor­man, who gives ca­reer ad­vice to fel­low Gen Yers, de­clared on her blog, Modite, ear­lier this year. “We’re not go­ing to set­tle.”

Thor­man went on to en­cour­age young work­ers to “get paid what you’re worth,” ex­plain­ing that the best way to re­al­ize a salary boost is to leave one em­ployer for an­other with some reg­u­lar­ity. You can’t ex­pect to see your in­come rise sharply “by stay­ing at the same job un­less you’re there for a very long time,” Thor­man as­serted. “You just can’t.”

For em­ploy­ers, there are few is­sues that are as dif­fi­cult as cop­ing with this mind­set. In their frus­tra­tion, many gripe about their younger work­ers, la­bel­ing them en­ti­tled, ar­ro­gant and ego­cen­tric. But it’s not quite that sim­ple. This same age group, af­ter all, is also team ori­ented, tech­no­log­i­cally savvy and com­mit­ted to tack­ling some of the world’s most press­ing prob­lems. There are many pos­i­tives to tap into for those em­ploy­ers will­ing to learn and to try.

In­deed, com­pa­nies have a shot at at­tract­ing and re­tain­ing top tal­ent if they ex­hibit a strong, and gen­uine, sense of so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity, chal­lenge em­ploy­ees by of­fer­ing them op­por­tu­ni­ties to take on new roles, give work­ers a chance to find fulfillment by send­ing them abroad, are sen­si­tive to peo­ple’s work-life bal­ance and pro­vide ex­cel­lent train­ing and devel­op­ment pro­grams (some­thing sought by mil­len­ni­als even more than cash bonuses, ac­cord­ing to Price­wa­ter­house­Coop­ers).

Still, even the best em­ploy­ers shouldn’t count on much fealty in the end. The trend is in­escapable: More and more, the la­bor force will find it­self chock­full of free agents, un­abashedly look­ing for a bet­ter deal. T.J. Bencin of Me­d­ina, Ohio, walked past a ban­ner fea­tur­ing LeBron James in down­town Cleve­land the morn­ing af­ter the free agent NBA star an­nounced that he would be sign­ing a con­tract to join the Mi­ami Heat.

Amy Sancetta

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.