18+ Surprising Things That 18-Year-Olds Find Normal

No matter how much I try, I’m amazed each August when the Beloit College Mindset List is released. And this year’s list for the Class of 2015 is no exception.

The list has been compiled since 1998 by Beloit’s former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief and Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride. Coincidentally, they just released a new book The Mindset Lists of American History and the subtitle says it all: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think Is Normal.

Originally intended to remind college professors that their students are from a different generation not a distant planet, the list is an intriguing, and sometimes cruel, reminder that we’re getting older. “We” for this example includes Veterans (born prior to 1946), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), and much to their chagrin Generation X (1965-1979). What’s important, each generation considers their experiences and values normal. Unfortunately what is normal for a Baby Boomer is just history for the Millennials. And what is normal for Millennials seems quaint and even trivial to generations that passed before them.

This year’s “Mindset List” again includes life shaping experiences that are part of a Baby Boomer’s or Generation’s DNA but is totally irrelevant for the college freshmen, the class of 2015 mostly born in 1993. As the survey suggests, this younger generation hasn’t the foggiest idea about what older generations are talking about when they we say “I remember when….” For Baby Boomers, the list is a harsh reminder about how much times have changed in just 40 years.

Consider this: Back in the ’60s, people pulled up to the gas pump and get 3 gallons of gas plus change, a windshield wash, and oil check (gas was only 31 cents a gallon). You could also send letters to 20 friends for $1 or send 25 postcards. And if you stopped by the grocery store, you could purchase a gallon of milk for 95 cents; a Pound of sirloin steak for 85 cents; and a six-pack of Pepsi for 59 cents. And remember that media called the newspaper? You could get the New York Times for 10 cents from Monday through Saturday. And if you splurged you could spend 30 cents for the Sunday edition! For today’s 18-year-old, this isn’t recent history – it’s almost fiction.

Flash forward to the Millennials entering college this week. Among other things, a river in South America is not the first thing they think of when they hear the word Amazon; there always has been an Internet ramp onto the information highway; “PC” doesn’t stand for “political correctness”; they’ve never touched a “dial” on a TV; LBJ stands for LeBron James and music has always been available via free downloads.

Here’s 18 more things a few more things that 18 year olds starting college this month find normal:

1. Andre the Giant, River Phoenix, Frank Zappa, Arthur Ashe and the Commodore 64 have always been dead.

2. States and Velcro parents have always required that they wear their bike helmets.

3. The only significant labor disputes in their lifetimes have been in major league sports.

4. There have always been at least two women on the Supreme Court, and women have always commanded U.S. Navy ships.

5. “Don’t touch that dial!”….what dial?

6. Refer to LBJ, and they might assume you’re talking about LeBron James.

7. They’ve always gone to school with Mohammed and Jesus.

8. The Rocky Horror Picture Show has always been available on TV.

9. Arnold Palmer has always been a drink.

10. Dial-up is soooooooooo last century!

11. Their older siblings have told them about the days when Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera were Mouseketeers.

12. Music has always been available via free downloads.

13. Sears has never sold anything out of a Big Book that could also serve as a doorstop.

14. They’ve always wanted to be like Shaq or Kobe: Michael (Jordan) Who?

15. They’ve often broken up with their significant others via texting, Facebook, or MySpace.

16. Their parents sort of remember Woolworths as this store that used to be downtown.

17. They won’t go near a retailer that lacks a website.

18. “PC” has come to mean Personal Computer, not Political Correctness.

Read the rest of the 2015 Beloit College Mindset List.


New Research: Pre Employment Tests Drive Business Results in 4 Key Areas

If your company is like most businesses, your operations, marketing, and sales efforts could be improved. That is where personality and other pre-employment testing come in.

Improvement and high performance requires employees who can increase revenues, reduce costs, improve efficiency, and lead effectively. The process for achieving these goals begins with hiring and promoting the right people. This is accomplished only when your employees have the skills your company needs, the ability to use them, and traits to perform consistently at a high level.

A recent white paper highlights this direct linkage between hiring the right Management and Executive Pre-Employment Assessments people and four critical outcomes: revenues, costs, efficiency, and leadership. According to the report released by SHL Previsor, “it is mission-critical to ensure that new hires and current staff members have the right mix of skills and abilities to be successful.”

That is where personality and other pre-employment testing comes in. Employee assessments helps managers understand whether a potential hire will deliver value to the organization, exposing if an employee would benefit from skills training or personal development opportunities prior to a promotion into a new role. As strategies and market conditions change, expectations and therefore employee capabilities must be adjusted accordingly. It is essential to know whether employees have the skills and competencies necessary to help the organization achieve these new objectives today and in the future.

The SHL Previsor 2011 Business Outcomes Study provided dozens of verified examples of how employee assessment tools provide the clues to make intelligent hiring decisions that deliver bottom line business results. (Admittedly SHL assessments are not part of our assessment portfolio. But their research and case studies write a compelling story for businesses to use employee assessments in their hiring and promotion process.)

For example, they cite one study where managers, who earned high scores on a front-line manager assessment, at a retail organization provided 15% more sales and added $1.9 million to the bottom line in only 6 months. Another study showed that high-scoring contact center agents at a cable and communications provider handled more than 500,000 additional calls than low-scoring agents over the course of a year. On average, these high-scoring agents also sold $269 in additional revenue per month. Across the entire workforce, this translates into an additional $1.3 million sales annually.

More sales isn’t the only bottom line benefit derived from using pre employment tests. A telecommunications company reduced turnover by 18%, saving the company $1.1 million. Agents who earned higher scores on a custom-designed job fit scale were 18% less likely to turn over in the first six months.

Employee assessments also predict better managers. At a food retailer, stores directed by high-scoring managers were nearly three times as likely to be top performers on a set of key performance indicators that included sales, growth, operating profit, and shrinkage.

And with the rapid increase in teleworkers and virtual work, assessing candidates and employees who can work remotely is critical. Off-site employees at a health insurance company who earned high scores were twice as likely to receive “superior” performance ratings. Additionally, they were twice as likely to be viewed as independent and responsible, and 89% more likely to be a good fit for the role.

The report also provides a business outcomes table with many more samples of key business results that have been achieved in four key areas: increasing revenue, reducing costs, improving efficiency, and leadership effectiveness. You can download the report here.


This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.

Millennials: Are the Trophy Kids Getting a Bad Rap?

Sensationalism in the media and countless books (including my own) about differences between the generations paint a picture about the emerging Millennials that might be more myth than right.

Today’s workforce is comprised of Baby Boomers (born 1945-1965), Generation X (born 1965-1980) and Millennials. There are more than 80 million Millennials, also called Generation Y in the U.S. alone and while many of them are already in the workforce, the rest are on the verge of entering it.

For those of you who still get confused between Gen Y, Gen WHY, Generation Y, and the Millennials, here’s a reminder: These titles all describe the same group of young adults and teens born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s. They have also been described aptly as the Digital Generation but not so kindly as the Trophy Kids. If you have read anything recently or managed these young workers, you might have learned that these Millennials expect preferential treatment and may be difficult to manage.

New York Post film critic Kyle Smith’s recent review on the movie Final Destination 5 includes his opinion about this young generation. Mr. Smith, along with a long list of authors, experts, and business consultants before him apparently find the Trophy Kids moniker a glove-like fit:

Young adults born in the 1980s and early 1990s leaped out of nicotine- and alcohol-free wombs to be deemed geniuses every time they passed a test, awarded trophies every time they caught a ball and tucked into comfy car seats on the victory ride over to their favorite sushi palace.

They took groovy public-service internships at an age when their grandfathers were sweating on assembly lines or being shot at by Nazis, lived with their parents until they were 28, then proceeded directly to their shrinks for marathon weeping sessions every time they messed up a project at work. They’re as soft as pudding, and they know it. The Greatest Generation didn’t need triathlons or X-treme skateboarding; every Friday night was a thrill ride after manual labor and eight Schlitzes.

While Smith’s perspective might be true for many Millennials, it certainly doesn’t fit all. I for one – an older Baby Boomer – can identify just as many of my peers (Baby Boomers) whose entitlement and “soft-as-pudding” attitudes fit Smith’s opinion of Millennials more than they do the hard-working, self-sacrificing memories of Industrial Age and pre-World War II generations.

Mr. Smith concludes his review with “Previous generations constructed an amazing world — but nothing new gets built anymore, and now all the old stuff is being held together by rust.” That might be true. They did build an amazing world but it’s not the Millennial’s fault that “all the old stuff is being held together by rust.” Millennials, and Generation X to some degree, didn’t allow it rust – the older generations did. Granted, the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers built much of our infrastructure but then left it to younger generations to figure out how to maintain and/or replace it. While the argument might be made that subsequent generations are responsible for maintaining what prior generations build.

But not a single Millennial can be held responsible for slashed budgets that cut out funding for maintaining the old and replacing with new. And they aren’t responsible for the screwed up educational system they passed through, underfunded entitlement programs they inherited, and no-lose-everyone-is-a-winner games they played in. In fact, the older generations “built” this younger generation and now complains incessantly about what they created and their inability and/or unwillingness to fix the mess they inherited.

Our world also has evolved from a time when productivity was measured by brawn to a world where brain power is the new economic engine. While we do need manual labor to build and re-build our infrastructure, the next chapter of our amazing world will be written by those who “know-how,” not by those that “can-do.”  Ironically, this story and the opinions of others like Smith is nothing new.

Older generations have been complaining about younger generations since the beginning of time. According to a new report released by Kenexa that focuses on the work attitudes of Millennials:

Upstart generations and their sometimes brash attitudes and behaviors have long been a cause for consternation among older generations….While the sound bites proclaiming the differences between the Millennials are voluminous, scientific research is scarce….we are still not sure if Millennials are any different than any other generation when they were young.

The Kenexa WorkTrends study, by tracking more than 25 years of opinions, refutes the “malcontent” stereotype: Millennials are more positive than both Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. The study reveals important trends that have significant implications for company recruitment, engagement, and retention strategies.

Sixty percent of Millennials also say they are strongly satisfied with their organization as a place to work. Even more – 63 percent -report that they have opportunity for growth and development at their company. When it comes to pay, 42 percent of Millennials say they are paid fairly, compared to 41 percent for boomers and 38 percent for Generation X. While those results are not something to celebrate, the Millennials do not feel more jilted or satisfied than older generations.

The study also examined attitudes about leaving their current organization for better opportunities. Thirty-one percent of Millennials working today are considering leaving their job while 27 percent of Generation X is looking too. Nineteen percent of Baby Boomers were looking too. But if you look back to 1990, 31 percent of 27 year old Generation Xers were considered leaving their organization, identical to today’s Millennials.

There is no question that the attitudes and characteristics of one generation may differ from another. But in the end, many of the differences attributed to a generation are really just typical of youth regardless of the decade in which they were raised.

What do you think? Are the Millennials a generation that will force the world to conform to their values or is their behavior just past history repeating itself? Post your comments here.

This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page. 


Jobs in Demand Can’t Be Automated.

The evidence that many forms of traditional work are getting automated and outsourced is mounting. Basically, jobs in the 21st century workplace are moving from simple and manual to complex and knowledge-based.

Another way of putting it is based on what Gary Hamel describes as the Creative Economy. We have moved from:

  • Industrial Economy based on physical capital
  • Information Economy based on information
  • Creative Economy based on ideas

When dealing with work problems we can categorize the response as either Jobs in Demand Can't Be Automated.   known or new. Known problems require access to the right information to solve them. This information can be mapped, and frameworks such as knowledge management help us to map it. We can also create tools to do work and not have to learn all the background knowledge in order to accomplish the task. This is how simple knowledge gets automated. Any job that deals with the routine and repeatable is at risk for being replaced by software and offshoring.

On the other hand, work that is valued, and therefore creates high-demand jobs, is in facing the complex and complicated, not in addressing problems that have already been solved. There will always be however complex problems that cannot be solved through automation.

Complex, new problems need tacit knowledge to solve them. Exception-handling is becoming more important in the 21st century workplace. The system handles the routine stuff and people, usually working together, deal with the exceptions. As these exceptions get addressed, some or all of the solution can get automated, and so the process evolves.

The competitive marketplace, with its growing complexity due to our inter-connectivity, requires that the modern and future workforce focus on new problem solving and exception-handing. Valued skills will be needed for managing, interpreting, validating, transforming, communicating and acting on ambiguous and fast changing information. Results will depend upon collaboration (working together on a problem) and cooperation (sharing without any specific objective). Workers with these skills can perform tasks requiring a level of action that can’t be automated easily.

A recent white paper (Future of Work) published by Vistage summed up the challenge nicely:

One challenge for organizations is getting people to realize that what they know has little value. How to solve problems together is becoming the real business imperative. Sharing and using knowledge is where business value lies. With computer systems that can handle more and more of our known knowledge, the 21st century worker has to move to the complex and chaotic edge to get the real (valued & paid) work done. In 50 years, this may not be an issue, but right now there are many people who need help with this challenge. This is the important work of leaders everywhere: enabling the current workforce to enter the 21st century.

Learn How to Applicants Test General Mental Abilities.


This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.


Interviews Can’t Pass The Pre-Employment Test

For some reason, many managers and human resources professionals feel employee interview screening is safe and personality tests are risky. Little do they know that the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and other laws protecting employees require that the interview questions you ask candidates must meet the same testing criteria as other employee assessments, including personality tests. But as you will read shortly, it’s nearly impossible for the interview to be a reliable assessment of a candidate’s job fit.

Generally, the first thing that comes to mind when someone hears that an interview went bad was that the interviewer asked an illegal question. For instance, when a manager asks a female candidate, “do you plan to have children?” all sorts of alarms go off. Or when the boss asks the applicant, “what church do you attend?,” it’s game over.

Unfortunately the mere avoidance of illegal interview questions doesn’t make the interview itself compliant. It just means you removed the most obvious danger.

According to the guidelines provided by EEOC and the U.S. Department of Labor Employer’s Guide to Good Practices, the interview is an employee assessment. To be perfectly clear, the term test or assessment is just another form for measurement and every method used to evaluate an applicant is an assessment. The agencies broad sweeping category includes application blanks, recruiting sources, photographs, interviews, pre-employment tests, training workshops, video interviews, and so forth. And, unless you hire everyone who applies, the interview like all the other assessments, are subject to the same criteria.

Legal Interview Questions

Now consider the employee interview. Despite little acknowledgement by business, the interview is notoriously inaccurate and unreliable. That means that the interview nearly always fails one of the two biggest factors (validity and reliability) used by psychometricians and academics to determine the compliance and accuracy of an assessment.

For example, a panel of three managers questions the candidate. Each walks away from the experience with a different perception of the abilities of the candidate. Or a candidate is interviewed over a period of a few weeks: the manager was impressed at the first interview and completely turned off at the second. The change could be the result of the candidate’s behavior, the interviewer’s attitude, or the environmental setting. It really doesn’t matter what changed. What matters is that many interviews fail test-retest reliability. If a candidate isn’t perceived the same way, especially over time, the results are not reliable. Low test reliability does not comply with EEOC guidelines or meet best practices.

But despite this obvious gap in reliability, many organizations continue to rely on the interview as their primary tool for hiring employees and doggedly scrutinize pre-employment tests to find reasons not to use them.

Would your interview process withstand a challenge if it was ever tested for validity and reliability? Why do you feel organizations continue to rely on an employee screening technique that has been proven time and again to be so unreliable?

Comments? Click on the title of this post and share them!

This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.