Rapid Change Fatigues Many Boomers

Entry-Level Pre-Employment TestsIf you’re over 50 and feel like you’re running a losing battle trying to keep up, you might be right.

Consider these trends:

It took nearly 38 years to get 50 million people to tune into the radio. But it took only 13 years to get 50 million people to watch TV. Copy of June 6, 2012Then along came the Internet and 50 million people logged on in less than 5 years. That adoption rate was exceeded quickly by the iPod. Fifty million people had one in 3 years. Those numbers seem quaint when one considers Facebook who acquired 50 million subscribers in 2 years and then nearly 200 additional subscribers in less than 1 year.

What does this mean? The adoption of new technology is increasing at a dizzying pace. Acceptance of the radio spanned 2, maybe even 3 generations if you consider the introduction of FM. The transition from the radio to TV occurred in one-third the time, equivalent to the growing up years of Baby Boomers. Generation X witnessed the move from TV to the World Wide Web in less time than it takes to complete elementary school. Within one decade we have seen the fall of Napster and the rise of the iPod, the fall of AOL and the rise of Facebook and Twitter. Life altering and revolutionary innovation that destroys entire industries and creates new ones now arise within a few years, not decades. Not generations.

All this change is bad news for Boomers who resist adoption and adaptation. Thirty years of experience in a career that earned them significant respect, considerable responsibility, and middle class wages are less relevant in today’s job market. Often times the skills that just a few years ago earned them high middle income wages are now obsolete. Now left without a relevant skill, past experience becomes a footnote on a resume, not a ticket for a job.

And that’s a problem. For the past decade, Boomers were told the decision to keep working longer was at their discretion. Moving forward they may be disappointed. The brain drain is becoming less relevant as old jobs go away thanks to automation, technology, or outsourcing. Short of working as greeters at Wal-Mart, Baby Boomers equipped with an industrial age mindset are becoming dinosaurs in the job market.

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.

What Jobs Should The U.S. Be Creating?

The news about jobs is getting better. The unemployment rate dipped for the fifth straight month to 8.3 percent. The number of jobs being created has been rising at a rate of 200,000 each month, topped by 243,000 jobs added in January alone. What Jobs Are Being Created In the US

That is great news for the economy and fuel for a surge on Wall Street, where the Nasdaq hit an 11-year high and the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached a peak not seen since 2008.

Does this mean the U.S. economy has found a cure for the recession or a strategy to relieve and mask the symptoms of a deeper, more serious problem? The truth is that it’s likely a little of both. Unfortunately that means that sooner than later the problem will resurface, much like an untreated cancer eventually weakens and destroys the functions of the body.

Much of our unemployment since the recession has been the result of massive layoffs in construction and manufacturing. Creating new jobs in manufacturing, according to many politicos, bureaucrats, economists, and executives, are the key to our recovery. With more people working, more consumption will take place and more homes will be built and purchased, putting millions of unemployed construction workers back to work. That all makes sense.

Except (you likely knew that was coming)… that the manufacturing jobs we need to create aren’t the manufacturing jobs that existed pre-2008. We don’t need workers to just make things. We need workers who make the things that make things and then make those “thing-makers” work in seamless integrated systems.

And that’s the problem. We have a lot of people who are really good at making things. But so does the rest of the world…and they are willing to work more hours for less money. That’s one reason why the U.S. economy is struggling to create jobs. To compete, many of the old manufacturing jobs are gone forever. If those jobs exist, they have been automated, requiring maybe one worker to do the job of five or ten workers just a few years ago. In other words, we could have our manufacturing output humming at record levels and still employ a fraction of the workers that did the same job 10 years ago.

What the U.S. does better than anyone else in the world is make the things that make things. Unfortunately we don’t have enough of those skilled workers or the workers who can service those thing-makers. We need workers who can spot a faulty circuit board, not count nuts and bolts. We need workers who can design, troubleshoot and repair a defective robotic arm, not manufacture the components of the robot.

For politicians and especially low skill workers, that situation places job creation at a painful crossroad. For millions of workers over the past few decades, low skill jobs were the ticket to the middle class and upward mobility. But that has all changed. Good paying careers dependent on low skill workers are gone. That leaves tens of millions of past and future workers stuck in jobs that offer at best bare bone living wages and no future.

To create jobs that ensure workers can earn a living wage and entertain the possibility of moving up requires answers to three interrelated questions:

  1. What products should be made and supported in the U.S.?
  2. What jobs can and should be created that provide good living wages, upward mobility, and still keep the U.S. competitive?
  3. What needs to be done to train and re-train millions of low-skilled and under-skilled U.S. workers to do these jobs?

The order in which we answer the questions is critical. We first must determine what products (or services) should be made in the U.S. Unfortunately we seem to be attempting to solve the job creation problem in reverse order. We want to train and re-train for many jobs that might be obsolete or become low-paying in the very near future. And not all jobs that might be created help the U.S. become or remain competitive.

The U.S. is at the proverbial fork in the road. What road should we take? What products and services should be make and support?

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.

Employers Need to Get in Touch with Reality: The Workplace of the Future Is Here!

The problem isn’t that 60 year olds still don’t talk – and even dream – about retirement. But a combination of lack of financial preparedness and mental readiness is keeping a lot of seniors working longer.

A recent article in Fortune Magazine, obviously written by a much younger reporter, wasted no time in drawing a dramatic picture of the workforce of the future might look like. She started the article with:

A man parks his bike and unbuckles his helmet to reveal baldness and salt-and-pepper eyebrows. A woman in orthopedic shoes makes her way into an office building, while another peers through her bifocal glasses at her smartphone, the font on the screen bumped up a few sizes for easier reading. No, this isn’t an ad for Celebrex. This is a glimpse at the workforce of tomorrow.

YIKES! This isn’t the future – it’s now! Worse, except for the bike and orthopedic shoes, it’s me! And I’m not alone. Currently 7.3 million American workers age 65 years and older are still working. (Fortunately I’ve got a few years before I’m included in that stat.) According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that number will nearly double to 13.2 million by 2022 as again Americans defer retirement, or as many futurists more aptly predict, they will re-define retirement. (In my opinion, these BLS statistics are grossly underestimated, just as predictions of a mass exodus of Baby Boomers from the workforce won’t come to fruition. Yes, Baby Boomers may leave a job or career they held for several decades, but then many if not most, will start another.)

Contrary to the inferences of the article, the generational gaps between young and old are not distinct. It’s just as likely to see a young worker unbuckle his helmet and see a completely bald head as well as a “geezer” unleash a full head of hair, even a ponytail. Likewise, young and old workers now use smartphones, although it’s a foregone conclusion that most older workers can’t see a bleeping thing without those bifocals or large fonts. And in a digital typing race – or more accurately a keystroking competition – young workers will win hands down.

But regardless of how the similarities and differences between older and younger workers is portrayed, what the workplace looks like going forward will be undeniably different. Certainly a lot more gray hairs, bifiocals, and pictures of grandkids will be visible along with tube tops, flip flips, body piercings, and tattoos. Age spans of 40 and even 50 years will be common. This generational shift and age divide inherently will require every organization to address everything from healthcare benefits to ergonomics.

The major workplace transformation however will be driven by technology and globalization – and working with those conditions requires new skill sets. The definition of work has changed … and will change again sooner than later. Even basic workplace issues like accommodation for the physically impaired or disabled won’t matter because many jobs can function remotely -from a worker’s home, his winter domicile, and even a rehab or assisted living!

In preparing for the workplace of 2020, the reason to employ either or both young and old should have nothing to do with age. The critical criteria for hiring or retaining employees must be based on skills, experience, and knowledge. And in a world that changes so quickly and where change doesn’t always evolve as much revolve, age will become less of a reliable indicator of experience and knowledge.

Employers need to get a grip on reality and start planning for the future workplace. For many companies seniors will be an asset. For others it is young workers that will provide the horsepower and fuel to grow business. For most organizations, the blended generational workplace will be the right recipe. But it will take a lot more creativity to make it work than just saying “we hire regardless of age.”

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.


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.


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.