Spanning the ages: Page 3

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Scenario three
Attracting generation next: Charlie Crews and Elliot Grunewald are juniors in high school in a small town in Virginia. They share many interests and courses, including an advanced elective in computing. In that class, they're learning to program in C++. Later in the school year, they'll be working with teams of student programmers from other schools in the area to build an application together.

The generations

The veterans
Born: 1922-1943
Size: 52 million in the U.S.
Core values: Dedication, sacrifice, hard work. Conformity. Law and order. Patience. Respect for authority. Duty before pleasure. Adherence to rules. Honor.
Motivational tip: Use a personal touch; hand-write a note instead of using e-mail. Honor their hard work with plaques and other symbols of achievement.

Baby boomers
Born: 1943-1960
Size: 73.2 million in the U.S.
Core values: Optimism. Team orientation. Personal gratification. Health and wellness. Personal growth. Youth. Work. Involvement.
Motivational tip: Give them perks with status, like an expense account for first-class travel. Get them quoted in an industry journal. Ask for their input. Get their consensus. Give them lots of public recognition.

Generation X
Born: 1960-1980
Size: 70.1 million in the U.S.
Core values: Diversity. Thinking globally. Balance. Technoliteracy. Fun. Informality. Self-reliance. Pragmatism.
Motivational tip: Give them lots of projects. Let them take control of prioritizing and juggling. Give them time to pursue other interests at work--even have fun. Invest in the latest technology.

Generation next
Born: born 1980-
Size: 69.7 million
Core values: Confidence. Civic duty. Achievement. Sociability. Morality. Diversity. Street smarts.
Motivational tip: Learn about their personal goals and show how they mesh with the company's. Forget traditional gender roles. Be sensitive to potential conflicts with Gen Xers. Establish mentor programs.

Source: Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers and Nexters in Your Workplace, by Ron Zemke, Claire Raines, and Bob Filipczak
These kids grew up with computers. Neither can remember a time when there wasn't a computer in his home. The Internet became a cultural phenomenon when they were only in middle school. Both Charlie's dad, a doctor, and Elliot's dad, a law professor, spend significant amounts of time online, but there remains a knowledge gap between the generations. As Charlie puts it: "My dad knows how to work the computer, but I know how the computer works."

Charlie and Elliot's attitude toward computing is typically laid-back, even blasé, as is to be expected from people whose birthright has been whizzy technology like 3-D graphics and downloadable pop music. Several times a week, Elliot drives over to the local elementary school after his classes are through to help out the teachers there with simple computing questions. He's puzzled and frustrated by some of the older teachers' attitudes toward technology. "When a program crashes, they're practically happy about it," he says. "They're like, 'See? This stuff is terrible.'" His time as a roving tech guru has pretty much turned him off from a career in computing--or at least as a help desk staffer.

"I don't want to be a desk slave. I don't want to work in a cubicle," says Elliot. "But I don't think I'd like to work from home, either. I don't think I'll work in computers, but I'm sure they'll be part of whatever job I do. I know I'd like to make some money."

Charlie, on the other hand, thinks high tech is precisely where he'll land after college. Last summer, he took a job with the school system, helping relocate and upgrade desktop systems. "I think there will be lots of jobs in computing when I'm out of school," says Charlie, "and that's where the money will be. I'm not looking forward to the long hours, though."

Question: In five or six years, kids like Charlie and Elliot will be out of college and into the workforce. What will hiring managers need to do to attract "Generation Next" to an IT department?

Claire Raines' answer: Charlie and Elliot are a stitch--here they are high school juniors who already have a wealth of marketable job skills and expertise, and who have come to conclusions, based on personal experience, about how they want to spend their working years. They've come face-to-face with the distrust older generations feel toward a technology they've learned later in life. And, typical of Nexters, they have high expectations of the workplace.

Here are some things to keep in mind about attracting Nexters:
  • They are optimistic about the future, and they'll expect a workplace that is fair, that treats them and their contemporaries respectfully, and that offers them opportunities to be creative.
  • They'll be the most discerning and well-informed group of potential employees recruiters have ever come across. And their parents, who have been their advocates for 20 years, may get involved in the recruiting and hiring process.
  • Begin to think of employees just like you do customers. Find out who they are, where they live, what they are looking for in terms of work atmosphere, what type of manager they prefer. Then get busy creating just such a workplace.
  • Nexters say they don't resonate with Generation X; who they find cynical. They have more in common and feel more affinity with Boomers. But the generation they identify with the most is the Veterans, their WWII-era grandparents and great-grandparents. //
  • Stephanie Wilkinson is a freelance writer based in Lexington, Va. She can be reached at stephw@cfw.com.

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