Does the Work Environment Need to Change for Younger Workers?

Young Workers Image from GlassDoor.com

Young Workers
Image from GlassDoor.com

My own contribution

When I was working at Northrop Grumman, I was involved in several initiatives to improve the workforce and make it more attractive to ‘new’ hires. There had been a lull in hiring for ~10 years before I came on, and with the 2000s came a hiring spree, with many of the hires straight out of college. I was on the older side of this group, and was very interested in and motivated by making the workplace a better fit for what I wanted.

We created CONNECT, a new hire networking group, and also introduced a variety of Web 2.0 tools (forum, wiki, etc.) in to the work environment. Though these initiatives weren’t part of my job description, they are some of the things I’m most proud of when I think about what I did while working there.

Other relevant posts

I’ve continued to be interested in whether or not, and how, the workplace needs to adapt to today’s employees, especially those in their 30’s and younger. As I’ve discussed before in an article about the differences among people born in different eras (which was also featured as a guest post on Glass Heel), younger employees are looking for meaningful work that provides them with flexibility to enjoy life.  Another article about Generation Y notes that these people are often ambitious and self-confident to the point of bordering on arrogant. Unlike their baby boomer parents, they want a balance of work and life, and want to spend more time with their families by choosing flexible work schedules and telecommuting.

Additionally, most (all?) younger people are very comfortable with technology and gadgets, so that the use and integration of technology in the workplace is expected. But what if the company requires skilled workers? Are young adults prepared for and ready for those type of roles?

The hype about skills gap

In an article Preparing for Today’s Youths for Tomorrow’s Workplace, the American Society for Talent and Development (ASTD) conducted a survey of their members and found that 84% indicate that there is a skills gap in their organizations. This gap extends from the construction, manufacturing and healthcare industries to a more general skills gap in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields.  According to the study, employers today are looking for the following qualities from their workers: self-motivation and discipline, effective communication, learning agility, self-awareness and adaptability. These skills are much the same as two decades ago, with the removal of ‘technical mastery’ (which now must be almost assumed in workers).

In a Forbes article recently written by a millennial who is speaking at Davos, she makes the observation that most corporate structures are out of sync with the lifestyle desires of the Gen Y. She encourages major makeovers to be done by companies to accommodate the unique work desires of the Gen Y. The companies will benefit by reducing the turnover rate, as well as having happier and more productive employees. One of the changes that she advocates is allowing the younger generation to bring in new ideas for the company without automatic pushback and irritation from older employees.

Share your thoughts

Are you part of the older generation or the millenials? Are things really so different these days in the company structure and the desires of employees, or do we just have a more vocal generation who likes to complain? Share your thoughts on the comment form below. I would love to hear from you.

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About Tamra Johnson

I’m an entrepreneur and a recent MBA graduate from UCLA Anderson. I have 10 years of experience in IT Management and Systems Engineering. I love learning, helping others, exploring the world around me, running at the beach, going to concerts, and visiting family and friends. I grew up in Helotes, Texas, went to undergrad in Cambridge, MA, and now live in Venice, CA.
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One Response to Does the Work Environment Need to Change for Younger Workers?

  1. Pingback: Women Still Can’t Have It All? | Exploring the Challenges and Opportunities for Women in Business, Technology and Leadership

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