Figuring Out Generation Y

To hear Steve Drake, owner of Drake & Co., tell it, there is a major cultural divide in the U.S. today when it comes to the different generations in the workplace. Speaking at the annual Mid America CropLife Association meeting in West Des Moines, IA, Drake broke down Americans today as follows: the Matures (born before 1946) number 24 million, Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) total 77 million, Generation X (born between 1965 and 1977) number 50 million and Generation Y (born between 1978 and 1995) total 76 million.

“Within the workforce, Baby Boomers are the highest percentage at 44%, with Generation X at 34%,” said Drake. “Generation Y is only at 12%, but this will get bigger over time.”

He added the reason for this is simple – Baby Boomers will begin retiring from the workforce in earnest between 2012 and 2019. Approximately half of the country’s largest employers will lose 50% of their senior managers within the next five to 10 years. By 2014, said Drake, the U.S. could face a shortage of 10 million workers. “Boomer retirement will lead to an all-out war for talent,” he said.

But replacing Baby Boomers workers with those from Generation Y won’t be a simple matter for many employers, he added. Both generations have very different views on work and how they spend their lives. “Baby Boomers are spenders and live to work,” said Drake. “Generation Yers have embraced the digital revolution, think corporations and government are flawed, have a short attention span and work to live.” He added that the key characteristics of Baby Boomers include their priority on careers, being hard workers and loyalty to their company. On the other hand, Generation Y individuals expect regular contact with their supervisors, to work in teams and be at the top “now.”

“Generation Y workers want a job that lets them exercise personal values and beliefs,” said Drake. “Sixty-two percent want to work for companies that give them a chance to use their skills to help a non-profit.”

For many employers to recruit and retain Generation Y workers, they will need to embrace technology like never before, he added. Based upon several surveys, Generation Y individuals spend an average of 16.8 hours per week browsing or surfing the Internet and 15 hours per week watching television. “Many are switching the boob tube to social media,” said Drake.

To reach this maturing audience, employers and marketers will need to change how they communicate in the future. “For Baby Boomers, printed media and telephone calls are the norm,” said Drake. “But for Generation Y, electronic media, online news and webinars are the ways they get their information.”

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