Hang around a group of older employees long enough, and the conversation will at some point turn to complaining about the work ethic of the current generation. Boomers talk about how none of the young generation is loyal; Gen Xer’s complain that the new generations are too unfocused, and so on down the line. And they all complain that the work ethic of the next generation is nothing like the work ethic of their generation. So many times – and I have fallen into this trap – people talk about the past and long for it as if it will solve the problems of today. There is a romantic notion that the people and the events of the previous generation are better than those of today. Each generation feels that some period in the past was the Golden Age.
After 19 years of consulting, I have heard every generation express the same thoughts…and the generations before us had their Golden Age. Why do we think this way? Are we uncomfortable with change? Yes. Do we sometimes struggle relating to each new generation? Yes. Do we believe that life and work were better ten, twenty, or fifty years ago? I love being nostalgic, but I can’t afford to lose myself in the past and neither should you if your aim is to serve the needs of all your employees.
Turnover, absenteeism, and employee morale, in general, are a direct reflection of the way employers go about addressing the needs of their employees. The number one reason employees look for a new job is because of their schedule. It does not matter whether they are boomers or millennials, the schedule is number one. If every generation is concerned about the schedule, then why would each generation think the next has lost its work ethic? It boils down to understanding the details behind what is important in a schedule.
If companies were willing to take the time to adjust and change the way they approach each generation of employees, they would find that the present is the Golden Age. Every generation of employees can be, and often is, just as (if not more) productive, hard-working, and reliable as the previous generation when policies are focused to address employees’ desires. This means having flexible enough policies and schedules to meet the needs of multiple generations at one time. It can be done. The best companies do it well all the time.