Its tough to keep everyone happy

Written by GANESH SHERMON | Updated: Mar 30 2008, 04:01am hrs
There are four generations of employee typology working side-by-side in todays workforce: people born in the World War II years, baby boomers, generation Xers and generation Yers. With varying attitudes and expectations about lives, jobs, longevity, employers and careers, baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. Generation Xers were born between 1965 and 1980, and Generation Yers were born after 1980.

Significant changes have been noticed amongst the generational divide and they tend to have real implications for how employers and employees work together. For example, baby boomers put a heavy focus on work as an anchor in their lives. Managing lives around work is central to the way they have lived. Baby boomers worked on the notion of learning-based contribution, occurrence-based delivery and task-based performance. They demonstrated a high degree of consistency in performing high-quality repetitive tasks that required concentration, focus and single-mindedness to closure or achievement. Baby boomers who have reached leadership positions are likely to lead mature organisations in business or functional roles with little difficulty. They possess an intrinsic capability to handle complex brick-and-mortar economy companies with ease. Retaining this generation does not rest with an organisation.

Generation Xers enjoy work but are more concerned about navigating the work-life balance. They are the first generation to grow up with computers and the Internet as part of their lives. Constant familiarity in the networked world has had a profound impact on their approach to problem-solving and collaboration. They follow a close pattern with the baby boomers in working on knowledge-based activities that require depth, quality and consistency. This group values individual and collective time, at times quite mutually exclusive.

Generation Yers often have varying concerns. Owing to their deep knowledge of technology, they believe they can work flexibly anytime, anyplace, and that they should be evaluated on work product, not on how, when, or where they got it done. The real revolution is a decrease in career ambition in favour of more family time, less travel and less personal pressure. However, this group consists of a large mass that lacks consistency in outlook towards work life.

On balance, this generation seeks more from minimal effort given their knowledge of technological processes, but finds it difficult to work hard, seek advanced knowledge or work-based skills to advance their careers or employability. Maximisation of returns based on their current usage of knowledge is their competitive spirit for the present. And employees with these traits present a management challenge. Retention of this segment is a tough one.

This is the concluding part of a series on retention problems and solutions.

The author is partner & head of human capital pactice, KPMG Advisory Services. He can be reached at