Mixing It Up! Amy Hirsh Robinson Featured in HR Magazine

I’d like to share a fascinating examination of generational issues in the workplace. “Mixing it Up,” is the cover story in the May 2011 issue of HR Magazine, in which I am quoted extensively. As an expert on the impact of generational differences in both the for-profit and non-profit worlds, my consulting has evolved over the years to enable organizations to create agile workforces adaptive to change. Through my work, my clients gain a cost effective and competitive advantage in attracting, retaining and managing multigenerational talent. In addition, my strategic expertise refines their business models and practices to address generational trends in the market.

I invite you to read the article and share your thoughts with me on these compelling issues. It’s also not too late to register for my May 19 webinar, “Recruiting The Class Of 2011: Managing the Expectation of Millennials --- And Yours!” If you can't make the webinar, but would like to discuss the intergenerational issues of your company, feel free to contact me at ahr@interchange-group.com.

- Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group (www.interchange-group.com)

Would You Hire Your Own Kid?

Written by Sarah Sladek, founder of XYZ University and author of Rock Stars Incorporated: Hiring the High Performance High Maintenance Hotshots Half Your Age.


I'm fascinated by the topic of workforce and leadership development, partly because I'm a parent and partly because I work with organizations grappling with generational issues. I know all too well that everyone has an opinion on "today's" generation and "tomorrow's" generation and how these differences challenge organizations. But one topic that remains to be explored is workforce readiness.


The Conference Board recently released a report which argues: "High school and college graduates are showing deficiencies in both basic and applied skills, and a real lack of preparedness for today's world of work." Unemployment among teens and young adults has been at an unprecedented rate for several years. Even before the economy took a nosedive, employers preferred to hire senior citizens or immigrant workers over Generation Y.


So, would you hire your own kid? Let's be honest. Probably not.


The Conference Board report explains there are seven survival skills that our new graduates must have but are not getting in our current educational environment. I'm going to take this a step further. I think parents are partially to blame. Not public or private education. Not government. We, the parents, made this mess.


Parenting has changed substantially in the past 20 years. I'm not proclaiming to be an exceptional parent by any means, but as a generational expert I have observed how the changes in parenting have created a generation that's lacking critical skills. Here are the seven skills new graduates lack and examples of where I believe parents are falling short:

  1. Problem solving: "Mommy! Timmy hit me!" "Oh no, let me go right over to Mrs. Smith's house and she and I will have a conversation about this." Parents have become overly involved in their children's lives. As a result, children aren't learning to solve problems or resolve conflict on their own.
  2. Collaboration: When I was a child, I played all day long without a parent ever being involved. Today's children are constantly shuttled between playdates and practices. They rarely play together without it being organized and/or supervised by adults.
  3. Agility/Adaptability: Studies show children under the age of six influence more of the household purchasing decisions than the parents. (Yikes!) When the world revolves around them, children can't adapt to change or take the needs of others into consideration.
  4. Entrepreneurialism: Children need the opportunity to take initiative and responsibility. Parents shouldn't be selling their children's Girl Scout cookies or setting up their lemonade stands for them.
  5. Oral and Written Communication: Personal communication is a must. Great texting skills won't land anyone a job, yet children as young as eight are given smart phones and Facebook accounts.
  6. Accessing and Analyzing information: Parents need to stop giving their children the answers. I personally know parents who do the majority of their kids homework just so they will get all "A's." The future of our workforce must be able to think for themselves.
  7. Curiosity and Imagination: As a society, we are consumed with 'fitting in' and we squelch the arts and creativity in school. Let your children be unique. Encourage them to be unique. Employers need unique!

I predict that in the coming years we're going to see a growing demand for workforce development programs in the school system and leadership development programs in the workplace simply because the next generations aren't equipped to meet the needs and expectations of the workplace. As parents, be aware that we need to do a better job of preparing this generation for increase responsibility. As employers and executives, be prepared to introduce programs that will help young adults obtain the skills they need to work for your company.

By 2015, Baby Boomers will cede the majority of the workforce to Generation Y. Ready or not -- here they come.

To find out more about Sarah's great work and her views on the generations, visit her blog at http://xyzuniversity.com/blog/

To learn how to better recruit and manage the young people in your organization, join the Interchange Group for our May 19 webinar, "Recruiting The Class of 2011: Managing The Expectation Of Millennials -- And Yours!"

Predictions For The Next Generation

What’s the youngest generation in America called and what will they be like? As the holidays approach and the focus inevitably shifts to children, we thought we’d take the opportunity to offer some predictions and pose this question to the greater community.

Though their beginning birth years have yet to be conclusively decided, children of America’s youngest generation are roughly 0-10 years old. They are currently the offspring of Generation X (born ca. 1963-1981) but many will have parents from the Millennial generation (born ca. 1982-2000) as time goes on. While demographers use a variety of names to refer to this generation -- Generation Net, Generation Z, the Homeland Generation -- none of them has yet to stick. And while it’s clear that the members of this generation will be the most technologically savvy in history, most of their other values and characteristics have yet to crystallize. Here are some of our predictions:
  • Self-Directed - In reaction to the “helicopter” parenting style of the Baby Boomers, “slow” or “free range” parenting styles of Gen Xers and Millennials will emphasize unstructured time over overachievement and result in the ability to self-direct.
  • Adaptive & Resilient - Not having experienced or remembered the years of prosperity prior to the “Great Recession,” this generation will come of age accustomed to living with less and working with what they have.
  • Conforming – Growing up in the wake of 9/11, Columbine and mobile surveillance technology will produce a generation of children highly tolerant of protective environments and imposed rules and boundaries.
  • Inclusive - This generation’s child- and young adulthood will be marked by political polarity, global instability and deepening divides between the rich and poor. As a result they will adopt values of fairness and due process in an effort to right the inequities they see around them.
Because a generation is shaped by the first 16 years of life, we’ll need more time to monitor all the influences (e.g. family upbringing, school systems, world events, etc.) of today’s youth. What do you think this next generation will be like in society? How will their values and behaviors shape the workplace of the future? We welcome your comments!

For more information and tips on recruiting, engaging and managing the different generations in your workplace, contact us at www.interchange-group.com.

Eldercare Issues in the Workplace

As more and more Baby Boomers struggle to balance full-time employment and the emotional and financial demands of caring for aging parents, the cost to employers is rising. According to MetLife, the average employee caregiver costs his or her employer $2100 per year in absenteeism, lost productivity and increased healthcare costs. That’s a total loss of $33 billion per year to U.S. businesses.

Unfortunately, the situation is predicted to get worse in the coming years. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services report that the segment of the population most likely to need care (those over 85) is increasing rapidly, from 35 million today to 70 million in 2030. How will employers cope with the disruptions and costs of a growing workforce of employee caregivers? Here are some of the many innovative “eldercare friendly” policies and practices that companies are adopting to address the issue:
  • Flexible work arrangements including telecommuting, compressed work weeks and job sharing
  • Leave-sharing that allows employees to donate a portion of their leave time to others who have eldercare responsibilities
  • Caregiver Employee Resource Groups that enable employees to share resources and emotional support
  • Dependent Care Spending Accounts permitting employees to pay for adult daycare expenses with pre-tax dollars
  • Consultation on eldercare services and counseling on hospice and palliative care
Addressing issues of eldercare is a business imperative. Organizations that respond to employee needs will be rewarded with loyalty, engagement and productivity. Those that force employees to choose between caring for a loved one and devoting themselves to work will sacrifice both their bottom line and their ability to attract top talent in the future.

For more information and tips on recruiting, engaging and managing the different generations in your workplace, contact us at www.interchange-group.com.

Onboarding Generation X

Over 1/3 of Generation Xers (born ca. 1963-1981) would rather go to the dentist than attend their company's orientation program. That's no surprise, since the needs of this generation are often overshadowed by those of the Baby Boomer and Millennial generations that sandwich Gen X in the workplace. However, failure to engage this independent cohort up front will prove costly for employers in the years to come as America's 80 million Baby Boomers attempt to pass on their roles to a mere 46 million Gen Xers.

Effective employee onboarding (i.e. the process of integrating new hires into an organization) will be critical for Gen X engagement and retention in the future. As a result, onboarding practices like the ones described below will need to echo Gen X themes of self-reliance, candor and transferable skills to be successful.

  • Offload employment forms and other HR information onto your company's intranet for new hires to access on an "as needed basis."
  • Use 30-60-90 day performance reviews to let Gen Xers know if they are on track.
  • Provide professional development opportunities to employees during their first 12 months of employment.
  • Be open about the challenges, opportunities and career paths available at your organization so that Gen Xers know what they have to work with.

Gen Xers who feel challenged and empowered during the first year of employment will reward companies with loyalty and productivity. Those who feel overlooked or marginalized will eventually leave for opportunities that better meet their needs. To what extent does your onboarding process fit the needs and expectations of Generation X?

To learn how to create a successful onboarding process across the generations, join us for our for our September 16 webinar, "New Hire Onboarding: Strategic Insights and Practical Guidelines for Boosting Employee Performance and Retention."