Workforce of the Future

Kim Chesky

Everywhere you turn there is another article written about the looming impact of retiring baby boomers. According to the Conference Board, as many as 64 million skilled workers will be eligible to retire by the year 2010. That is a staggering number, to be sure.

I don't know about you, but this impending labor crunch keeps many of my clients awake at night wondering just who will replace this mass of retiring baby boomers. Their children (or in some cases grandchildren) will, that's who.

Often referred to as Generation Y, the Millennium Generation, or Generation Me, these 18- to 24-year-olds are the newest members of the workforce and represent the future of leadership for our organizations. Bringing to the workplace vastly different expectations about work, life balance, social conscious, and what it means to succeed in a career, these twenty-somethings stand in stark contrast to the boomers they are replacing. Although sometimes maligned for lacking loyalty and the work ethic of their parents, nothing could be farther from the truth. Members of Generation Y are very knowledgeable, have spent their lives surrounded by technology, are well connected to information and a vast social network, and are capable of being highly productive.

So what makes this group different? Like generations before, Generation Me has been shaped by experience. They witnessed 9/11 and the shootings at Columbine which, together, demonstrated how vulnerable life is to unpredictable events and how suddenly tragedy can bring life to an abrupt end. Their views on loyalty have been shaped by the corporate "right-sizings" that victimized their parents, friends and neighbors. Global warming and other environmental and health issues have raised their social conscious. Often raised in dual income households in relative affluence, Gen-Yers were taught to believe that they could do or become anything they wanted. Instead of punishment, boomer parents worked to build self-esteem in their children by showering them with coaching, attention, and praise.

Kim Chesky is the founder and learning partner for Human Performance Solutions, an organization dedicated to helping clients enhance individual, team, and organizational effectiveness. He is also a Master Facilitator of The Leadership Challenge® Workshop. Kim enjoys spending time with his family, cooking, reading, coaching, and refereeing youth athletics and continuing his pursuit of life-long learning. Email him.

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