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November 18, 2008

Gen Xers on average will switch jobs seven times in their lifetime. Know how many jobs Gen Yers will have?


The average time they spend in each job?

1.1 years.

Perhaps that's why my session on succession planning this morning at Sage Summit was almost at capacity with about 100 attendees.

What surprised me was when I asked who in the audience were Seniors, Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Yers and there were people from all generations in the room. I suspected it to be mostly Boomers trying to understand how to hire and retain the next generation of workers.

But what became clear was that most of the people in the room are facing a much more complex problem: balancing the generational mix that exists in many organizations today.

One point I was trying to drive home is the importance of flexibility—not only for Gen X and Y, but for all generations. And I told them about a concept called ROWE—Results-Oriented Work Environment. ROWE tries to teach companies to focus on work and not "presenteeism" or the hours that people are physically in the office.

Let's face it, we've all walked past people playing solitaire or emailing their friends while they were physically at work, but not actually working. And no one says anything.

Yet if one of those people shows up at 10 a.m. or walks out the door at 4:30, at least one person undoubtedly will look at their watch.

That's called "sludge" in the world of ROWE. And it's ugly and unproductive.

The point is that people can sometimes get more done when they aren't in the office.


And there's another little secret---if companies give employees the option to work "wherever they want, whenever they want," those employees just might get inspired at, say, 2 in the morning (yes, this actually can happen).

Some people in the audience freaked out. I mean how can you possibly manage and mentor people if they aren't physically in the office? What if you need them there at certain hours? How do you know they're really getting their work done?

There aren't any guarantees in life, but the good thing about ROWE or doing anything else in attempts to retain workers is you're allowed to experiment. There's no one right answer.

But the one wrong answer is not doing anything. Watching as your Boomer and Xer and Yer employees roll their eyes at each other, express resentment, bitterness and whatever other negative feelings they have toward each other doesn't help.

Try something. Anything. But don't ignore the problem, because it's not going away.

Comments (2)
Re: this observation: "The point is that people can sometimes get more done when they arenít in the office."...

Thank you for saying that! It is exactly what Iíve been saying for the past four years since our company let me move out of state and work from home to raise my family better. Fortunately my manager and our company understood me well enough, and understood that philosophy too. Four years later, Iím still going on strong. I think I'm a case in point: You trust the right people, and they will perform even when you can't see them. And not only that, but they will get more done remotely than they would have otherwise. I only wish more people who feel stuck in an office or a Dilbert-like environment could have this same opportunity I have had. It's possible.
Posted by Steve J | Thursday, November 20 2008 at 1:44PM ET
If you are hearing from your Boomers, "I had to do it that way to make partner, so they should too" then you can probably expect very few people makiing or working toward partner. As a consultant and college professor, my experience shows that it is not that they don't want to work, they just want some flexibility to work in their own manner. If your business has the flexibility, and many do if they look at their client goals, then ROWE is a big part of the answer. Heck, I get up at 6 am and am doing my own thing at 12:00, and back at it at 6 pm. Works for me.

Posted by Angie M | Thursday, November 20 2008 at 12:19PM ET
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