CLYDE — Here’s a statistic from the U.S. Department of Labor that might shock you.
By 2015 — that’s next year — the majority of the United States work force will be in their 20s.
In other words, get in the back seat of the car, Baby Boomers. You’re no longer driving the American work force. For business owners, understanding who is now behind the wheel will go a long way toward determining their future success.
“A majority of the rec centers’ employees consist of younger kids more from Generation Z,” said Sarah Scruggs, Director of the Clyde Recreation Center. “This is mainly because of the type of work involved and the simple fact that it is seasonal part-time positions.”
Some companies and industries work to keep a balanced workforce — a challenge, as baby boomers near retirement.
“I would say 99 percent of the kids return to the Recreation Department each summer,” Scruggs said. “But, I would say that a majority of the Generation Y people would not remain in Clyde to fulfill their dreams. This generation tends to go where they can find new opportunities.”
Baby boomers and those from Generation Y are motivated in different ways — a thought employers keep in mind when hiring someone new.
Here’s how Sarah Sladek, the chief executive officer of XYZ University, described the two generations:
Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. They are loyal and work-centric. This generation has lived through many changes, and often equates salaries and long hours with success and commitment to the workplace. The job comes first and they value face time in the office. High levels of responsibility, perks, and challenges motivates this generation. Next year, these 50- to 68-year-olds will occupy 30 percent of the work force.
Ahead of them will be Generation Y, which consists of those born between 1982 and 1995. Also known as the Millennials, these 19- to 32-year-olds will represent 39 percent of the work force next year. They have grown up with computers, laptops and smart phones as their toys. This generation has never known anything but a hi-tech world.
Powerful, but pampered
It is Generation Y’s fearless nature toward technology that is opening doors for them. They don’t flinch when it comes to change; they simply deal with it with little second thought. They thrive in the fast lane with their ability to multi-task.
Yet, while this group is creative, optimistic and achievement-oriented, woe to the employer who forgets about their need to be praised.
“Generation Y is a group of dreamers,” said Carolyn Farrar, Assistant Vice President at Croghan Colonial Bank in Clyde. “But sometimes dreaming isn’t enough. They have to take action and take many steps to get where they want to be.”
Farrar said the younger generations have not gone through the same system that Baby Boomers did.
“This generation has to go through tests before they are even considered for the job,” Farrar said. “Now, companies do drug tests and background checks on a possible employee. That was something that Baby Boomers rarely - if at all - ever had to experience.”
Still, those in Generation Y say they work hard for their employer, but only one-third of Generation Y members say their current job is their career, and nearly 60 percent have switched careers already. By the time they retire, some labor experts say they will have worked for 16 or more companies, meaning they average three to four years on the job before moving along.
“This generation is going to have to toughen up,” Farrar said. “There is no room for calling in sick to work. Baby Boomers might have tried to make life a little too easy for Generation Y, so we need to find a balance in their personal and technical skills.”
Haves and have nots
For many of the 80 million members of Generation Y, though, it has been a rough entry into the work force.
Much of that is a result of the Great Recession, which hit in December 2007. Even in its aftermath, it continues to force companies to run leaner, smarter and considerably faster as they redefine how they do business. New technologies and new efficiencies now see a single worker doing the jobs once performed by multiple employees. It has created the “haves” and the “have nots” of Generation Y, a dividing line that sharply separates one’s ability to be hired by the type of education they possess.
The “have nots” — some without a college degree — will continue to struggle to find jobs throughout this decade.
Farrar said even though you have a college degree, it’s all about how much drive that person has.
“A college degree doesn’t mean anything unless you’re willing to put it to use,” Farrar said.
According to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of college graduates working minimum wage jobs is nearly 71 percent higher than it was a decade ago. The study also shows, while minimum wage jobs are increasingly a reality for college graduates, a bachelor’s degree still gives a graduate a boost far above fellow workers without degrees. The unemployment rate for college graduates was only 3.8 percent as of October 2013, compared to 7.3 percent for high school graduates with no college experience.
Changing of the guard
This shift in work force demographics is coming at a time when 75 percent of employed Americans are looking for jobs, Sladek’s research showed.
While companies currently hold the upper hand when it comes to hiring, Sladek predicts that soon will change. She notes that employers are entering a period that will see them in a heated battle for talent. If a company is to be a destination site for talented workers, she said it cannot ignore the needs, desires and attitudes of Generation Y.
“A lot of good things will come from Generation Y,” Farrar said. “Baby Boomers themselves can learn new things - technology being a big one - from the younger generation.”
Bradley Massman can be reached at 419-547-9194. Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheClydeEnterprise. Follow us on Twitter @ClydeEnterprise and @bmassman22.