Thursday, January 26, 2006

Woodstock Meets Ragnarok Again...

"Let me share with you my observation about our new breed of employees. Gone are the days when employees will take on every opportunity to shine. Gone are days when additional responsibilities are taken as a chance to advance one's career. In the industry I am in right now, people work not because they need too but because they choose too. Employees (in the call center industry) are very specific in terms of what they should do. It's a dilemma, but I foresee that this is how it is going to be for awhile. With the sudden growth in the industry, the competition for talents is very stiff, its employees market now. And applicants are demanding the strangest things on earth."

The above is a real posting in one of the email groups I subscribe to. It's actually a common lament among HRM managers today and while I have spoken up in the past about the topic, I chose to keep my peace this time around. I figured someone else might just take up the cudgels for the current generation...perhaps someone from this terribly misunderstood and misjudged generation. Unfortunately, no one did. Maybe that's another thing that can be quickly added to their growing list of supposed shortcomings - apathy. But then again, this labeling thing and tendency to make judgments is so old generation.

It is very easy to make comparisons between the current and the old generation. Unfortunately, it is not wise to do so. Not only is it like comparing apples and oranges. Worse, it is like comparing apples ten years ago, and oranges today. Not fair and terribly unscientific.

It is also easy to kill the discussion by throwing in the blame card - who shaped the current generation to be like that? Isn't it parents who encourage their kids to stand up and fight for their rights, to demand that everything be made black and white? Isn't it parents who pressure their kids into getting a better car, or getting a more lucrative job? If the members of the current generation are "selfish, materialistic, lacking in focus, etc." is it possible they are so because that's exactly how we trained them to become? But while somehow valid in a twisted kind of way, the blame card does not truly address all the contours of the issue, or at least the important ones at least.

The real problem with the above comment is that it does not acknowledge a basic flaw - the yardstick being used to make the evaluation is dated and may not apply to the current generation.

Oh sure, loyalty, job performance, initiative, etc., all these things are timeless concepts - but their definitions are not fixed and constant. These concepts are defined differently across generations. Thus, my father's concept of hardwork, which may have involved dogged manual labor may not be aligned with my son's concept of hardwork which may involve mental exertion. Career advancement may not always be vertical today - and in fact, may not be as attractive as a come on anymore. Kids today operate in a different environment than in the past.

So instead of knocking each other off and trading labels and accusations, a better tack actually is making an effort to understand. That is the essence of diversity - it does not only mean differences in race and gender and suchlike. It actually also includes generational issues.

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