GenX, GenY, Gen? … The Risks of Age Profiling in The Workplace

15 Feb

Mary Anne Osborne, SPHRThis guest blog post is courtesy of Mary Anne Osborne, SPHR, and principal of the Osborne Group. Mary Anne is a people-centric HR professional and consultant with over 25 years of HR experience in telecom, finance, manufacturing, healthcare and higher education.  Mary Anne presents monthly on our complimentary Sage HR R&R: Refresh and Recertify Webcast Series.

Recent trends in technology appear to have widened the generation gap as never before. The newest entrants to the workforce – Generation Y – have grown up in a world that is inundated with mobile devices, internet breakthroughs, tablet computers and social media.

As they have been predisposed to this technology from an early age, they appear to be especially adept at all things technical. In the context of the work environment, this creates a skill divide.

But how much is this trend unique to today’s business landscape? Could it be that generational tension has existed to varying degrees throughout time, and that HR managers merely need to adapt to these fluctuations and assess their employees according to individual merit?

To create a cohesive multi-generational workforce, industry experts say human resource teams need to create well-defined plans for managing and recruiting employees of different age groups. But of key concern here is not letting externally perceived notions of generational tendencies cloud judgment of character. This is perhaps most important in regards to hiring and recruiting.

Take Generation Y, for example. Many analysts have type-casted this so-called “millennial” generation as being needy, disloyal or even self-entitled. But is this really true? Of course not. These same young professionals are at the helm of many tech industry sensations, including Groupon, Facebook, Tumblr and foursquare. Furthermore, the recent economic downturn has dramatically altered their impressions of the world, particularly in regards to what they are or are not entitled to. 

The issue is that HR managers and recruiters would be ill-advised to leverage generational labeling in vetting job candidates or in engaging existing employees. Especially in North America, where the culture favors individualism over collectivism, employers need to interact with their colleagues and staff members on a personal basis.

The categorization of age groups tends to relate to economic, social and cultural differences, as well as how they have been affected by technology, education and the economy. But if these are the criteria for judging members of a specific cohort, then where does one draw the line? After all, a generation is merely a kind of demographic, so it’s worth it to ask oneself: What other demographics can be labeled and assessed with the same sort of sweeping generalizations?

To learn more from Mary Anne about The Risks of Age Profiling in the Workplace, listen to her recorded webcast now. 

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