Gen Y Enter Stage Left, Baby Boomers Exit Stage Right

Been a busy week, I was in L.A. (twice) helped many clients, and now am off to NYC today on Sunday in preparation for tomorrow’s Forrester Finance Forum. Aside from the hectic schedule, there are two major changes in my life: 1) My kid sister enters the workpace, 2) My parents contemplate retirement. Me? I’m in the middle, “Jeremiah-in-the-middle” as a young Gen Xer, experiencing it all unfold.

Gen Y Enter Stage Left
Last weekend, my kid sister (yes, the one who said she only uses email to communicate with old people like me) has graduated from college. 10 years my junior, she starts her first full time job in San Francisco. Already armed with a network connected to her on Facebook, Instant Messaging tools (and probably MySpace too), she enters the workforce connected to her new employers: customers, partners, and even competitors.

What they are on their profiles echos to their networks, and if they indicate they are employed (many do) then they are now representatives of the brand.

Companies have three choices when it comes to understanding this opportunity: 1) Do nothing. Most companies are unaware of these changes, or even if they are, they are unsure of the possibilities. 2) Shut it down. Some companies have locked Facebook, YouTube and other ‘time-wasters’ away from employees, but now with today’s pervasive mobile devices (iPHone, Blackberry, Nokia, Sidekick), there is no blocking it. 3) Make use of the opportunity. Employees, whether they realize it or not are the front line of the company, they can be support, they can be sales, or they can just be brand ambassadors. Check out this interview with me about the future of the outsourced Intranet from ZDnet, and how Serena Software encourages it’s employees to have a Facebook Friday.

These questions remain:

  • Do the once finite lines of the corporate firewall between work and personal start to fade?
  • Who is really an official spokesperson? Is there an unofficial spokesperson?
  • As Generation Y moves into the workforce, how will their communication habits change? How about ours? (I work with several talented ones)
  • Will Generation Y, who is accustomed to Facebook Applications, Google Docs, Rich internet application interfaces, and advanced web technology (all public) be shocked to find out how bad your enterprise software is?
  • How will companies adapt and changes their corporate policies to meet this change?
  • Baby Boomers Exit Stage Right
    Although still a few years away, my parents are considering retirement. They’ve accomplished a lot in their careers, both have been towards to the top of the food chains in their respective careers in Education and Medicine. These baby boomers (the largest generation America has ever seen) leave their companies and organizations, and often with the know-how, knowledge, and networks that we’ve relied on. In fact, many senior leadership at corporations are members of the large boomer generation.

    For example, at a previous company where I managed the intranet, I received stats from HR, in order to complete my user experience research. I found that 40% of the company (more than a third) of the employees were going to retire in the next 5-10 years, many in leadership positions. That was 3 years ago.

    These questions remain:

  • Are companies prepared for this mass exodus of experienced leaders?
  • How will they harvest the knowledge from these professionals? Once they leave, they are under no obligation to return it.
  • How will some companies have ‘soft-retirements’ allowing them to work part time or have access to their networks.
  • Will they leave a gaping hole in upper and mid management giving a gravity well to Gen X to quickly climb to leadership –some with questionable experience?
  • Solutions? Dennis McDonald left a link to an interesting social network created by Dow that ties retirees to the company.

    Comparing both generations, I often have heard from my parents generation about climbing the corporate ladder, getting a pension, and being lifers at companies. When I talk to the younger generation, they are at the stage of wanting to climb vertically, and they know the fastest way up is out –in just a few years. Without a doubt, we’ve changes ahead, it’ll be interesting to see how companies cultures and workstyle change.