Our Generation Nation Has Growing Pains

Jim Sloane raised very interesting points in his “Why Can’t We Grow Up” blog about project management maturity. One in particular is keeping me awake at night:

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Organizations in Silicon Valley can integrate virtually any technology into a myriad of applications, and still we struggle with integrating talented individuals into teams of people spanning countries, generations etc.

Here’s something more consider — did you know the largest labor market transition the world has yet to see is just around the  corner?  It’s time to say hello to our new team-mates from the Net Generation, and by the way the oldest member of this generation is 29 years old and the last has just turned 9.

Almost 11,000 Net-Geners enter the workforce every day (over 4 million in a year), and with over 76 million members in the US alone (nearly 1/4 of the population) we are only just starting to see the influence this generation will have on us and on the world.  Never mind the Gantt charts & decision trees, how are we preparing ourselves for the next generational shift as our Net Generation colleagues arrive to help us in the workforce? Are we willing to accept and adopt their norms into our project environments? And what could we be doing in our organizations now to be better able to channel the talents of this group when they arrive in greater force?

There is an excellent report from the think tank New Paradigm that addresses the impact of the Net Generation joining the marketplace and workforce. You can download a briefing deck at http://www.newparadigm.com/media/NGenSlidesApr0207.pdf.

23586974.jpgThe briefing deck details the norms that Net-Geners share including Freedom, Customization, Scrutiny, Integrity, Relationships & Collaboration, Experience (fun, play, entertainment), Speed & Immediacy and Innovation.  It explains that Net-Geners have different expectations about the world of work — for example, this generation prefers a longer but looser set of working hours where social activities can be scheduled in the gaps between work activities.  And the traditional approaches to planning, decision making, delegation and information transfer are perceived as “cripplingly slow” — Net-Geners have grown up with instant communication tools and have a need for speed.

I read certain findings in that report with particular interest:

By 2010, nearly 40% of the workforce will be comprised by the Net Generation. For most companies, this generation will drive the workforce policies. And by the way, Net-Geners aren’t impressed by hierarchy and authoritarian management. They are self-starters, prefer to work in teams and expect to be involved in decision-making. All good on paper, but have we factored how this will play out with everyone gathered for the Monday morning project meetings?

The N-Gen generation will be the first to produce more female graduates than male from post-secondary programs. 24149261.jpgThis could be the first generation in North America to be led by women. I’ll reserve comment, but let the readers know there’s a big smile on my face as I type this.

Trust is more critical to job satisfaction in the Net Generation than any previous generation.

The old model of “Recruit, Train & Retain Employees” will be replaced by “Initiate, Develop & Evolve Relationships”.  N-Geners have no great concerns about leaving a good job for a variety a reasons, including simply a change of scenery. As employee resignations grow exponentially, there will be an urgent need to develop better alumni structures to maintain a link and accept the individual’s resignation as a natural evolution of the ongoing relationship: not an end to the relationship.

To Jim’s point, I too think achieving greater project management maturity requires taking a longer, harder look at the people issues — and this is one that can’t wait!

1 thought on “Our Generation Nation Has Growing Pains”

  1. Good stuff Margaret! 76 million Net Gens on their way to the employment landscape sometime around 2020? And we are going to need some project management skills in a lot of those.
    How are we, the developers of the PM profession, going to pass along our knowledge to them?
    We know that managing projects in successful ways, achieving goals, keeps our organizations vibrant. How do we tie this strategy and the Net Gens together?
    I think it will take some creative training and mentoring. The best training approach I see, is ‘game like ‘Simulations’. These people are so net savvy, and play video games regularly, that PM simulations would be a great way to go. In fact, Cisco is using ‘Mini-games’ to train employees. These are easy access immersion type simulations in Flash that run about 30 minutes. Imagine a 30 minute game, (looks and acts like a real video game) that shows how to develop an integrative approach to project planning. (Remember the triple constraint?) What about a game that helps you develop a strategy?
    Mentoring this generation may be more difficult. I could be wrong about this, but I see the same reaction to older people, I had when I was young, indestructible and always right. This will call for some real mentoring skill, like making no statements, asking questions – properly.
    Now there is a formula for successfully integrating the Net Gens into our project management world!

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