There have been a spate of news articles in the last few years about how the 70+ million members of Generation Y is going to change the workforce with their can-doism, computer savvy, and desire for work-life balance. While I don't doubt that each generation is somewhat different from the last in terms of its desires and expectations (I definitely find a lot of baby boomers' work experiences and expectations hard to relate to) I'm also extremely skeptical of articles about trends which don't have any data to back them up. I accept that there are a lot of people in their early twenties entering the workforce, and a lot of baby boomers on the verge of retirement, and that means companies are really going to need to attract these young workers. But are they going to get the shorter hours, more interesting and meaningful work, and more casual atmosphere that they reportedly want in the workplace -- indeed, the very things that everyone wants? I hope so, for all our sakes. But here are my predictions for the next ten or twenty years, based on gut instinct and reading a bunch of these articles:
1. It's all going to depend on the economy. Sure, when the economy's going good and the unemployment rate is low, employers have to be a lot more flexible in the war for talent. I remember all too well the overblown salaries, flexible schedules and snack cabinets of the dot com era. Good times. But the fact is, when the going gets tough, and we're all fighting each other over some 28K entry-level job that we have to dumb down our resumes for, your request to take your dog to work or to have Wednesdays off for your juggling group will no longer be accomodated.
2. The workplace will become more casual. In many industries people's home and work wear will completely blend. However, companies that have international clients will still be compelled to dress *somewhat* professionally.
3. Multi-tasking will become the norm. Yes, the time will come when texting someone during a meeting will no longer be considered rude, but perfectly acceptable. (Does anyone remember when call waiting was considered rude? I do.) Everyone will check Facebook and IM their friends during work (if they don't already) and companies will abandon their efforts to try to stop this.
4. If Gen Y members want to enter truly desirable professions (such as in the entertainment industry) they're just going to have to buckle down and work the crazy hours and wreck their personal lives like everybody else. Because if they're not willing, someone else their age certainly is.
5. Workers will not be judged as harshly for wanting to take a sabbatical or change their schedule to accomodate some other outside interest. But know this: those who sacrifice everything for work will still get ahead faster. Which is only fair.
6. By the time the Gen-Yers are in their thirties, they'll have tempered their expectations of what they're likely to get out of work, just like everybody else. Only the lucky ones will enjoy work so fulfilling they'd do it happily for free. Everyone else will do work they sometimes like and often don't, and sometimes suspect is utterly pointless. Because burgers will still have to get flipped, and ad copy will still have to get written, and funds will still have to get hedged. They will have to try to squeeze some meaning out of that.
Have a great weekend, everybody! Come back Monday for my Q&A with a phone sex worker. Perverts welcome!