Meet Generation Flux: Change Agents Extraordinare

Are you a member of Generation Flux?  This isn’t just another name for the generation to follow the Millennials (although it could be.) Unlike all the others generation descriptions, Generation Flux has no age requirement.

leadership change managementGen Flux is less a demographic designation than a psychographic one, focused solely on interests, attitudes, and opinions. What defines Gen Flux is a mind-set that embraces uncertainty and ambiguity. It tolerates, if not embraces, recalibrating careers, continuous innovation, fluid business models, and vulnerable assumptions.

Up until recently, change progressed at such a steady, almost rhythmic pace that it allowed the innovator and entrepreneur to co-exist in a world of moving forward while retaining its hold on the past. Whether he created a new product, strategy, service, or developed a specialized skill, he created an asset that could sustain itself for decades. Often times, the innovation survived multiple generations, allowing the creator to pass the business or royalties from a product or service on to his children and their children.

But within the past few decades and especially since the turn of the century, this paradigm shifted.

The life expectancy of a typical business or product model has shrunk from decades to years. In many industries and businesses, the life of a model is now measured in terms of an Internet year, approximately 90 days. That means while delivering this year’s model to customers, you need to simultaneously prepare for its extinction while creating and preparing a newer, improved model for next year. That shifts the entire course of strategic planning

This unprecedented confluence of innovations has compressed the time between creation to extinction. Change is not only constant, but constantly accelerating. Nostalgia is dead. Status quo is eventually lethal. What we perceive as normal is subject to the blinders we’ve grown accustomed to – inherited from and grown in the past. For any business so in love with its past that it can’t imagine a future without it, its own demise is set in motion. Management feels the ship moving but ignores signs it is sinking.

Change itself isn’t the only cause of self-induced extinction because change is something that has existed since the beginning of time. What is different this time is the almost exponential increase in the velocity of change. For example, it took 38 years for 50 million people to adopt the radio but only 13 years for 50 million people to own a television.  It took Facebook less than 5 years to acquire 50 million users and by 2013, nearly a billion people signed on.

Years have no move to days.  When the Palm introduced its Pilot hand-held device, it took 18 months to sell 1 million units.  It only took Apple 24 hours to sell its first 1 million 4S phones.

The business climate, it is turning out, is a lot like the weather. If you don’t like what you see, wait a few hours.  But once a storm passes, it doesn’t mean things go back to the way they were. Just like the earth around us, every weather event changes the environment and landscape. The same goes for business.

The problem is that our ability to see and predict the future accurately is declining, fueled by all the complex interactions set in place by the intersection and interaction of technology and globalization. Predicting what will happen next has gotten exponentially harder. Ambiguity and complexity has invaded management’s boardroom and worker’s cubicles.

Any business that ignores these transformations does so at its own peril. Despite recession, currency crises, and tremors of financial instability, the pace of disruption is roaring ahead. The frictionless spread of information and the expansion of personal, corporate, and global networks have plenty of room to run. And here’s the conundrum: When businesspeople search for the right forecast–the road map and model that will define the next era–no credible long-term picture emerges. There is one certainty, however. The next decade or two will be defined more by fluidity than by any new, settled paradigm; if there is a pattern to all this, it is that there is no pattern. The most valuable insight is that we are, in a critical sense, in a time of chaos. (Fast Company)

To thrive in this new normal requires a whole new approach.  Not everyone will join Generation Flux, but to be successful, businesses and individuals will have to work at it. Unfortunate for many, the vast bulk of business, institutions, and organizations are not built for flux. Few traditional career  tracks or educational curriculum train us for an era where the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills.

Future-focus is a signature trait of Generation Flux. Trying to replicate what worked yesterday only leaves you and your business vulnerable. There is no question that we are in a new world. Therefore only some people and some businesses will thrive.

Will you be among them? Do you have the right management and workforce to steer your ship through the uncharted and unpredictable future?

What’s Up with the Attitude of Millennials These Days?

Confusion Millennial over his futureThere are few places I go that I don’t hear comments about the attitudes of Millennials. It is also the most common question I hear from clients these days.  It is so common in fact that it prompted an interview with the senior editor of Chief Learning Office magazine a few weeks ago. The article was just published last week. The editor asked me about what makes each generation different, if Baby Boomers felt the same way when they were young or have times changed, what Millennials want, how the generations respond to technology and more.

So let me give you a sneak peek into the interview.

Here’s a hard cold fact and yet a very simple but critical premise: the attitudes of each generation are different, not good or bad. (Yes, individuals in each generation have good and bad attitudes but collectively they just see the world a bit differently than their predecessors and successors.)

Without a doubt each older generation has viewed its younger successor as brash and uppity. Younger generations always look upward and see gray and staunchy.

But despite this loud roar of near-apocalyptic differences in attitudes between generations cited by the media, research is on the fence whether these differences are based on one generation’s perspective defined by events or concerns expressed by all generations at similar states in life and career.

Regardless of the cause, the notion that one generation’s attitude is good or bad is just bad business. Yes, there are individuals in each generation that have good and bad attitudes about work. But bad attitudes don’t infect an entire generation of tens of millions of people. In fact, I’m often embarrassed by the negative and disparaging attitudes of many of my peers (baby boomers) toward work and excited by the holistic and fresh outlook that millennials offer.

There is no question that historical events such as Pearl Harbor, landing on the Moon, the death of key leaders and great recessions imprint indelible messages in the minds of young people. These messages shape the lives of these young adults as they enter adulthood. They influence how they see the world and how the world sees them. But they don’t create an entire generation with a single universal attitude. We’re talking about millions of humans, not robots. Society and the marketplace that responds to these life-changing events likely have a greater impact on the life and times of each generation than the events themselves. For example, the Internet surely had a more pervasive and permanent effect on how a generation of young people will live and work as adults than the terrorist attack on 9/11.

Want to read more about the Millennials, technology, work and what companies need to do to recruit, hire, and retain the generation that will soon make up 75 percent of the workforce?Click here.

Download a free chapter about What You Need to Know About the Millennial Generation  from Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization

Retention and Hiring Woes Mount in 2014

Each year PayScale conducts a survey of compensation best practices to take a look at what transpired in the year just ended and predict trends for the upcoming year.  In addition to compensation trends, respondents reveal how employee retention and skills gaps are impacting the recruitment, selection, and management of top performing employees. 

Here are a few highlights from the compensation best practices report that was just released.


In 2009 only 28 percent of companies listed retention as their top concern, but by 2013 that number more than doubled, increasing to nearly 60 percent.  Only 10 percent thought it not a concern at all.

retention trends 2014

The top two reasons for people leaving an organization in 2013 are the same as 2012 and 2011: personal reasons and seeking higher pay elsewhere (21 percent).

For small companies, poor performance was the most important reason for someone leaving an organization (23 percent), and 56 percent of small companies said it was one of the top three reasons.  For medium and large companies, seeking higher pay and advancement opportunities elsewhere were the two most common reasons.

79 percent of respondents agree pay is often not the primary reason people first start looking for a new job.

Companies of all sizes in all industries should expect to see an increase in employee turnover.

Skills Gap

Half of respondents agree with the statement: “There is a lack of qualified applicants for our open job positions.”

Half of companies surveyed cited they are struggling to fill skilled job positions with nearly two-thirds of companies in the Information, Media and Telecommunications industry and Manufacturing companies reporting concerns.

Companies are growing.

Despite headlines to the contrary, many sectors of the economy are improving.  The combination of growth, retirements, and skill gaps means that recruitment and retention will become significant problems for companies that take a wait-and-see approach.

change in workforce size

Of the 52 percent of organizations that reported increasing the size of their workforce, 46 percent reportedly grew up to 10 percent.

Things are looking up for small business.

Small businesses are most optimistic about financial performance in 2014 with 75 percent expecting improvement compared with 72 percent of medium companies and 66 percent of large companies.

Salaries will go up.

For 2014, 88 percent of companies say they plan to give pay raises, with the average raise expected to be 4.5 percent.

Companies plan to recruit and retain high-performing employees with merit-based pay plans and additional learning and development opportunities.

Source:  To download the full report, click here.

U.S. Unemployment Stats: Fantasy vs. Reality

The December 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Unemployment Report showed that only 74,000 people found new jobs. Of these, 31,000 were part-time. Yet, the U.S. unemployment rate fell from 7 to 6.7 percent. You ask, how can this happen?

The answer lies in the fact that about 500,000 Americans quit looking for a job. They removed themselves from the BLS unemployment rate calculations.

What is going on? The U.S. stock market has been booming. Interest rates remain very low. Federal Reserve economists and Wall Street pundits keep telling us that the recession is over. If you don’t have a job, however, this seems pure fantasy. The share of the U.S. population available to work is now at a 35 year low – a 62.8 percent labor participation rate. This is the same rate as in 1978. It includes all people who are not infirm, in the military, or locked up somewhere. These workers are either employed or still seeking a job today.

At the same time those workers not in the labor force, or who have given up looking, rose in December 2013 by 525,000 persons to 91.8 million! If this increase had been zero, the U.S. unemployment rate would have remained unchanged at 7 percent! Those BLS numbers don’t lie, they just distort reality.

There are those economists and pundits who claim that the swelling number of Americans who have dropped out of the labor force is due to the massive number of baby boomer retirements and more young people going to school. These claims lack credible proof.

A comparison of BLS labor participation rates from 1999 to 2013 for different age ranges shows a dramatic workplace shift is underway. There has been a major decline in workers under 45, while there has been a significant increase in the percent of people over 60 who are at work.

U.S. workers aged 30 to 59, the prime age group for employment, comprise 50 percent of the potential workforce. They account for most of the decline in the U.S. labor pool since 2007 and 75 percent of the decline for 2013. If you zero in on workers aged 45 to 54, their labor participation rate is 79.2 percent, the lowest since 1988! “It just keeps dropping and dropping,” states Julia Coronado, chief U.S. economist at BNP Paribas. “It’s depressing, as it’s not just older workers retiring.”

At the end of 2007, when the recession began, 66 percent of Americans were at work. To return to that level in 2014, 8 million Americans would have to be added to the workforce. If this occurred, the current U.S. unemployment rate would rise to 11.2 percent!

All of the above suggests that the pool of potential U.S. workers is substantially higher than the BLS unemployment rate indicates. What is keeping these workers on the sidelines?  It’s clear to me: A growing labor mismatch between vacant jobs and the skills of unemployed American workers. It’s a structural unemployment problem has existed for the past decade, and it is now becoming more critical.

An Accenture 2013 Skills and Employment Trends Survey of 400 U.S. executives found that 46 percent are concerned that they will not be able to find workers with the needed skills. A 2014 McKinsey survey of business and education providers in the European Union found that about a third reported difficulties finding workers with the right skills.

Clearly the U.S. education to employment pipeline is broken. There are approximately 7.2 million vacant jobs in the United States that currently can’t be filled. My latest published research on the skills-jobs mismatch, Future Jobs: Solving the Employment and Skills Crisis (Praeger, 2013), estimates that the lack of workers with appropriate skills for a 21st-century workforce in the United States, and in nations worldwide, could result in 14 to 25 million vacant U.S. jobs by 2020. Future Jobs, however, does point to reform efforts underway in regions of the United States, as well as overseas, that have the potential to substantially alter this dire scenario, if they are rapidly brought to scale.

The realities of this skills-jobs collapse will trigger a major economic crisis for many Americans. As the pain increases, we can expect a rising public demand for meaningful action by business and government at the regional and state levels to fix the jobs and skills disconnect, instead of the current fantasy that the U.S. unemployment problem is ameliorating.


Edward E. Gordon is an internationally recognized researcher, author, speaker, and consultant on the future of America’s and the world’s workforces. His previous books include: Winning the Global Talent Showdown, The 2010 Meltdown: Solving the Employment and Skills Crisis, Skill Wars, and FutureWork. Ed can be contacted at 760.346.6364 or

Working From Home: Is it the future?

Working From Home -- Is It The Future? by – Connecting Great Companies with Global Talent

10 Facts About Aging and Baby Boomers You Should Know

1. January 1, 2011 – The very first Baby Boomers turned 65. social security for baby boomers

2.  For the next 15 years, every day more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will reach the age of 65.

3.  Baby boomers, defined as persons born between 1946 and 1964, number 76.4 million in 2012 and account for about one-quarter of the population.

4. December 31, 2029 – The last of the boomers will turn 65. The 65+ population segment is projected to double to 71.5 million by 2030 and grow to 86.7 million by 2050.

5. Currently, just 13% of Americans are ages 65 and older. The age-65-and-older population grew 18 percent between 2000 and 2011 to 41.4 million senior citizens.

6. The population age 65 and older is expected to more than double between 2012 and 2060, from 43.1 million to 92.0 million. In 2060, when the youngest of them would be 96 years old, they are projected to number around 2.4 million and represent 0.6 percent of the total population.

7. The older population (65 and older) would represent just over one in five U.S. residents by the end of the period, up from one in seven today.

8. The percentage of the U.S. population that is 60-to-64 will increase from 5.4% in 2010 to 6.2% in 2020, while the population aged 65 to 74 will grow from 6.9% to 9.5%.

9. In 2010, each retiree’s Social Security benefit is paid for by approximately 3.3 U.S. workers. By 2025, it is projected that there will be approximately two U.S. workers for each retiree.

10. By 2015 Generation Y will outnumber Baby Boomers in the workforce. By 2020, Generation Y will account for 45% of all U.S. workers. Gen X and Gen Y will make up 65% of our workforce by 2020.

Source: Department of Health and Human Services,, and Administration on Aging, Bureau of Labor Statistics

8 Questions You Need to Ask to Turn Around Employee Turnover

If you are own or manage a business, one thing is for sure – you have had an employee quit, retire, or be terminated at the most inopportune time. And these days, it feels like almost any time is inopportune with the current shortage of qualified or skilled workers.

It doesn’t seem to matter if you are a small company or multi-national, selling food, clothes, or technology, or servicing patients or homeowners. Employee turnover is affecting every organization in every industry from New York to California, from Canada to Japan. Even India and China are beginning to experience high rates of turnover.

That begs the question: Why do employees leave?

A quick Google search reveals nearly a million reasons, far too many to mention here. Unfortunately even the least discriminating person can see that most are anecdotal and rhetoric. The culprit? Few managers, HR included) rarely if ever collects data, other than going through the exercise of an obligatory exit interview. Even fewer mine the data after the fact. The solution becomes pass the buck or hit-or-miss tactics.

Finding a solution(s) that works lies in asking the right questions, aggregating data, and then continuously analyzing it. Once a company takes a deep dark looks into the data it has buried in employee files and spreadsheets, reducing employee turnover generally boils down to one of several common sources.

Topping nearly every list for employee turnover is poor supervisory fit or poor supervision. Research has proven time and again that employees don’t quit companies, they leave supervisors.

If your organization is experiencing turnover, first place to look is the supervisor. I am taking a humongous leap of faith in assuming that the company is doing a good job at screening out high risk employees and selecting the right ones. To be fair, there might be other causes and supervisors can’t be the scapegoat. But before you find yourself running down rabbit holes and blaming the recruiters and HR, it is realistic to consider the supervisors’ role.

Poor supervisory fit has several faces.

The most popular and undeniable cause of turnover is an interpersonal conflict between supervisor and employee – something in each person’s make-up just rubs the other person the wrong way. It could be attitude or communication style. It could be different approaches to work. Often times neither party is wrong or right, good or bad, their styles just don’t work together… and the employee leaves voluntarily or involuntarily.

Interpersonal conflict however is not always the cause. Often it’s just pure and simple mismanagement. Research consistently confirms that more than half of front-line supervisors fail due to poor management skills, often the result of little or no people management training. Many front-line supervisors are hired based on past technical accomplishments but lack adequate experience or training managing teams and motivating other employees to complete projects. Internally, many workers are promoted to management as a reward for tenure and loyalty. Both strategies are recipes for higher turnover and lower productivity.

To eliminate supervisors as a cause of turnover, you need to ask: 

1. Has he or she received adequate training?

2. Does one supervisor have more or less turnover than another?

3. Is turnover high on one shift or in one location but good in another?

4. Does the supervisor have performance goals that include retention, turnover, and employee engagement?

To evaluate other potential cause of turnover, ask:

5. Are employees leaving after 3 to 5 years or during their first 12 months?

6. Are you providing Millennials enough opportunities to learn?

7. Are you providing Generation X enough opportunities to advance?

8. Are your wages and benefits competitive…and do they meet the needs of a multi-generation workforce?

Higher turnover is a trend that will be more common in the near- and long-term future. It is increasing in many organizations from a shrinking labor pool, even those companies who have not experienced turnover in the past. HR and managers feel compelled to fill open positions quickly with less qualified people. (Qualified includes job fit, team fit, and cultural fit, not just education/experience.)

It is also increasing because long-term employees (especially Baby Boomers) who are retiring or leave the organization are replaced by younger employees who tend to change jobs frequently. It is not uncommon for a 20 or 30 year employee to be replaced with a Millennial who tends to change jobs every two years. Even Generation X hops more jobs compared to Baby Boomers and Veteran/Traditionalist generations.

Solving employee turnover has a lot of chicken-or-the-egg thinking in it. The right solution requires a good hiring process and effective leadership development. Placing the right employees on the right teams with the right manager has growing relevance and importance. Likewise, equipping supervisors and managers with the right people management skills and resources is no longer optional and a just “nice-to-have” but essential for improving productivity and sustained business growth.

Note: Initially posted on

Success Performance Solutions President Forecasts “Worsening Perfect Labor Storm”

The Attitude Virus = Presenteeism

How many unemployed workers are on your payroll? Take a minute to think about that – it’s not a trick question.

screening employeesThat’s because The Attitude Virus seems to be everywhere. According to the 2013 State of the American Workplace, only 30 percent of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their work, and the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is roughly 2-to-1. That means the vast majority of U.S. workers (70%) are not reaching their full potential-a problem that has significant implications for companies.

We see the symptoms every day as rudeness, poor service, lack of motivation, and increased job stress. Managers feel the pain of the long-term effects of the Attitude Virus with employee turnover, lost productivity, customer complaints, increased worker and consumer liability, and a drain on profits. But the greatest damage the virus has is that it leaves the workplace vulnerable to other attacks and opens the back door for healthy workers to escape.

Employees, managers, and owners with bad attitudes seem to spend the better part of each day figuring out ways to avoid work, complaining about the work they have, or redoing work. Gallup research shows the cost of active disengagement in the U.S is an estimated $450 billion to $550 billion annually and results in over 2.5 billion lost workdays per year.

These maladaptive behaviors have been reported in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine as a workplace condition called presenteeism-showing up for work but not being very productive. It’s like absenteeism … but worse. With presenteeism, employees are still showing up and still receiving a full paycheck. But they likely are disrupting and demoralizing the other workers and not doing the jobs they are being paid to do.

Who are these workers infected by this Attitude Virus? Depending upon the strain of the virus, these workers show up as any of these culprits.

  • Perfectionist, the worker or supervisor who can never be pleased
  • Resister, the employee who puts all his or her efforts into resisting any improvement or change
  • Not-My-Jobber, who refuses to do any task, no matter how simple
  • Rumor-Monger, who delights in spreading baseless, negative rumors
  • Uncommitted, whose indifferences place additional workloads on the other employees
  • Pessimist, who sees doom everywhere and works very hard at making everyone around feel down and gloomy

Turning this pandemic disengagement around rests upon the shoulders of supervisors and managers. The solution is further complicated because much of the perfectionism, resistance, rumors, lack of commitment, and pessimism comes from the supervisors and managers themselves.

Today’s supervisor and manager are faced with two additional challenges. Baby boomer and older managers are managing a multigenerational and diverse workforce, which spans four generations, a first for our country. From the mature generation to generation Y, these employees want and expect very different rewards from life inside and outside of work.

The new young supervisors and managers, however, who are less challenged by the diversity of the workforce, have never managed people in a prolonged economic slowdown. No one has ever managed during a time comparable to the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world we currently live in.

If all that doesn’t keep management awake at night, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a decline in the 30 to 45 year-old age group, the breeding ground for future managers and leaders. The result is that one in four middle and senior management positions may remain unfilled as the economy rebounds.

The Prevention and the Cure

Teaching supervisors to manage and motivate effectively is the prevention and the cure for improving employee engagement. Most supervisors have the skills to handle day-to-day activities, but only the top performers have the talent needed to avoid the things that derail most people. The missing skills that derail supervisors are the weak links in an organization that leaves the organization vulnerable to more attacks and employee turnover.

What can an organization do to immunize the workplace and end bad attitudes?

1. Diagnosis. Recognize that there is an attitude problem. This requires an honest assessment of the organization from the top down and collaterally including vendors, suppliers, and customers. Acknowledge any underlying causes of the Attitude Virus and take responsibility for removing them.

2. Test. Select only supervisors who have the skills or potential to manage and arm them with the tools and training they need to detect the infected worker and new hire before they leech out the morale and motivation from the healthy workers. Effective supervisors hold the keys to employee retention and profitability.

3. Therapy. Take responsibility for upgrading the skills of your first line of defense, the front-line supervisors and managers who fight the “infection” and “exposures” on a daily basis. Develop and train supervisors to have the skills to “treat” or quarantine the infected workers and coach them back to health. The virus is mutating almost daily, and continuous learning is crucial.

4. Monitor, monitor, monitor. Taking a weight loss class and not changing your eating habits but still expecting the pounds to drop off is ludicrous. Taking skills training without reinforcement and feedback and re-assessing is equally bad. Identify the skills that differentiate your highly effective managers from the average performers, develop training that is specific and responsive to those specific skills, and provide ongoing feedback and post-assessment to monitor progress and ensure protection.


13 Interesting Facts about Why Small Business Hiring Is Critical to Our Recovery

Here’s a small business fact: collectively they produce $6 trillion worth of annual products and services and employ nearly half of the American private sector work force.  For the past several decades small business, not big business, was the foundation of job creation.  But as I pointed out in my last post, small business hiring during this recovery is slow.  Here are 12 more facts about small business that you should know.

  1. There are nearly 28 million small businesses.
  2. These 28 million outnumber corporations 1162 to 1.
  3. They account for 54 percent of all sales.
  4. Small business provides 55 percent of all jobs.
  5. They created 64 percent of all net new jobs since the late 1990s.
  6. And since the beginning of this decade, small business generated 95% of all new American jobs
  7. Nine out of 10 firms in the United States employ fewer than 20 employees.
  8. In the next 5 years, 37 percent of small businesses will have more than 5 employees.
  9. U.S. small businesses pay 44% of total US private payroll.
  10. They generate half of America’s GDP and are responsible for 97.5% of all identified exporters with 31% of export value.
  11. Fifty-two percent of small businesses are home-based.  But not to be overlooked is that the small business sector in America also occupies 30-50% of all commercial space, an estimated 20-34 billion square feet.
  12. Small business produces 16.5 times more patents per employee than large firms.

A recent Census Bureau study shot down a common misperception that small businesses are more inclined to exit business than large businesses.   This misperception exists because of the high exit rate of micro-firms (1-4 employees), which averaged 18.4% over the last three decades.  While this rate was high, their entry rate was even higher at 21.3%, therefore producing a net job gain of 2.9% over the period. 

Sources: SBA Office of Advocacy, Kauffman Foundation Study, ADP, Census Bureau