Performance Management Blog

Thoughts on Millennials, Workplace Aging, Conflict, and Innovation

Three different articles this morning got me thinking about the workplace. One was by Lisa Woods about ideas to manage conflict in the workplace. It is posted up in her Managing Americans blog at this location and was referenced in a LinkedIn posting. It focuses on positive ways to look at and deal with conflict as it occurs.

The second piece was about the aging workforce. It referenced a book called The 2020 Workplace, which is about how the workplace will look.  It is by Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd.  The basic point is that our aging workforce will push 5 different generations of workers into the workforce soon.

I also recently posted on the issues of team performance, collaboration and managing workforce age diversity in my blog. In it I focused on some ASTD research about how people are choosing not to retire and how that is impacting the workplace, which is actually getting OLDER rather than younger as people deal with the economic uncertainties of our times. (Read this blog article here.)

It says, in part:

And. according to a new survey by the Conference Board, two-thirds of workers between the ages of 45 and 60 are now planning to DELAY their retirement and work longer. That’s a 20-point jump from 2010 – when only 42% of workers had plans to put off their retirement. Job losses, low salaries, and declining home values are some of the main reason why Americans can no longer stick to their retirement plans and plan to keep working.

The new workplace will apparently have 5 tribes, each bringing their own technical and cultural perspectives and each with its own worldview. These groups will have to co-exist and also collaborate in order for companies to generate desired outcomes and results. Think about the elderly customer who calls into customer service and gets the young kid, or the young kid that calls in and gets one of us Oldsters to handle their problem. There are all sorts of opportunities for mismatching and poor communications. The Millennials may see their co-workers as simply elderly:

Millennials have different views of Traditionals

While the older workers may not appreciate all that the younger workers represent:

Millennials may appear to be Potato Heads

Getting the younger workers to get up to speed on how things work may be an interesting challenge, since many workplaces have traditional ways of structuring and managing transactions.

Are training people really ogres?

“Traditionalists” are probably a bit more resistant to new technologies — teaching my mom how to use a cell phone has been interesting. Using the remote control is sometimes even a challenge when the one-button push gets out of synch and some devices are going on while others are going off! Coaching over the phone is fun. So, imagine the Traditionalist calling in and being told they need to give their pin number and access their account online in a conversation with a person who has been online and had a iPhone since they were two.

While the younger workers feel like so much is old-fashioned and not up to modern standards, some questions may arise as to whether we are using the newest of technologies:

Questions always arise if we are using new technology

Similar issues arise as systems and process get upgraded and no longer work like they used to. Some of the older workers may simply feel pressed to adapt to new technologies that are uncomfortable, so there may be some issues of resistance:

Defense wagon yellow 70

To make progress we need to consider workplace conflict a GOOD thing. It generates discomfort with the way things are now and also helps generate “considered alternatives,” things that might be done differently if we choose to do so. But, if an alternative is not considered, it cannot be implemented — it is good to have people thinking out of the boxes we are in… Conflict supports that, for sure.

Having a workplace in some level of conflict is what generates creativity and innovation and forces changes in how things work.

At the same time, a clarity of mission and vision, alignment of measurements and feedback systems to support the generation of desired results, plus sufficient non-direction and the ability to build intrinsic reward mechanisms is important.

We cannot just bring new workers into the workplace and set them free to do what they do. After all, they have no idea as to how we got to where we are and what our history looks like. We have, in so many workplaces, a long history of successes.

Cave Wall yellow 70

And we have a management team that has helped to bring us to our current point. Consider that good, but that it also represents a solid opportunity for a lot of organizational and leadership development. We need some new tools and some new approaches to getting things done.

Cave Wall Writing yellow 70

The reality that there will be FIVE generations of workers in the workplace by 2020 is mind-boggling, and that the workplace will actually keep AGING as people keep working instead of retiring (all sorts of drivers). I posted up some thoughts and statistics about this before: ( ).

So, let’t look to drive MORE conflict and chaos, but let’s make for some effective conflict managements to help direct the focus and energies in our workplaces. We do that by being tight on missions and goals and purposes but being a little looser on processes and procedures. And keep people throwing mud at the wire fence — it is the only way to see what might work.

Conflict is good. Manage it well.

And let’s figure out how to get there from here!

Rainbow Wagon green 70

Our Square Wheels toolkits and our team building games offer some powerful, bombproof and inexpensive ways to improve teamwork and impact organizational effectiveness. Talk is cheap, but directed focus on issues and opportunities is effective in generating alignment and collaboration.

Spring of improvement and change poem


Addendum – from an article at

Older workers doing better than younger counterparts, study suggests
(by Joe McKendrick in SmartPlanet, with Scott’s rewriting)

There has been a lot of discussion about the plight of older workers and their supposed disappearance from today’s hyper-competitive economy. Anecdotal stories of age discrimination abound. A study funded by the Social Security Administration, however, shows older workers are more educated, more productive, and make more money than ever before. And with the increasing numbers of Baby Boomers hitting age-60 mark, these trends are accelerating as few choose to retire because they can’t.

Older workers also earn premiums over younger workers, and tend to have the same educational levels. 20 years ago, only 20% of workers who were high-school dropouts remained in the workforce past age 60, versus 60% of those with doctoral or professional degrees. This metric stays essentially the same for men, but has risen for women. Plus, since average educational levels are rising for older workers, greater labor participation rates are coming with it for non manual labor workers.

Employees between the ages of 65 and 69 have had 30%-point gains in income between the years 1985 and 2010. In addition, 70-to-74-year olds saw their income grow at least 28% points higher since 1985. The issue is that they are not allowing for a lot of hiring of younger workers

Incomes of workers 25-29 dropped 7%, and those in the 45-49 group dropped 1% since 1985.


For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

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Here is a bit more interesting information: This from

A new survey of employers finds the cost of replacing a ” Millennial” employee — an individual in his or her 20s — ranges between $15,000 and $25,000.

Cost to replace a Gen-Y employee: up to $25,000

by Joe McKendrick

That’s the conclusion of a survey conducted by Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm, and, an online career service.

Actually, the cost of replacing any employee across the generational spectrum is high. A recent study by the Center for American Progress puts this number at about 20% of anyone with a salary up to $75,000 or less. By this estimate, assuming a Millennial employee is making about $50,000, this means a $10,000 replacement cost — a little more conservative than the Millennial Branding estimate, but still something to ponder for organizations.

What adds to the Gen-Y replacement cost is their greater proclivity to job-hop: the Millennial Branding study finds that the average worker under the age of 30 changes jobs every two years, compared to the five-year job-hopping rate of Gen X-ers (30 to 50 years of age),  and seven-year-itch of Baby Boomers (50 years or older).

The major costs associated with replacing employees includes training and development, interviewing, job posting/advertising and on-boarding.

Also, as Millennial Branding put it: “Considering that approximately 40% of companies currently employ 50 or more millennial workers, these costs are expected to rise dramatically over the years to come. With current data showing more than 60% of millennials leaving their company in less than three years, employers are facing a very expensive revolving door.”

What can be done to keep to attract, rather than repel, needed talent?  Some thoughts:

Don’t compartmentalize the solution within a “program”: Millennial Branding states that some companies have “retention programs” to keep employees in the fold. However, keeping people engaged and excited about a company means a cultural change across the board, a different way of looking at management — or even better, a more management-free workplace.

Promote entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship: Nothing creates passion and personal responsibility more than being able to build one’s own business. Provide ways to ensure incentives and rewards for innovation. Don’t be afraid of employees even proposing disruption — creating a product or service that turns the mainstream business on its head.

Remove the barriers between employees and customers: Organizations that remove employees from meaningful engagement with the customer risk souring those employees. As a great example, look to the customer call-center function — a hotbed of turnover. Those companies that provide career tracks, training, and decision-making discretion to customer-care representatives see far less turnover than those that just want warm bodies at the call stations. At another level, employees caught up in a bureaucracy — and are far removed from customers — also are likely to be disenchanted.

Use social media: In its report, Millennial Branding points out that while 62% of HR professionals use job boards and corporate websites to recruit millennials, only 9% use LinkedIn, 3% for Facebook and 1% cited Twitter as a resource for recruiting purposes. You have to go where they live.

Dr. Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of the amazing Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game and the Square Wheels facilitation and engagement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced global presenter. -- You can reach Scott at and a detailed profile is here: -- Scott is the original designer of The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game and the Square Wheels® images for organizational development.

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1 Comment

  1. Dr. Scott Simmerman

    We’ve got:
    — Traditionalists (born before 1946)
    — Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964),
    — Generation X’ers (born between 1965 and 1976)
    — Millennials (born between 1977 and 1997), and
    — Newbies (born after 1997)

    The Newbies are expected to be connected and collaborative, if our schools can better support those styles. Socially, they will be participating in finding solutions to ecological and social issues so one might expect those frameworks in their workplace thinking. The realities of global climate change, energy and privacy may also have impacts on their worldviews.

    How DO we pull these different expectations and beliefs into a workable environment for productivity, innovation and quality. Doing nothing will certainly generate chaos and confusion.

    Fairness and opportunity will be expected by each group.


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