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Generation Flux (1)

The cover article in the February issue of Fast Company describes a way of being in which individuals thrive on change and constantly seek new challenges in the workplace. Members of this so called generation flux will change not only jobs but careers every few years, adding skills and experience along the way. Gen flux embrace ambiguity which requires not only out-of-the-box thinking but a well honed ability to learn new skills and adapt old skills to new endeavors. Gen flux is more a state of mind than a defining characteristic of a particular age cohort.

The flux generation presents both challenges and opportunities for workplace effectiveness. From the employers’ point of view it undermines traditional strategic staffing and succession planning. Some companies counter this effect by “stocking up” on critical staff in anticipation of very high and unpredictable turnover rates. Not withstanding the incentives that employers’ use to retain key staff, the desire to move on to new challenges in different organizations proves too strong for many in gen flux. It is only the exceptional companies that can provide the variety of challenges to hold the interest of gen flux for an extended period of time.

Nevertheless, organizations can benefit from gen flux if they leverage the benefits of gen flux’s experience and especially their ability and desire to learn new skills as they shift jobs and often careers. Harnessing this drive to learn has become a key factor in organizations’ success; those companies that can provide the opportunities for learning as new challenges emerge are likely to benefit the most. To be continued …

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Gordon Lee Salmon

Thanks Bob for this interesting perspective. I wonder how these people see themselves in being able to build deep skill and mastery if they are continually jumping from one job to another.

Lawrence Jefferson Bell

Robert, thank you for your truly brilliant insights. I really like what you’re saying, especially your observation, “Gen flux is more a state of mind than a defining characteristic of a particular age cohort.” While I do agree, I also believe there are general characteristics of the various age cohorts that either encourage or discourage the characteristics of “Generation Flux.” I believe that we see these flux generation characteristics as being most compatible with “Generation Y” (the millennial generation).

As Gordon seems to imply, the depth and mastery of a single job or skill is not always important to Gen Y, yet it’s quite important to Baby Boomers who want or need to add greater value to their current contributions. Gen X, the “me generation,” can and will “build deep skill and mastery” when they see it as necessary for the next promotion or, perhaps, greater personal advantage. Generation Y, while sharing much of the idealism of the Boomers, are much more fluid and open in their careers and connections.

Perhaps the characteristics of “Generation Flux” might simply require a youthful and energetic approach to life and work. If this is so, our energetic Generation Y colleagues have an advantage over the rest of us (I confess…I’m getting older). Truthfully, I want to be a part of Generation Flux but it’s going to a greater reach for me than it will be for my twenty-something colleagues.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Hey Robert – Do you have a link to more information about this notion of “Gen Flux.” I’ve done generational diversity training for the past few years and I haven’t come across this phrasing…curious to learn more. Thanks!

Sarah Streets

Hmmm…not sure Gen Flux is actually generation/age related. I am not in my 20/30 somethings, have had a very diverse career (over 25 years) and would definately be considered Gen Flux. I find that it actually has helped me in my career. Managers have usually come to depend upon me because I AM so varied in experience and can accomplish (i.e. learn/figure out how to do it if never done it before) anything that is needed. It has also saved me in RIFs, downsizing, etc as I have several different areas I can move to (it’s a type of chess game I would say).

Robert G DiCalogero

For Sarah Streets: gen flux is not an age related cohort; gen fluxers can show up an any age. I make this point in the first paragraph of my blog. It is a way of being or state of mind that drives people to seek knowledge or skills on a broad basis and to thrive when taking on new challenges. I will discuss this more in the second part of my blog.

Robert DiCalogero