, ,

Generation *U*

So you haven’t heard of generation “U” yet either? Why, according to FedSmith generation “U” is the UNRETIRED GENERATION.

Full article AND COMMENTS may be found here: http://www.fedsmith.com/article/2199/reality-generation-u.html

So this article attempts to address the reasons or at least speculate why so many baby boomers haven’t retired. The comments are unbelievable! Some folks feel they have this power of anonymity when it comes to commenting online and they are just brutal in every way! What happened to being considerate of others?

But to get to the point, the article identifies that the health of Americans in this era is far greater than say in 1984. An of course with the fall of TSP amounts when the market crashed, folks do not have as much money tucked away for retirement.

My question is this, will there really EVER be this mass exodus? And when the majority of baby boomers have left, will there be a noticeable difference in dollar amounts spent, changes that are made or how the workplace is ran? I’d like to make the argument of no, it won’t. I think change for the most part is slow. SLOWLY younger folks are entering the professional realm and you are seeing trends and slight changes. I think this will continue. And as the baby boomers move on, younger folks will eventually slot in. But will there be a cost savings? I don’t think so. Are you willing to perform the job your predecessor did at a lower price? Or if you do take it at a lower salary, are you willing to put in the same amount of hours to get the job done or is work/life balance more important to you?

I’m not into generation bashing (if you haven’t caught on to that already). But I’d like to move past this hyped anticipation of the generation U exodus. There is nothing a little human capital strategy planning, performance management, and work-life changes can’t fix. 🙂

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Bryan Conway JD, PMP

One sector that this phenomenon is particularly relevant is education. In general (this is anecdotal, based upon the experiences of several friends and family members that are Gen X and Y teachers), these older Boomer teachers are working as long as humanly possible! Meanwhile, the newer teachers (10< years of experience) are perpetually being laid off / cut / relegated to subbing, while the Boomers continue to be fully employed, well into and beyond their 60s. Since teaching is not a physically rigorous profession, one could until the nursing home beckons!

In most of these school systems, seniority is king, never mind competence. The union leadership is all Boomers, who protect this system. Meanwhile, young teachers are unemployed in masses, and students are deprived of the perspective of a younger generation teaching them. When I was in school, most of my teachers were my parent’s age, not my grandparent’s age.

I don’t mean to sound biased against the Boomers, but really, how long does one need to work, and at what point does the system change to allow the younger generation to have a chance to have careers?

Peter Sperry

First — I firmly believe one of the early memos Alexander Hamilton sent to George Washington as President concerned the pending staffing problems when all the workers that had been on board since prior to the revolution decided to retire. Seriously, I remember discussing this in my undergraduate public administration seminars (Jerry Ford was President).

Second — There has always been genrational conflict, often heated. Cicero was particularly critical of Roman youth and it was the boomer generation which admonished each other to not trust anyone over 30 (still some of the best advice ever provided).

Third — There are many good reasons to work as long as possible or retire as early as possible but no one has an obligation to do either. As long as they are meeting expectations, they can and should stay as long as they want. Personally, my target retirement age is 70 followed by two senior tours in the Peace Corps.

steve davies

Hi Nichole

A hugely complex issue that we’ve been discussing over at OZloop under the banner Should we retire old public servants?

I actually fit the demographic myself. I’m not into generation bashing per se, but I’m increasingly of the view that the baby boomers are a selfish and spoilt generation. This is the generation that, in their youth, enjoyed free education and low unemployment. This is the generation that, in years to come, whittled down free education so that younger folk pay through the nose.

And this is the generation that now starts looking after itself to boost their retirement $$$.

That might seem harsh, but it is writ large that social policy in particular, has been distorted by the baby boomers. Not conspiratorial by any means, by the way. More like blind self interest. It is only been with the global financial crisis that this seems to shifting – however slowly.

I agree. Within organisations human capital strategy planning is the answer. In society it is social and economic policy. Again, the GFC has sparked moves in that direction.

The added dimension for me is that we probably need to focus more on looking at organisations from a sociological perspective and get a bit more determined about implementing change from the bottom up and getting a 21st century view of leadership and management.



Bryan Conway JD, PMP

The Boomers are working until they are 70 to boost their retirement, and yet can’t figure out why their 30-something kid can’t find a job and is still living at home! Hmmm, what’s wrong with Junior?

40 years ago, people retired at 55 – now that they are working 15 more years, so it stands to reason that young people could possibly have up to a 15 year wait to find meaningful employment.

The Boomers could be the 1s generation to actually disadvantage their own children to further their own interests – I can’t see the WWII generation endorsing this mindset!

Nichole Henley

I agree Steve! Where are we placing our value and how we are looking after the advancement of our youthfully employed (or unemployed).

While I believe that everyone should be entitled to a “decent” paying job (I like President Roosevelt’s second bill of rights proposal. Yes, socialist concept but if it’s working toward the greater good of EVERYONE, how bad could it be?) and to retire at a “decent” age. Personally, if keeping the “elderly” (for lack of a better term) employed keeps them off the streets, off welfare, healthier thereby keeping healthcare costs down, I want them to continue to work! But this is where performance management kicks in. If they can’t keep up or if their skills could be better suited somewhere else, this is where management kicks in.

Great POV about education, Bryan. Teachers are really taking a hit this year and it amazes me everytime I hear about the cutbacks and furloughs they are doing in education. Begs the question of where do we place our value in society???

Peter– I appreciate those points! Ahhh..the peace corps. I was looking forward to joining right out of college until I realized the pay wouldn’t support my student loan debt and sadly, defering my payments so that I would pay off my education costs well past 50 years didn’t seem like a good plan either. Good luck!

Avatar photo Bill Brantley

@Bryan C: I so agree with you. Now I have worked with some great Boomer professors who keep themselves relevant and are continually learning so they are an asset to their students. But, too many Boomer professors haven’t changed their lectures for the last 20 years. Some professors just need to realize that they need to step aside.

But, I believe the bigger impact to education is the online revolution. Why listen to the average professor of physics when I can listen to Dr. Feynman? Think of how MIT’s Open CourseWare and how it has changed access to education.

Peter Sperry

@Brantley & Bryan — when you have been around awhile, you learn that failure to remain current is not a generational issue. I have been terribly distressed at the the number of 30 year olds who have not cracked a book, read a journal or upgraded their training since they graduated from college 8 years before. It is really kind of sad that at 53, I have been the most internet savy person in the office for the past 12 years and regularly prove more effective at search utilization than our interns. In general the people who are “phoning it in” at 55 or 60 were probably doing the same at 25 and 30. Anyone who is not constantly sharpening the saw is going to get rusty and the process is not confined to boomers.

Also, emplyment is not a right, and entitlement or a privilage. It is an exchange of value. If the employee is providing value to the organization in excess of the cost of maintaining them on the payroll, why would a smart employer forego that value regardless of the employees age?

And why would a young worker who values their own abilities wait for a boomer to retire or move aside before trying to move up? It is a big world with many opportunities, even in a recession. One advantage of working for the federal government is you can work in 4 – 6 career areas, move through 10 or more jobs over 40 years and still maintain the same retirement plan. And that doesn’t include the oportunities provided by the revolving door (which I consider a good thing). Anyone who is waiting for boomers to move on so they can move up will likely find themselves passed by someone with more get up and go.

@Bryan — on a personal note — My maternal greatgrandfather retired at 92, his son at 75, his daughter (my mother) at 70. My paternal greatgrandfather died at work at 88, his son retired at 75, my father was a slacker and retired at 65. One common thread I’ve noticed is that in my family, the ones who worked and stayed active well into their 70s also lived and were healthy well into their 90s. So for me at least, retirement at 70 followed by active vollunteer work is a survival plan.

Avatar photo Bill Brantley

@Peter – I agree and have seen this with my own students. Just because you have an iPhone doesn’t mean you are automatically a tech guru. Hate to use the cliche but you are only as old as you think.

Bryan Conway JD, PMP


Great response! A few observations:

-I haven’t been around as long as you, but I have put in a good 25 + years in the private and public sectors and feel that I am speaking from a position of experience.

-I totally agree that it is crucial to stay relevant, always seeking new challenges and acquiring new skills. The federal government is great for this, as training is always available (at least in my agency).

-There certainly are older workers who are very sharp with their IT skills, and young slackers that are taking up space. (I have to word this carefully, should someone in my office recognize me!) – in most instances, the GS-12 Step 10s who have been employed for 20-40 years get drastically outperformed by the Gen X & Y employees. This includes IT skills, attendance, quality of work, and most of all, sense of urgency. They don’t care about appraisals, have thousands of hours of sick leave, and are basically untouchable and are definitely in no hurry to get off of this gravy train (Ok, I guess that wasn’t worded very carefully, lol)

-Employment certainly isn’t a right – but in union and government employment, the “exchange of value” can be drastically disproportionate! Are the GS-12 Step 10s referenced above generating 90k+ in value?

-Young workers shouldn’t wait around for Boomers to leave – but those positions occupied by the GS-12 Step 10s are not going to be found on USAJOBS.gov anytime soon! All employers are constrained by finite resources. I’d love to hire 10 Gen X or Y “go getters” tomorrow – the budget forbids it.

-The longevity of your family is very impressive and I hope you inherited those genes! My dad retired at 58, as he worked in a pretty dangerous and life-shortening environment (factory). Most of the other males in my family retired around the same time. I would suggest that the incredibly long and active lives of your family are the exception, and not the norm!

Henry Brown

Doubt that there ever will be a mass exodus: Even in the best of times various government agencies were in somewhat of a panic because the “numbers” indicated that there could be a mass exodus.
When people look seriously at joining the exodus in good times or bad they realize that they are not willing to take a significant cut in pay for the life-style that they have become accustom to and THEN they get serious about investing for retirement and since that is probably a 20 or 30 year job …. and when folks get close some economic speed bump or another hits and they get into another “panic”.

About the only thing that will drive the retirement numbers up is a buy-out regardless of the organization, Unfortunately this probably doesn’t work as well as it did a decade ago, because of the failure of leadership to keep the buyout relevant in today’s economy.

And you can forget about saving money… A Local government in an effort to use this tool as a cost saving tool, let 200 employees participate in a retirement buy out by letting the employees sell back all their accrued leave. Because most of the employees needed to be replaced (Chief of Police, Head of Legal dept etc. etc.) yes they “saved” a little money if one didn’t count the fact that each retiree was drawing retirement pay and the position had to be back filled… Well to compound the problem a significant percentage of them where able to get back on the payroll as part time consultants. Well there went ALL the savings.

Haven’t been close to a buy-out in the federal sector for at least 5 years but back then the same problem existed, buy out, then employee is at the same desk the next day as a contractor.

Henry Brown

My previous response did not stray from the what I would like to think was one of the primary issues “the mass exodus is a coming” …

Going to agree with Peter: Generational issues are NOT is what driving performance management.

I believe that poor leadership is what driving poor performance management, at least in the federal sector. If you have a employee is a step 10 whatever pay grade with no chance of promotion probably doesn’t do too much good to threaten said employee with “if you don’t improve your performance I am going to take away your step increase” similarly some young college grad who is only in the job long enough to gain some additional skills.

I was involved in a “experiment” where everyone got evaluated by everyone else, in came to a screeching halt when one of the second level leaders got several negative reviews.

Very little effort is made, at least in the federal sector, to provide “training” for leadership skills including communication, and some basic Maslow’s training (one size doesn’t fit all)

And I see “luddites” everywhere at every generational level. Be it the spouse of one of my “students” at the senior center, be it one of the peers of my grandchildren, one of my fellow government employees who has been with the agency doing the same job for 20 or 30 years, or one of the interns being brought on board to shuffle papers. Some times some of these people can be brought aboard the “eagerness train” but it requires extra hard work by those wanting to motivate them.