The large population of Generation Y, also known as millennials, is overtaking the workforce — and may soon be running your business.
That's the assessment of Todd Thomas, a professor at the graduate school of business at Northwood University, during a seminar at the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo in Las Vegas last November.
"My prediction of what's going to happen over the next 10-15 years, and is already starting to happen," he said, "is that those positions that are very senior right now — where the person in it might be 50 years old — the (person in that position) in a few years is going to be 35 because there is not enough Gen Xers."
In several years millennials will be the ones running the business, he told the audience of auto service shop owners and manager.
"And they're going to be doing it much younger and with less experience than the man before," he said.
The millennials, those ranging in age between 19 and 35, are the largest consumer group and soon will be largest employee group in the U.S., he said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. workforce breaks down thus:
- Generation X (35-52 year-olds) — 42 percent;
- Generation Y (19-35 year-olds) — 37 percent;
- Boomers (53-70 year-olds) — 20 percent;
- Traditionals (over 70) — 3 percent; and
- Generation Z (16-19 year-olds) — 3 percent.
There are differences between the generations when it comes to work motivations and behaviors, but they also share similarities, he said, noting that it is important for managers to learn how to communicate between these generations.
Many boomers stayed longer in the workforce than they planned, along with some older traditionals. As they are now starting to retire, Gen Xers are trying to move into positions that the boomers are moving out of, he noted. But there aren't as many people in the Gen X generation and the larger Gen Y generation is following them into higher positions, he said.
Meanwhile, Gen Z is just entering the workforce.
"They have skills and they have abilities that they are going to bring to your workplace that, if you don't figure out exactly how to leverage those, you're going to miss out," Mr. Thomas warned.
"Working with different generations can be uncomfortable. It can be frustrating. But the problem is, every time that communication is less effective, it takes longer and it's misunderstood." And it can cost the business time and money, he added.
He said there is a confluence of: fewer boomers in higher level positions; fewer people of what traditionally is considered the appropriate age to fill those positions; and then a very large number of younger people waiting in the wings. So businesses will soon end up having much younger people moving into senior management positions, he predicted.