A Respectful Disagreement with SHRM Magazine

June 11, 2016

In my book I spoke a bit about Generation Z, taking notes of what is currently happening around them and how it will shape their choices. I also bemoaned how easy it was for Generation Y to be described with lazy adjectives that may have pinpointed the very superficial reality of the generation's beliefs and values, but did very little to help us understand why or how we can engage together. I warned readers to keep this in mind when it came time to judge the next generation, to avoid falling into the same trap and alienating a huge group of people.

 

It seems like that failure has already begun, though, and I'm sorry to say it comes from an organization that I not only belong to, but am also active in - the Society for Human Resource Management. I was recently perusing their May 2016 issue, and found a small box on the bottom of page 12, for those of you who subscribe, entitled "Meet Generation Z".

 

 

 

Quite frankly, as an introduction, it's terrible. What is the value in telling a group of HR professionals that these young folks have the shortest attention span of any generation before them? It does little else than create a negative impression before the kids even have a chance to walk in the door. I'm not even sure what the practical application of a fact like that would be. Do we expect them to jump from their seats and run around every eight seconds like unruly children? Certainly not.

 

The worst offense, however, is the entirely-too-terse statement, "College plans: Hazy." It does nothing to provide any context behind the reasons Generation Z hasn't immediately chosen to pursue college. As I wrote, they are making smarter choices about their post-high school education. They aren't as willing to fork money over for an investment that they haven't always seen pay off very well for the students that went before them (my generation). They want to build a life for themselves that is a balance of work experience and education so they can achieve financial stability sooner, and they don't necessarily see a four-year degree as the path to that. With a little extra background, they are starting to seem pretty shrewd, aren't they?

 

To SHRM's credit, they have done other writing on Generation Z, but for someone who is reading this magazine hoping to learn, they may have just learned half the story and called it a day. As leaders of the industry, we cannot be satisfied with a quick blurb that does little more than mislead.

 

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