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4.0 out of 5 stars What does the future really look like?, February 13, 2011
This review is from: The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop, and Keep Tomorrow's Employees Today (Hardcover)
Written by Jeanne C. Meister and Karie Willyerd (2010), "The 2020 Workplace" is a message about generational diversity and gaining competitive advantage through talent management and leadership. Outlining ten forces shaping the future workplace now, Meister and Willyerd (2010) suggest the future of work can be defined as an "office everywhere" where "team members live halfway around the world "(p. 15).

Rich with statistical data and analyses, the information provided bolsters Meister's and Willyerd's (2010) position. Suggesting the work climate has and will continue to change; they mention the specifics of where and how one works will no longer matter provided results are delivered. Central to their argument is that of shifting demographics resulting in a "significant number of workers over 40 comprising the work force", "more women entering and staying in the work force" and "Latinos composition is expected to double to 30% of the US population by 2050" (Meister & Willyerd, 2010, p. 16).

Meister and Willyerd (2010), initially discuss a new type of worker necessary to compete in the future suggesting a "rise in a new segment of workers requiring "tacit skills such as problem solving, judgment, listening, data analysis, relationship building, and collaborating and communication with co-workers" will be needed (p. 20); however, much of their discussion is centered on the Millennial generation. Although an outcry of the "Knowledge Economy", what begins as a conversation about a new breed of employee quickly becomes focused on the generations and the Millennials. While aspects of the ten forces speak to the youngest generation in the workplace - the Millennials - it is as if to say this is the only generation that really matters.

The strength of the book is the research conducted. Sampling working professionals from a range of industries from "admin services to education, financial services, the government, health care, high tech and telecommunications, manufacturing, professional services, and retail", the "Generations@Work - Global Survey - polled more than 2200 members of four generations currently in workforce" (Meister & Willyerd, 2010, p. 60). Key findings suggest there are very defined differences such as those of Boomers and Generation X who seek to balance work with home life; whereas, Millennials integrate work into their personal life (coined "weisure" time) (Meister & Willyerd, 2010, p. 60). While Generational surveys and studies delineate differences, many also point out similarities that exist as a part of the human condition. Meister and Willyerd (2010), suggest that at the core of all member's wishes are those to be "valued, empowered, and engaged at work" (p. 63).

Highly prescriptive the book offers advice and examples of other organizations efforts to help their employees understand generational differences (e.g. L'Oreal's "Valorize Generational Differences" which "showcases the values, myths, and paradoxes of each generation" (Meister & Willyerd, 2010, p. 65). Although Meister & Willyerd (2010), suggest "Thriving in the 2020 workplace will require organizations to understand the various need, expectations, and values of the generations" (p. 67); the lack of individualism somewhat diminishes the message. Highly impersonal the authors discuss strategies for recruiting in the context of beginning recruiting efforts in middle school and high school. Is this cause for parental concern?

Written under the auspice of the workplace in the future as a whole, more disappointing was the discussion around Generational diversity in the first few chapters but seemed to lack the inclusivity of the other generations. Although lacking in some areas, overall the book was highly informative and the sources seemed to be well documented.

The book is a great read and causes one to reflect on not only the challenges but huge technological gains that have been realized in the last thirty years. While a growing area of interest, the reader is of the opinion that social networking has validated the concept of freedom of speech. Meister's and Willyerd's (2010) research serves as a reminder that while it would seem that one can say what they want, organizations would be wise to develop Human Resource strategies and policies reflective of the knowledge economy.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 9, 2011 6:20:42 AM PDT
The challenge with any futures orientation is to focus on one or two aspects of the future, rather than using complexity models to assess how multiple forces interact together over time. The intergenerational challenges are many; each generation has its place and voice. However, in two decades of working with organizational teams, the aspects of "difference" including age are diffused when larger shared work goals, strategy and mission become the focus. This book lends a strong perspective on the challenges of addressing, and customizing, an organizational response to the aging workforce story. A huge benefit of the book is the impetus it may give many HR professionals to encourage action towards a preferred future, rather than one that happens to us.
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