Evolution of HR and the Workforce
Submitted by Tiffani Ewing, HR Indiana SHRM Workforce Readiness Director
Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s leadership helped the Allies win World War II, and it was the conflict’s veterans who shaped the workplace, basing their organizations’ structures on their military experience. The result was largely rigid, hierarchical systems that demanded a respect for authority and strictly dictated working styles, hours, and promotional structures. Loyalty was rewarded with lifelong employment, steady promotions, and pensions. Few members of the Silent Generation (born between the mid-1920s and 1945) remain in the workplace, and early Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) who also embraced the formula are increasingly scarce.
Baby Boomers were entering their prime working years in the early 1980s, as the country exited a recession. Boomers logged excruciatingly long hours and the wealthy became cultural icons. Generation X (born 1965 to 1980) started to change the status quo by job hopping in numbers that hadn’t been seen previously. Generation X’s attitudes contrasted sharply with those of Baby Boomers, who set the standard for hamster-wheel-like working schedules. The stock market crash in 1987 brought higher unemployment and a recession. People weren’t working long hours just to accumulate wealth, they were fighting to keep their jobs.
Every generation has endured hardship, but Millennials (born 1981 to 1996) and early Generation Z (1997-2010) have had the distinction of being constantly bombarded with a 24-hour news cycle, and pervasive social media, covering multiple critical life events such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Great Recession, the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Managing with empathy and appreciation became paramount as Millennials entered the workforce. Older generations often malign Millennials for being entitled individuals, yet thanks to Millennials, workplaces offer more benefits that improve employees’ lives, such as family leave, more paid time off and better mental health benefits.
Click here to read the full article from SHRM HR Magazine Summer 2023.