Success Effect Interview with Claire Raines

From The Success Effect
by John Eckberg

Claire Raines sees generational motivation as a critical challenge for firms looking to thrive in the next decade. Choosing the right person for the right job becomes even more critical when dealing with members of the X-Generation. That demographic has no qualms about quietly moving on to another company if their needs are not being met at the company where they are currently employed.

Her client roster includes Microsoft, Toyota, American Express and Sprint.

Question: Do generations get along at work?

Answer: Oh, that’s sort of like asking whether people get along. Yeah, sometimes, but I think there’s an awful lot of judging going on—where people don’t agree with other people’s work ethic or their approach to work and sometimes don’t realize it’s generational. Sometimes, I think, there’s actually quite a bit of generational conflict.

Cds In The Changer

  • Back on Top by Van Morrison
  • Keb’ Mo’ by Keb’ Mo’
  • Brand New Day by Sting
  • Best of Friends by John Lee Hooker

Q: Is it an older generation judging the younger generation?

A: Partly. Certainly we’ve had lots of judgment going on by the Baby Boomers [Americans born from 1946 to 1964] of the Generation X-ers [1965 to 1977] for the last 10 or 12 years. But now that the Generation X-ers are established in the work force —they’re now 40 percent of the work force and the Boomers are 45 percent—they’re getting to be almost as big a group, and they are moving into positions of more control and power. They are also getting more experience and are beginning to say, “Just a minute, this isn’t fair. There are all sorts of things about you guys that aren’t so wonderful, either.” Like Generation X-ers would tell you, Boomers tend to be really political and have learned how to say all the right things like, “We really care what employees think,” that kind of stuff.

Q: So boomers have artifice down pat?

A: Right. Generation X-ers think Boomers are artificial, and they think Boomers have been badly indulged, that they’ve been in the spotlight. Another big complaint that Generation X-ers have is that Boomers are just driven by work, that they’ve made it the meaning of life, almost like a religion. Generation X-ers think that’s pretty unhealthy.

I’ve been working with this stuff for 15 years. I’ve written four books about the generations in the workplace based on focus groups, interviews, surveys and lots of other people’s work, too. I hope that people will realize that growing up in a different era tends to make people see the world differently, and that that’s not a bad thing. I would like executives and corporate leaders to realize that people are not going to grow up and be just like them, that people will get more tolerant of differences and begin to value differences. I would hope people will improve their communications and management styles and keep generational differences in mind.

Q: When it comes to retention, it seems like Generation X-ers are a freelance generation—24 months at a place and they’re out of there. That would be heresy to some earlier generations.

A: Absolutely. That is a huge generational difference. Generation X-ers were shaped by the 1970s. They saw an oil shortage and Nixon go down in disgrace. They watched their parents get out-placed and laid off. They grew up in an uncertain economy. They tend to think of themselves first—of course there are all sorts of people who don’t fit this profile—but one typical characteristic of Generation X-ers is that they think of themselves as free agents. They think of themselves as marketable commodities.

Books On The Nightstand

  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

Meredith Bagby, the CNNfn reporter, sometimes quotes a survey that says there are more Generation X-ers who believe in UFOs than [those] who believe that Social Security will be there for them. They feel like their only ticket to security is themselves and their resumés.

Q: For employers to retain Generation X-ers—is it a simple question of more dollar signs?

A: Dollar signs work for all the generations, really. For Generation X-ers, money is important, but they also say they want to get that resumé strong, not necessarily because they want to take the resumé somewhere else, but because they want to be developed.

On The Coffee Table

  • Vanity Fair
  • People
  • Creative Nonfiction

Carryout: Growing up in different eras leads people see the world from a variety of perspectives. GenXers are free agents, and see themselves as marketable assets. Boomers like security. GenXers like personal development. Realize differences. Adapt communication approaches to the generation.

Trump. Gerstner. Chopra. Zell. Springer. Those are just some of the names in The Success Effect, a ground-breaking project by Cincinnati Enquirer buxiness columnist John Eckberg. This extensive volume contains candid conversations with America’s top business trailblazers and innovators.