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Rookie Talent: Avoiding a Kodak Moment

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During most of the 20th century Kodak held a dominant position in photographic film, and in 1976, had an 89% market share of photographic film sales in the United States.

Kodak began to struggle financially in the late 1990s as a result of the decline in sales of photographic film and its slowness in transitioning to digital photography. In 2012, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The Kodak name became synonymous with a resistance to change, but it’s not just innovation the company lacked. In 2011, Kodak made the list of Top 10 Fortune 500 Employers With Older Workers, called out for employing a disproportionately high percentage of mature workers.

I can’t help but wonder: If Kodak had paid attention to its aging workforce trend, would the company have maintained market share and avoided bankruptcy?

I believe the answer is yes. I also believe companies didn’t learn much from Kodak’s example.

Although the recession ended in 2009, here we are five years later and unemployment for Generation Y (1982-1995) remains near its cyclical peak across the world. The largest, best-educated generation in history has become an under-utilized resource, vastly unprepared to move into positions of responsibility and leadership.

The lack of skill development and leadership development among Generation Y affects every generation. It’s the Trickle-Up Effect; what influences the youngest generation eventually influences the masses.

That’s why employers should be more concerned about who’s moving in (the rookies), rather than who’s moving out (the retirees).

So how do we lead this generation of rookie talent? This generation is the first to be raised in a post-industrial era driven by technology. As a result, they will value and seek out different work experiences and will certainly usher in widespread and significant change.

To keep the rookies engaged and actively contributing to the team, here are a few changes managers need to anticipate and embrace:
  • Collaboration
    Generation Y wants to feel like they belong to a team. Hierarchy is nearing an end and collaboration is emerging in its place because younger generations have been raised to do it, cycle times will demand it, and technology will continue to enable it.
  • Technology
    The rookies are Digital Natives, accustomed to customization, instant gratification, and globalization as a result of using technology in their everyday lives. They will expect telecommuting, virtual teams, access to the latest technology, and work flexibility.
  • Skills
    With technology, knowledge is quickly outdated and accessible to all in real-time. That means with little effort, the rookies could be as knowledgeable as the executives. They will expect to work for managers that have acquired and appreciate these skills: vision and the foresight to anticipate or respond to change very quickly, make wise decisions, and take action to create a better future.
  • Customization
    The rookies have only known a world where customization exists. Savvy business owners and executives will recognize their desires for career pathing and customized benefits packages, will find ways to utilize their unique skillsets, and create ways to help this generation visualize a future with their companies.
  • Mobilization
    This generation is highly entrepreneurial, juggling multiple jobs and launching start-ups. They will seek out companies providing opportunities to learn new skills, develop new products, and even try new jobs. It’s not likely they will stay working for the same company in the same role for longer than three years.
Rookies or not, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts this generation will become the majority of the workforce in 2015, and comprise 75% of the global workplace in 2025. For the companies that have struggled to make changes and adapt, this means inevitable failure.

Avoid making this your Kodak moment. Remember: Change is the only certainty, and the rookies are your only succession plan.

* * *

Sarah Sladek started researching demographic shifts, talent turnover, and generation gaps in 2002. She has authored four books on the topic and numerous research papers. Sladek is the CEO of XYZ University, the only company in the nation focused on helping organizations engage younger generations. Her latest book is Knowing Y: Engage the Next Generation Now

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:00 AM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Human Resources



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