Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tell Your Story In 2012

As the New Year approaches, consider the stories you would like to share in 2012.

Stories entertain us, but they also act as a vehicle for passing memories, values and rituals on from one generation to the next. That's why the Interchange Group supports StoryCorps, one of the largest oral history projects of its kind. Since 2003, StoryCorps has recorded and archived over 35,000 interviews of Americans of all ages and backgrounds. Each conversation is preserved at the Library of Congress and available to enjoy on StoryCorps' Listening Page. Interviews are also featured every Friday on NPR's Morning Edition.

As a gift to our clients and community, the Interchange Group is donating to StoryCorps this year. I invite you to listen to some of the interviews, organized by categories such as work, romance, friendship, September 11 and Hurricane Katrina. And, if you'd like to conduct your own interview, StoryCorps will help you do that. Their Great Questions List is wonderful for getting a good conversation started.

Happy New Year!

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Monday, November 7, 2011

Millennials & Work Location

There are many myths about Millennials and urbanization: Their attraction to cities for the “hip” factor; Their preference for mass transportation as a commitment to being green. But the majority of Millennials actually live in suburban environments. In fact, 43% describe suburbs as the “ideal place to live,” compared to 36% of Generation Xers and 28% of Baby Boomers.1 As Millennials transition into their 30s, their preference for low density, non urban living is predicted to increase even more. Here’s why:
  • Affordable Housing - 64% of Millennials say it’s very important to own their own home, and suburban homes generally costs less than their urban counterparts.2
  • Job Opportunities - Suburban regions with low unemployment currently boast high percentages of recent college graduates in the U.S.3
  • Family & Community - Millennials, many of whom are about to start families, want to raise children in the same suburban settings of their own youth.4
Millennial migration is significant to companies’ strategic planning. Attracting and retaining this large demographic of future workers impacts not only talent strategy, but also planning in corporate development, real estate and facilities management. Housing, telecommuting, and mass transit patterns also play a role.

By 2014, the bureau of labor reports that Millennials will make up 1/3 of America’s labor market. How and where organizations find young talent in the future will become important drivers of competition. Have you entered these factors into your planning?

Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

1Winograd, Morley and Michael Hais. Millennial Momentum. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2011. Print.
2Winograd, Morley and Michael Hais. “Are Millennials the Solution to the Nation’s Housing Crisis?” Web. 17 July 2011.
3Kotkin, Joel. “America’s Biggest Brain Magnets.” Web. 10 February 2011.
4Winograd, Morley and Michael Hais. “Are Millennials the Solution to the Nation’s Housing Crisis?” Web. 17 July 2011.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Is Ageism Real?

The recession swept through America, leaving scores of unemployed Baby Boomers in its wake. Millions have been unable to find work since. It’s now gotten so bad for the unemployed over 50, that President Obama is proposing legislation to make discrimination against the unemployed illegal.

So is ageism in the workplace real? You bet it is. But the situation is complicated by these competing truths:

  • Many older workers do not have the skills and competencies that employers need to compete in the new economy.
  • Some younger managers are afraid to hire older workers because they don’t know how to manage them.
  • Sometimes older workers cost more to employ. Sometimes they cost less.
  • Productivity can decline with age, but younger workers are not always more productive, nor more reliable.
To be over 50 and unemployed carries a terrible status in our country, and we are ALL complicit. My challenge to hiring managers is to check your assumptions when screening candidates and look for the competencies most critical for the role. My challenge to Baby Boomers is to prove your relevancy to the new economy, adapting your skills and offerings to meet these changes in the market.

It is in everyone’s best interest for organizations to attract and retain top talent. What are you doing, as a hiring manager or potential employee, to help or hinder that goal?

- Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group
Workforce Strategies for the New Economy

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

9.1% Unemployment & Open Positions?

On Friday the Labor Department reported that America’s unemployment rate held steady at 9.1%, resulting in 0% job growth for the month of August. Yet for the same month, employers also reported a sharp increase in difficulty recruiting for open positions (SHRM Leading Indicators of National Employment).

How is it that companies can’t find the talent they need when so many people are looking for work? The answer lies in what economists refer to as “structural discord in the labor market." Plainly put, the competencies of our current workforce do not match what organizations need to stay competitive in the new economy.

When the economy actually improves, companies will have an even harder time attracting and retaining key employees, especially those from younger generations who view their employers with a consumer mindset. As a result, many organizations are starting to define and strategically position themselves specifically for the talent they want to hire and keep. Often referred to as Employee Value Proposition, the perceived rewards and benefits employees get in exchange for performance is becoming a selling point and key business strategy for companies wanting to stay ahead of looming talent shortages.

Don’t let the unemployment statistics fool you. It will continue to be difficult to find good talent. Are you prepared? Do you know how to define and market your Employee Value Proposition?

- Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Diversity Training Is Offensive To Millennials

Over the past 10 years, I’ve had the opportunity to observe and advise on corporate diversity training. I always caution employers on their approach to diversity with members of the Millennial generation. In my experience, Millennials are bored, if not downright offended, by what they experience when it comes to diversity initiatives within companies. Here’s why:
  • Most diversity classes focus on “difference” and the importance of the individual. Millennials would rather focus on what they have in common and the needs of the community over those of the individual.
  • Millennials have a positive, unity oriented take on diversity where shared responsibility is key. They reject the polarizing outlook of older diversity trainers who tend to focus on rights and victims.
  • As the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in American history, Millennials grew up with messages celebrating diversity. They see companies that have to talk about diversity as “behind the times.”
Employees make the decision to stay or leave a company within their first six months of employment. This is the time period when most Millennials attend their first diversity training. By 2014, the bureau of labor reports that Millennials will make up 1/3 of America’s labor market. Can your organization afford to polarize such a large population of your current and future workforce? Do you know the next steps to take ensure their commitment?

- Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Succession Planning for the 21st Century

75% of executives view succession planning as the top human capital challenge that could derail their company's attainment of key strategic business objectives. Yet generational shifts, emerging communication technologies and rising economic uncertainty have changed the playing field and what's required of 21st century leaders. Existing succession planning models have not kept up.

There has been much talk of the "new normal" in American business but little practical discussion on how to address succession planning to meet new and future challenges facing organizations. Here are five questions to start the conversation and improve the quality and depth of your leadership pipelines.

  1. What roles in your organization are mission critical now?
  2. What roles will (and won't) be mission critical in the future?
  3. What roles have the highest turnover?
  4. What roles have long learning curves?
  5. What roles are or will be difficult to recruit for?

To learn the critical requirements and pitfalls of succession planning, I invite you to watch my 3-minute video, Building the Talent Pipeline to the 21st Century, featured at this year's SHRM conference. You can access the video and other pertinent information directly from the homepage of my newly designed website at If you need a sounding board for any of your succession planning or talent management challenges, feel free to contact me at

- Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mixing It Up! Amy Hirsh Robinson Featured in HR Magazine

I’d like to share a fascinating examination of generational issues in the workplace. “Mixing it Up,” is the cover story in the May 2011 issue of HR Magazine, in which I am quoted extensively. As an expert on the impact of generational differences in both the for-profit and non-profit worlds, my consulting has evolved over the years to enable organizations to create agile workforces adaptive to change. Through my work, my clients gain a cost effective and competitive advantage in attracting, retaining and managing multigenerational talent. In addition, my strategic expertise refines their business models and practices to address generational trends in the market.

I invite you to read the article and share your thoughts with me on these compelling issues. It’s also not too late to register for my May 19 webinar, “Recruiting The Class Of 2011: Managing the Expectation of Millennials --- And Yours!” If you can't make the webinar, but would like to discuss the intergenerational issues of your company, feel free to contact me at

- Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group (

Monday, May 2, 2011

Recruiting the Class of 2011: Managing Their Expectations -- Any Yours!

Does this sound familiar?

  • You're frustrated by what you call a "sense of entitlement" in todays youth and marvel at their lack of patience to master a skill or job thoroughly.
  • You're horrified by the casual writing style of your younger staff and wonder what happened to spell check and punctuation.
  • You've just spent thousands of dollars recruiting recent college graduates, only to find that six months later they've left you for greener pastures.

Welcome to the Millennial generation! Born into the world of the internet, cell phones and video games, these teens and twenty-somethings are tech savvy with short attention spans. Raised by "Helicopter" Baby Boomer parents who pushed them to excel, Millennials are natural multi-taskers brimming with confidence. This is the Harry Potter generation of team enthusiasts who want to make the world a better place. And they are ready to bypass any red tape that gets in their way!

In only four years, Millennials will represent over 40% of the American workforce. How will employers effectively recruit and manage a group of workers predicted to drastically change how companies organize and communicate? Join us for another popular Interchange Group webinar as we answer this question and share practical strategies for attracting and retaining the Millennials. Learning outcomes include:

  • Expectations, motivations and behaviors of the Millennial generation
  • Recruiting and interviewing tactics to attract top young talent
  • Orientation and on-boarding practices for accelerating time to productivity
  • Strategies for managing career pathing and development conversations
  • Management and communication practices to increase performance and retention

Registration for this webinar is complimentary to Interchange Group clients. Contact your Interchange Group consultant for arrangements or email Registration for non-clients is available for a fee of $79.

Click here to register

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Would You Hire Your Own Kid?

Written by Sarah Sladek, founder of XYZ University and author of Rock Stars Incorporated: Hiring the High Performance High Maintenance Hotshots Half Your Age.

I'm fascinated by the topic of workforce and leadership development, partly because I'm a parent and partly because I work with organizations grappling with generational issues. I know all too well that everyone has an opinion on "today's" generation and "tomorrow's" generation and how these differences challenge organizations. But one topic that remains to be explored is workforce readiness.

The Conference Board recently released a report which argues: "High school and college graduates are showing deficiencies in both basic and applied skills, and a real lack of preparedness for today's world of work." Unemployment among teens and young adults has been at an unprecedented rate for several years. Even before the economy took a nosedive, employers preferred to hire senior citizens or immigrant workers over Generation Y.

So, would you hire your own kid? Let's be honest. Probably not.

The Conference Board report explains there are seven survival skills that our new graduates must have but are not getting in our current educational environment. I'm going to take this a step further. I think parents are partially to blame. Not public or private education. Not government. We, the parents, made this mess.

Parenting has changed substantially in the past 20 years. I'm not proclaiming to be an exceptional parent by any means, but as a generational expert I have observed how the changes in parenting have created a generation that's lacking critical skills. Here are the seven skills new graduates lack and examples of where I believe parents are falling short:

  1. Problem solving: "Mommy! Timmy hit me!" "Oh no, let me go right over to Mrs. Smith's house and she and I will have a conversation about this." Parents have become overly involved in their children's lives. As a result, children aren't learning to solve problems or resolve conflict on their own.
  2. Collaboration: When I was a child, I played all day long without a parent ever being involved. Today's children are constantly shuttled between playdates and practices. They rarely play together without it being organized and/or supervised by adults.
  3. Agility/Adaptability: Studies show children under the age of six influence more of the household purchasing decisions than the parents. (Yikes!) When the world revolves around them, children can't adapt to change or take the needs of others into consideration.
  4. Entrepreneurialism: Children need the opportunity to take initiative and responsibility. Parents shouldn't be selling their children's Girl Scout cookies or setting up their lemonade stands for them.
  5. Oral and Written Communication: Personal communication is a must. Great texting skills won't land anyone a job, yet children as young as eight are given smart phones and Facebook accounts.
  6. Accessing and Analyzing information: Parents need to stop giving their children the answers. I personally know parents who do the majority of their kids homework just so they will get all "A's." The future of our workforce must be able to think for themselves.
  7. Curiosity and Imagination: As a society, we are consumed with 'fitting in' and we squelch the arts and creativity in school. Let your children be unique. Encourage them to be unique. Employers need unique!

I predict that in the coming years we're going to see a growing demand for workforce development programs in the school system and leadership development programs in the workplace simply because the next generations aren't equipped to meet the needs and expectations of the workplace. As parents, be aware that we need to do a better job of preparing this generation for increase responsibility. As employers and executives, be prepared to introduce programs that will help young adults obtain the skills they need to work for your company.

By 2015, Baby Boomers will cede the majority of the workforce to Generation Y. Ready or not -- here they come.

To find out more about Sarah's great work and her views on the generations, visit her blog at

To learn how to better recruit and manage the young people in your organization, join the Interchange Group for our May 19 webinar, "Recruiting The Class of 2011: Managing The Expectation Of Millennials -- And Yours!"