Practice Development Counsel

Phyllis weiss haserot
Phyllis weiss haserot

President & Founder

212 593-1549

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Caught in the Middle: Working It Out for Generation X

We and other advisers and commentators have devoted much attention to the “big” generations – Generation Y/Millennials and the Baby Boomers. It is hard to ignore roughly 80 million people in each of those generations with strong voices and financial clout (current and potentially). Caught in the middle, and often feeling neglected, is the much smaller Generation X cohort of about 44 million people (U.S.).

By the law of supply and demand, you might guess that Gen X should gain big-time as this generation gains career experience and maneuvers up the typical career ladder. But instead, they feel squeezed in between the Baby Boomers who are slow to leave and turn over control and clients and the newly arrived Gen Y eager beavers. What's more, many Gen Xers have arrived at that treacherous time in the career cycle when they have greater demands from work and family than ever. And they are serious about having personal time and life choices. Like Gen Y, they are willing to work hard, but they want to do it their way.

As the generational issues receive more attention, we are seeing more experiments to try to restructure work so that it works better for people and their clients as well. Here is the story of an accounting firm that is achieving an impressive record of productivity, satisfaction and higher morale through their Work/Life/SUCCESS program. It was initiated in response to their Gen X managers' and senior managers' call for change to the existing and typical accounting firm “busy” season schedule – perhaps the biggest challenge of all.

This successful example from an accounting firm, not one of the Big Four (whose workforce flexibility achievements we hear so much about), rolled out for the busy (tax) season shows that flexibility can work extremely well in a demanding work environment when people are open to trying. LBA Certified Public Accountants in Jacksonville, Florida, began their Work/Life SUCCESS program during the 2006 busy (tax) season, when professionals complained to the managing director that Saturday work in the office requirements forced them to miss their children's sports. They raised the bar in 2007 and have impressive productivity success as well as happier professionals to show for it. The program has two main components: 1) Giving professionals a choice of when and where a minimum requirement of hours gets done; and 2) A changed bonus and incentive system which rewards production and achievement of specific goals rather than number of hours expended.

The managing director thought it shouldn't matter where or when the minimum hours were being completed but knew partners might be hard to convince. Buoyed by the raised spirits of the managers when approached about the concept, she got the partners to agree to try the flexibility as long as the hours were met. Admittedly this was “a leap of faith for some and a push off a cliff for others,” according to the managing partner. The first year, everyone met their hours requirements and was grateful for the choice of where and when.

For the next year (2007), it was decided to shoot for more flexibility by changing the bonus and incentive structure. Rather than rewarding working overtime, a structure was designed for appropriate goals and accountability measures that would reward the end result rather than the hours it took to get there. The bonus program included personal goals and firm goals. A fun way to measure and visually display progress was devised.

The results were impressive indeed ranging from an 85% to 125% increase in productivity in various categories. Morale was higher than it had ever been. Despite higher productivity, people felt less stressed. Team leaders pointed out that people approached their jobs with more project focus and efficiency. As one said, “I think our office is better staffed by allowing people to work when they know they are at their best.”

Do you think this is a viable model for organizations you know? It appears to be applicable to all generations and shifts the focus to what really counts: productivity and work satisfaction, which usually go hand in hand. Please share your observations and thoughts.



© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2008. All rights reserved

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For coaching, training and special programs on inter-generational relations and maximizing the potential of young professionals, call Phyllis for an exploratory talk or complimentary coaching session at 212-593-1549 or e-mail at