Interview with Jessica Treft: A Human Resources Perspective | richard s. grossman

In the interest of bringing some different perspective to the conversation, I recently interviewed a couple of Human Resources professionals representing contrasting generations. The topic is workforce trends. First up is Jessica Treft, who is a Human Resources Coordinator in Minneapolis specializing in on-boarding, organizational development and team-building. In this interview, Jessica shares some of her insights and observations on the topic at hand from the “millennial” perspective.

As a Human Resources professional who also happens to fall within the Generation Y demographic (children of the 80s), can you share your personal experience and insight relative to the productivity and performance of baby boomers (50+) in the workplace?

Baby boomers have different work ethics than Gen Y’ers. Boomers take on assigned tasks and just take off, get them done and report back. They give you exactly what you asked for.

How does that contrast with Gen Y workers?

Gen Y’ers will give you what you asked for plus four alternatives from which to choose. They want to be included in the bigger picture from the beginning. They are collaborators in the truest sense of the word. They want to demonstrate they’re capable of taking on more and will throw all their ideas out there to see what sticks. They want to be perceived as “Superstars”.

Interestingly, Gen Y’ers are more persistent in their pursuit of positions than are baby boomers—to the point of being a nuisance. Then there are the “helicopter” parents who literally hover around on their child’s behalf. I’ve fielded calls on numerous occasions from parents of candidates who expect a status report on the hiring process. Needless to say, that leads to immediate disqualification of that candidate! I can only hope these parents learn their lesson after the first time.

What are the advantages of hiring workers who are 50+? The disadvantages?

Mature workers have more developed soft skills, which is a big advantage. They don’t need much, if any hand-holding. They also have more refined written and verbal communication skills.. They can be more rigid and set in their ways than younger workers and less inclined to share and collaborate, though I consider that more of a hurdle than a disadvantage.

On the other hand, Gen Y’ers, while very adept at new technologies, need help with the “heavy lifting” stuff such as scanners, copiers and faxes. They often need to be shown two-three times how to operate these typical office machines.

Suffice to say, there are inter-generational factors at play in the workplace that present challenges to managers.

In your opinion, is it more or less challenging for mature workers to find meaningful employment in this economy? Why?

From what I’ve seen, it is a bigger challenge for mature workers. They are being asked to take on more responsibilities for the same or even less pay. That has to be a difficult adjustment. At the same time, during this current recession, layoffs have been fairly evenly split between boomers and Gen Y’ers. There are a lot of mature workers who have been laid off only to see their jobs posted a few weeks later at much lower salaries.

There are two completely different mind sets at work here. Gen Y’ers are changing jobs every year or two anyway, so they have an easier transition—they’re already in that mindset.

What industries or tracks do you see offering the greatest opportunities for baby boomers right now? In five years?

For baby boomers, I think there are more entrepreneurial opportunities right now and for the next five years. Many new grads are delaying their entry into the workforce by staying in school and getting advanced degrees, hoping the job climate will improve over the next few years.

Jessica Treft has successfully transitioned in her career from the music industry to the more stable field of Human Resources Management. In that time she’s experienced the inner-workings of both for-profit corporations as well as not-for-profit organizations. She is passionate about lifelong learning and the pursuit of personal and professional development.

Until next time… Get it real and Keep it real.



2 thoughts on “Interview with Jessica Treft: A Human Resources Perspective | richard s. grossman

  • Madeleine Hart

    While I appreciate the thoughtful comments of Jessica and of course respect her opinions and observations of Boomers vs. Y’ers, I have to respectfully disagree with a couple of points. As a Boomer, I do agree with Jessica that there are definitely differences in work ethics between generations. Yes, you can count on Boomers to get the job done, but I don’t think you can generalize that that they don’t go the extra mile to provide alternatives to any given task. I think this is more related to differing personality types as well as thinking styles. Ned Hermann’s work on brain dominance is applicable to any age group; if you’re a big picture thinker, it doesn’t matter what age you are vs. those that are more detail oriented and focused in their approach to a task.
    While I know there is research to support some of the broader generalizations regarding generational differences in the workforce, ultimately I believe you are dealing with individuals. I also feel that using some of the current HR tools that are available for screening candidates, such as the Predictive Index, will ultimately help employers find the right person for the right job – no matter what age they are!

  • Jessica Treft

    Yes! A comfort for job seekers belonging to any age group is that ultimately, the right job will find the right individual.
    In regards to “going the extra mile” I don’t mean to imply Y’ers providing choices A, B, and C is always a good and welcome thing. In my experience, being given multiple results creates more work (and more frustration for co-workers, team members and managers) especially if time is of the essence.

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