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Small Business Digest


Meeting the Needs of Generation Y Shift Workers Key To Productivity

Younger works have differing needs that need to be addressed on the shop floor and in the office to maximize productivity. 

Shiftwork Solutions, a consulting firm that specializes in problems faced by multi-shift operations, has recently completed an analysis to determine exactly what younger workers want, and whether their preferences differ from those of other age groups.

The analysis examined five categories: (1) demographic differences, (2) health and alertness, (3) working conditions, (4) shift schedule features, and (5) overtime. The analysis focused on three age groups: (1) 25 years old or less, (2) 26 to 30 years old, and (3) all other ages.

One of the article's authors, Dan Capshaw, a partner at Shiftwork Solutions LLC, says that younger shift workers differ from other age groups in three important ways:

1. Demographics. More members of this group are unmarried and live alone. This gives them more freedom to choose higher paying shifts or to work more overtime if they want. In addition, more members of this group are students. To avoid potential schedule conflicts, they need a predictable work schedule and/or the ability to swap shifts. For many students, the current job may be temporary - it is a means of support while attending school or a step along their career path.

2. Work/life balance. This group places a high value on time off and the ability to participate in activities away from work. As a result, they are willing to work longer shifts to get more days off. They prefer flexible schedules to avoid missing out on personal activities or events. They also are more willing to change jobs if their personal time is put in jeopardy by a schedule change.

3. Mobility. This group seems to have less attachment to their job and employer. Finding work somewhere else would not be a significant setback for benefits (retirement, medical insurance) or shift assignment (assuming it's based on seniority). This job may not be their long-term career choice. They may be exploring different jobs and career options, using this job as a stepping-stone to something else, or simply earning money while attending school.

Jim Dillingham, also a partner at Shiftwork Solutions LLC, says that managers should recognize that the workforce is changing. They don't have the same attitudes or values that the older managers do. They have different expectations, and they are willing to seek another job if their current job doesn't satisfy them. Most of these expectations revolve around work/life balance.

Schedule-related changes that would be supported by many younger workers include the following:

1. Longer shifts. Adopting longer shifts will increase the number of days off and also the number of weekends off. 8-hour shift schedules provide 91 days off per year, whereas 12-hour shift schedules provide 182 days off per year.

2. Schedule flexibility. This can be accomplished by reducing the restrictions on shift swapping.

3. Overtime flexibility. This can be accomplished by allowing occasional swapping of mandatory overtime.

4. Proper staffing levels. Maintaining the optimal number of employees will keep overtime to reasonable (and tolerable) levels. Although Gen Y shift workers tend to want more overtime than other shiftworkers, too much overtime will interfere with their personal time.

To view the complete analysis, visit

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