Charlene Horner reviews a grant
proposal Tuesday in the offices of Safe Babies
WAUKESHA - When companies got lean and
mean during the Great Recession, Charlene Horner found
herself contemplating her future, and ultimately making
the giant leap of going back to school and switching
careers from a professional marketer and business
proposal writer to grant writing for nonprofits.
As she watched other workers getting laid off or
forced into retirement, Horner said, she realized she wanted to
make the last half of her working years more fulfilling and was
less driven by income.
“I hear a lot of ‘I wish I could do something
that means more to me,’” she said about her peers.
Returning to school at age 37 may seem an unusual
decision, but Horner said many people she knows in their 30s and
40s are getting advanced degrees to keep their job skills
current and obtain salary increases.
Scott Nissen, president of Nissen Staffing
Continuum, Inc. in Waukesha, said workers in their 30s and 40s
have come to realize that life and working is about acquiring a
“portfolio of experiences.”
While the younger generations may change jobs
more often, Nissen said they are becoming more realistic about
the risk involved in accepting one opportunity opposed to
another and are considering factors such as commuting time.
Since becoming a grant writer and communications
coordinator for Safe Babies Healthy Families in Waukesha,
Horner, 41, said it’s the first time in her life she is not
looking to switch jobs. Before, she equated moving to different
jobs as a way to increase her salary.
“I am looking to settle more into one place right
now,” Horner said. “I am in that age where work-life balance
becomes more important.”
In the past, Horner said, people in Generation X
often stayed with a company or position for about three to five
years, but now she feels that age group is choosing to settle
into a role.
Research reported by Ernst & Young in September
2013 discovered a “significant shift in Generations Y and X
moving into management roles in the past five years.”
The report described Generation Y or millennials
as ages 18 to 32, Generation X members as aged 33 to 48 and baby
boomer as 49 to 67.
Charlene Horner, right, talks
with Margaret Sullivan in the offices of Safe Babies
Healthy Families Tuesday afternoon.
According to the survey, “between 2008
and 2013 alone, 87 percent of Gen Y managers surveyed
took on a management role versus 38 percent of Gen X and
19 percent of baby boomer managers. By comparison, from
2003 to 2008, 12 percent Gen Y, 30 percent Gen X and 23
percent of boomers moved into management.”
Horner believes one of the biggest issues facing
the workplace is the change in management styles as baby boomers
“There is a big transition going on between baby
boomers and Generation X(ers) who are advancing their careers,”
There is often a different approach to work when
comparing the generations.
Horner said Generation Xers have a strong work
ethic and are task-oriented; however, they also can be a bit
jaded. Millennials, Horner said, feel they need to prove
themselves and they can be perceived as not having much depth of
“As management shifts to younger generations, the
research reveals areas companies can focus on to enhance skill
sets, address the challenges of managing multiple generations,
and retain and engage employees by understanding which workplace
perks they may value most,” said Karyn Twaronite, the EY
Americas Inclusiveness Officer and a partner of Ernst & Young
LLP, in a 2013 statement.
“While it’s encouraging that millennials are
expected to significantly grow their managerial skills by 2020,
the onus is on companies to also give them equitable
opportunities to gain the right mentors, sponsors, career
experiences and training to capitalize on this optimism.”
Nissen also views education as key for workers in
their 30s and 40s so they can continue to enhance their skills.
The good news is continuing education has gotten easier with
more learning opportunities offered online.
And as the younger generations step into
management roles, they continue to take charge of their own
futures. Nissen said people have more interest in saving for
retirement than before.
“When I talk to businesses they like to tout
their benefit package. The focus isn’t just on compensation,” he
Also, younger workers are asking Nissen more
questions about what kind of retirement programs a company
Horner said a lot of her peers realize that
Social Security might not around when they need it, so they have
to find an alternative to support themselves later in life. She
is currently more focused on establishing herself in her new
career versus planning for retirement.
strengths and weaknesses
*Members of Gen X were cited as “best” among the
generations in seven out of 11 attributes, including being a
“revenue generator” (58 percent) as well as possessing traits of
“adaptability” (49 percent) “problem-solving” (57 percent) and
“collaboration” (53 percent).
Members of Gen X lag behind boomers in being
perceived as “best” at displaying executive presence (28 percent
vs. 66 percent) and being cost effective (34 percent vs. 59
*Members of Gen Y scored high marks for being
“enthusiastic” (68 percent) but had lower scores for being
perceived as a “team player” (45 percent), “hardworking” (39
percent) and “a productive part of my organization” (58
percent). They also scored highest in three out of four negative
traits, such as being perceived as “entitled” (68 percent).
Members of Gen Y were viewed as the “best” at
being “tech savvy” (78 percent) and social media opportunists
who leverage social media beyond marketing (70 percent). They
also outscored boomers for being the “best” at “collaboration”
(27 percent vs. 20 percent), “adaptability” (41 percent vs. 10
percent) and being “entrepreneurial” (29 percent vs. 15
*Members of the boomer generation scored high in
being a productive part of organizations (69 percent),
“hardworking” (73 percent, the highest), a “team player” (56
percent), and nurturing and essential for others’ development
While members of the boomer generation were
strong performers in most areas, they were not viewed as the
“best” generation in areas such as being adaptable (10 percent)
and collaborative (20 percent). Boomer managers received the
lowest scores of all three generations in being “best” at
“diversity” (12 percent), “flexibility” (21 percent) and
“inclusive” leadership (16 percent) skills.
However, boomers edged out Gen X as the “best”
generation to “manage in challenging times” (48 percent vs. 44
Source: Ernst & Young LLP report from Sept. 3,