During most of the 20th century Kodak held a dominant position in photographic film, and in 1976, had an 89% market share of photographic film sales in the United States.
Kodak began to struggle financially in the late 1990s as a result of the decline in sales of photographic film and its slowness in transitioning to digital photography. In 2012, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The Kodak name became synonymous with a resistance to change, but it’s not just innovation the company lacked. In 2011, Kodak made the list of Top 10 Fortune 500 Employers With Older Workers, called out for employing a disproportionately high percentage of mature workers.
I can’t help but wonder: If Kodak had paid attention to its aging workforce trend, would the company have maintained market share and avoided bankruptcy?
I believe the answer is yes. I also believe companies didn’t learn much from Kodak’s example.
Although the recession ended in 2009, here we are five years later and unemployment for Generation Y (1982-1995) remains near its cyclical peak across the world. The largest, best-educated generation in history has become an under-utilized resource, vastly unprepared to move into positions of responsibility and leadership.
The lack of skill development and leadership development among Generation Y affects every generation. It’s the Trickle-Up Effect; what influences the youngest generation eventually influences the masses.
That’s why employers should be more concerned about who’s moving in (the rookies), rather than who’s moving out (the retirees).
So how do we lead this generation of rookie talent? This generation is the first to be raised in a post-industrial era driven by technology. As a result, they will value and seek out different work experiences and will certainly usher in widespread and significant change.
To keep the rookies engaged and actively contributing to the team, here are a few changes managers need to anticipate and embrace:
Rookies or not, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts this generation will become the majority of the workforce in 2015, and comprise 75% of the global workplace in 2025. For the companies that have struggled to make changes and adapt, this means inevitable failure.
Avoid making this your Kodak moment. Remember: Change is the only certainty, and the rookies are your only succession plan.
(This blog post originally appeared on the Leadership Now blog.)
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