I was recently discussing this article, called New Study Sponsored by SuccessFactors Highlights Growing Need for HR Strategies to Fit Diverse, Younger Global Workforces with my colleagues, Allen Peterson and Ceil Tilney. We debated the impact millennials are having on workforce strategies as both Allen and Ceil see a significant shift in how organizations are tailoring HR strategies to attract and accommodate millennails. While I don’t disagree, I actually have a bit of a different take on this topic as it comes up all the time in my conversations with customers about analytics and planning. I have always been of the opinion there is more similarity between the generations than differences so prioritizing strategies by generation first does a disservice to your workforce. And thus the debate began…
Some of the main points called out in the article:
“HR executives are investing in a variety of strategies to provide employees with an engaging work experience, including mentoring new and high-potential employees (47 percent); exposing high-potential employees to diverse business situations (45 percent); and providing flexible working arrangements (43 percent).”
Allen astutely finds value in recognizing the shift of the workforce to the millennial generation and the challenges that their workplace expectations require in order to be competitive for their talent. As he put it, in the end, this group of workers will be a potent force to be reckoned with and should not be ignored, but future generations, which haven’t been labeled yet, will most likely have similar expectations since the technology now supports these new ways of working.
Ceil highlighted how much organizations are having to shift their strategies to meet the needs of increasingly diverse groups meaning they are providing a many-sizes-fits-many approach. With that in mind, you can’t keep track of the complexity, variety, diversity, and sheer number of strategies (multiple recruiting models, dozens of ways to improve skills, constantly evolving competency requirements in different cultures, etc) without really powerful technology to support it.
I agree the article states solid strategies that do in fact engage employees. I struggle when the conversation so consistently becomes about them being strategies to engage and retain millennials. My argument is that these are essential strategies for all employees. I agree that different generations may value different types of benefits. However, I believe that older/more tenured employees want an engaging work experience or an opportunity to mentor with high-potential employees just like a millennial. Most employees look to be a part of something greater and to feel their efforts are making a difference toward that larger goal. Employees want to do valuable work and be given the tools and opportunity to succeed. Additionally, retention strategies need to be prioritized around critical job roles and skills not an employee’s age. You tailor the incentives based on generation but that is the secondary consideration.
The fact remains millennials are obviously making up more and more of the workforce. As such, they are driving the new rules of engagement between employer and employee. Where unemployment still burdens the US economy, the real issue is not lack of people to hire but rather lack of people with the right skills to hire. So the motivation for the above strategies is to lure the younger applicants and to retain them as they represent a talent pool that is eager and cheaper and easier to source but harder to keep. As an example, millennials aren’t settling down as quickly as previous generations thus not saddled with mortgages and such at an early age. Their freedom in lifestyles allows for frequent job/city movement and new technologies have allowed more remote work options. Consequently, flexibility in working arrangements is more commonplace as a means to retain and source specific talent despite where they are located or decide to move. This looming knowledge that a millennial could up and move not just to another job but to a new city, puts employers on the defensive to retain them. And yet there seems to be less notice paid to retaining older employees as it tends to be they change jobs less frequently and are thus a more reliable segment of the workforce. The exception to this argument being those identified for succession plans, which (usually) hardly represents a large percent of an organization in which you are actively engaged in retaining and/or cultivating for the future.
My overall recommendation is to think about how best to tailor your benefit offers for different generations but to not disproportionately focus on millennials. There is essential experience and expertise sitting in the other generations of employees that is critical to maintain and tap for knowledge sharing and mentoring. Understand what jobs and skills are essential for the ongoing success of your organization. Use that list to prioritize your retention strategies and then tailor benefits according to generational preferences. And finally, think of diversity in terms of diversity of thought. Gender and age and ethnicity all play into diversity but so do so many other factors. Broaden your applicant sources and profile expectations to ensure you are reaching/hiring a diverse population.
Written by: Rana Hobbs, Senior Director of Workforce Planning
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