NextGen Approaches for the Next Generation Workforce

A common topic of conversation with my clients and vendors is that of the multi-generational workforce and its impacts on HCM.  I published a detailed review of this subject late last year in Workforce Solutions Review, but I have provided a brief recap of that article below to facilitate continued conversations.  I want to hear from companies who are considering or have already implemented new processes or technologies for managing their next generation workforce, and welcome all comments.

The Next-Generation Workforce.
Different expectations. Different motivations.  Dramatic Impacts.

Today’s workforce bears little resemblance to that of the past. Over the next ten years, roughly 45 percent of the workforce is preparing to retire, stratifying the generational lines more than ever before.  Organizations today may have four or five separate generations engaged through direct employment, contracting or alumni association. Each of these generations, Millennials, GenXers, Baby Boomers, and older, bring their own expectations and motivations to the workplace, requiring new ways of thinking and engaging with the talent in your organization.  Understanding their different motivations and expectations will be crucial to creating the strategies and processes that will unlock the dramatic impacts possible from this dynamic, multi-generational workforce.

The GenY, or Millennial, generation is perhaps causing the most radical change in how we think about employee engagement across businesses today. This generation, having grown up digital, expects mobility and always-on connections to people and information.  There is a complete blurring of the lines between work time and personal time, putting dramatic pressure on organizations to rethink their policies around information access and technology support.This next-generation workforce also recognizes that it is not just individuals that matter, but teams as well, and the ease with which teams are formed and reformed in response to business challenges and opportunities.

Motivation of a multi-generational workforce is more challenging to the HR professional than in the past.; what motivates GenXers may not necessarily succeed with Millennials; communication styles used with Baby boomers are likely out of step with GenY expectations for real-time engagement. Rethinking your traditional processes around attraction, engagement, retention, development and communication will be critical for success with your next generation workforce. For example, consider the following:

  • Career Planning. Are you providing insight into the opportunities across the organization and the ability for employees to self-promote their interest in those new roles? If so, this is likely well aligned to the needs of Baby Boomers who are accustomed to the ‘do it yourself’ approach to managing their careers. But don’t stop there. Introduce mentoring, career mapping and other peer-to-peer networking opportunities to better engage with Millennials who are less willing to wait around “paying their dues” and instead seek out clear career paths from their managers and make heavy use of social media to further accelerate opportunities.
  • Performance Feedback. We all agree that annual performance reviews, if used as the primary feedback loop to employees, are simply bad practice. Some have moved to bi-annual or quarterly reviews, or reviews that happen routinely following completion of major projects. In an era where the workforce is often virtual, globally disbursed and mobile, how can you make even these improved processes successful? Social technologies enable continuous engagement, connectedness between employees, their managers, peers, mentors and other influencers. For those who seek it, social media enables truly continuous pulse-checks of performance.
  • Retaining Organizational Knowledge.  There is an estimated shortfall of 35 million Gen Xers available to replace the more than 76 million Baby Boomers nearing retirement age. It’s therefore imperative that organizations establish a strategy to capture and make available all of the critical knowledge of these Boomers before it literally walks out the door. Fortunately emerging tools such as web conferencing and video, social learning, wikis and content sharing, and other forms of collaboration and knowledge sharing enable companies to gather this information and distribute it easily and broadly to others across the enterprise.
  • Workforce Measures.  Approaches to workforce intelligence are rapidly evolving, as organizations place increased focus on effectiveness over efficiency. For example, looking at turnover rates may be an important metric for the recruiting organization, but a more effective metric for the business is the turnover rate of your high performers and high potentials, as loss within this group of employees has far greater impact on business capability. With the introduction of social media technologies and processes, additional measures can surface providing entirely new insights into the workforce. Social network analysis helps uncover who is actively engaged vs. disengaged; who are the influencers and information brokers of the organization; where is the hidden talent for which succession plans should be built that the org chart otherwise would not otherwise have identified? In the next generation workforce, the social influence chart will supplant the traditional organization chart with regard to visualizing how work gets done.

These are but a few of the process areas in which you can apply new thinking, and new technologies to help drive success with the next-generation workforce. If we’re open to it, the dynamic interactions of a multi-generational workforce, coupled with the current and future advances in social processes and  technologies, can be truly transformational in how we move our businesses forward.

What do you think? How are you attracting, engaging and motivating a multi-generational workforce? Let me hear from you.

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