Global Workforce Demographics – Part 4 of 4: Global Workforce Recommendations

This is Part Four of a four part blog on Global Demographics.  Here is the link to:

Part One – Global Workforce Demographics

Part Two – Japan’s Workforce Demographics

Part Three – Russia’s Workforce Demographics


The long-term affects of these workforce risks in Japan and Russia are significant.  If the risks are not mitigated, we can expect to see in each country slower economic growth, higher prices and even rising unemployment.

In the past, when executives were confronted with resource constraints, they used skill or talent gap analysis in crafting a solution.  This time around, gap analysis is simply insufficient.  One of its weaknesses is that with the current Japanese and Russian talent shortages, the approach produces gaps in every nook and cranny of an organization.  If you want to “boil the ocean”, gap analysis will lead you down that path.

My recommendation is to quickly determine the most critical positions in a company so planning for those positions can begin, immediately.  For me, a critical position is one that is mission critical or business impacting.  These positions, if un-staffed, can result, lost revenue opportunities, higher costs, damaged brand, regulatory violations and fines. Gap analysis will eventually discover these positions, but wouldn’t you rather take a more direct route?  For further reading on critical positions, see Tom Casey’s blog.

Once you have the critical positions identified, planning can begin to mitigate the risks.  Here are some thoughts to consider for a Japanese and Russian plan.

  • Encourage aging workers to stay-on past retirement
  • Identify positions using similar skills as a critical positions and develop a transfer, training and development program.  Examine positions throughout the organization, including other departments and business units.
  • Create a Superior Performer database of potential candidates to “poach” from other organizations
  • Recruit Superior Performers for the Manager position using a personal-touch Talent Acquisition process that excites them about career opportunities
  • Capture detail records of voluntary turnover and mine for retention and development opportunities
  • Capture detail point of origin records, where and how an employee came to you, and mine for recruiting opportunities.


All data is courtesy of the International Labour Organization


The Silent Generation Meets Generation Y: How to Manage a Four Generation Workforce with Panache – Part 1

Introduction Managing a multi-generational workforce is a challenge that many organizations are facing today.  Shelly Schmocker, Vice President of Global Talent Management at StepStone, says that effective workforce planning strategies will require a shift in thinking from the topic of the “aging workforce” and instead address issues related to the “multi-generational workforce”.  Companies are stepping back and looking more holistically at how to develop programs and deploy technology that will speak to four distinct generations in the workforce.  Each age group requires a different approach when designing career and compensation strategies, performance motivators, and addressing learning styles.  The biggest challenge, however, is how to effectively encourage collaboration among the four different generations of workers (cohorts). Tom Casey, Senior Vice President of BSG Concours, made the following comments to preface further discussion on this topic.  

  • We can no longer think about human capital challenges purely in the context of the aging workforce.
  • We can’t just think about what we can do to make Generation Y (aka millennials) happy in the workforce.

 Instead, we need to answer the following question.  “How do we best manage four active generations of workforce cohorts with differing expectations?”  The answers to this question – and much more – will be revealed in this HCI white paper, based on the Human Capital Institute webcast, The Silent Generation Meets Generation Y – How to Manage a Four Generation Workforce with Panache.   A Chorus of Corporate ConcernsBaby Boomers’ views of Gen Y’s in the workplace include some of the following generalizations: 

  • Gen Y’s don’t have loyalty to the company
  • They have poor communication skills
  • They are impatient and they don’t respect authority
  • They spend too much time online
  • I (Boomer) can’t get them to accept my job.

 Gen Y’s certainly don’t look like “us” (Boomers) and their experience and background’s are vastly different than that of a typical boomer, according to Tom Casey who described himself as a “typical” Boomer.  Casey is 58 years old, has 4 grandchildren, draws two pensions and works 100% (full-time) in the workforce.  His approach to work has been shaped by events and values that are very different than those that influenced Gen Y.  Casey cautions that no matter the role in your company, you will be managing Generation Y workers in the future and the task will be challenging.   Echo of Concerns returnedThere are an equal number of generalized perceptions about Boomers that are held by Gen Y’s: 

  • They are inefficient
  • They don’t respect me
  • They assume that I’m interested in the career path that “they” have chosen for me
  • They are obsessed with face time and have too many meetings
  • They don’t give me (millennial) the latest technology and they don’t use technology effectively

 The real issue that underlies generational stereotypes is that there’s incomplete communication between differing generational groups.  Casey used the analogy of the game “telephone” in describing just how jumbled communication can get between differing generations.  One party speaks into the line and the other party either can’t hear the message or hears it incorrectly.  The breakdown in communication happens in both directions and leaves both parties feeling frustrated. One “War Story” helps to put into context why Gen Y individuals are so different than Boomers.  Casey noted an interesting tactic that some recruiters have used with success in hiring Generation Y workers. Recruiters have discovered what Casey described as the “DaVinci Code” for recruiting Gen Y workers.  Gen Y’s are very family-centric and one way to win them over is to involve their family in the hiring process.  This approach is not without its drawbacks, however.  Some employers are finding that once they’ve involved the family in the recruiting or hiring process, they’ve hired the whole family.  It is not uncommon to hear stories of parents calling employers to find out why their son or daughter got a poor performance review.  Obviously, this is not an experience that many Boomers can relate to; in fact Casey stated that in a poll of Boomers, some 60% felt that they would have been better off without parents at all.  

The Silent Generation Meets Generation Y: How to Manage a Four Generation Workforce with Panache – Part 2

Four Generations in the workforce

Figure 1 illustrates the numbers of each of the four generations currently represented in the workforce.  The four groups are: Traditionalists, Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y.  Generation Y represents the largest number of workers in the workforce, with even greater numbers than the large Boomer representation.   By examining different generational perceptions, the most obvious question from each cohort about the other is, “What are they thinking?” The only way to really arrive at an answer is to examine what the expectations are from each cohort.  Every generation has different expectations and employers know what has shaped many of the experiences and expectations for traditionalists, Boomer, and even Gen X.  Companies are still trying to figure out what the expectations are of Gen Y, and this will be something companies will need to keep working on for some time.   

Shifts in Labor Force Comparison

Management of human assets is the priority right now, according to Tom Casey.  Companies that think they can manage the expectations of four cohorts using a homogenous model are in for a shock.  It is time to throw out the one size fits all model of talent management and embrace a more flexible model approach that is sensitive to each cohort.             
Figure 2 is a graphical representation of different generations of workers over a span of 60 years (1970- 2030).  The graph shows that traditionalist (mature) workers are going to be around for a while and Boomers are going to be around for quite a while longer.  A multi-generational workforce exists now and companies must think about the four cohort groups and their expectations in order to keep them in the workforce and productive.  “If you aren’t struggling to get good people, or people at all, you will be,” states Casey.  Those who reside in the C-suite can no longer get by with “happy talk” in response to human capital management.  The homogeneous human capital management model of the past simply will not work with such diverse cohorts in the workforce – flexibility needs to be “burned in” to the human capital management model.   

Ethnic & Racial Diversity

The bar chart in Figure 3 represents the two major ethnic minorities in the U.S. and their representation across each of the four generational cohorts.  Casey states, “diversity in the workforce is not just a number, it is a reality; companies have been paying lip service to diversity in the workplace for years.”  Just how diverse the U.S. population is can be illustrated by what’s happening in the current presidential elections.  For the first time in history, the Democratic Party is likely to nominate a woman or a person of color as the Democratic nominee.  It is time to recognize that the U.S. is a very diverse nation and that diversity in the workplace is a topic of great importance.               

Increasing Educational Achievement

The proportion of college graduates in the United States is increasing. However, the percent of graduates as compared to overall population is problematic. Consider the following statistics: 

  • Currently between 25-30% of the U.S. population attains a college degree.
  • In the future two-thirds (66%) of all new jobs created will want college grads to fill them.

 It is not difficult to see the problem here for employers.  Not only will there be a shortfall in the number of college graduates to meet demands, but there is also going to be a severe shortage of graduates with “requisite skills.”  The ramifications of the “skills shortfall” are already being felt by companies.  Tom Casey warns that HR professionals need to look at this issue directly and acknowledge that their companies will need to get focused on education.  Companies will need to fill a larger education role in teaching skills to employees through training and development.  Casey points out that companies of any size “will need to get serious about training and development – you are in the education business.”  “Please do not underestimate the contribution that doing this well will contribute to your employee brand”.  

Greater Responsibilities in the Workplace

In addition to a deficit of skilled, educated employees in the workforce, companies are now dealing with the challenge of employee commitment. Statistics show that for both male and female workers, there is a decline in the level of responsibility that workers want to take on in their careers. Boomers joined the workforce with the expectation of getting more responsibility and moving up the career ladder. “It was the reason we went to work,” says Casey.  Attitudes about allegiance to work started to change with Gen X workers and now that Gen Y’s have entered the workforce, the change is even more dramatic.  Taking on more responsibility is a “huge” issue for Gen Y workers; for them it is all about flexibility.  Restlessness and a desire for mobility are more important to Gen Y.  Companies are figuring out that they must respond to this new paradigm and that the generation that “lived to work” is a thing of the past.  As companies scramble to find numbers of workers with requisite skills set, flexibility will become part of the talent model; figuring out just how much flexibility they can “burn in” to their organizations is a direct response to the changing expectations of young workers.  Work and career flexibility are “non negotiable” for many millennials.   

Growing Shortage of Workers in the U.S.

According to a 2005 Labor Force report, a projected shortfall in workers is imminent in the U.S.  It won’t just be the U.S. that will struggle to find skilled workers; developing countries like India will also face shortages. The more specialized the skill set that is needed, the more difficult it will be for companies to attract workers with appropriate skills. Demographics, skills and education are all factors that will contribute to the labor shortages which will have differing impacts by industry segment.  Figure 4 illustrates the continuing trend of worker shortages by year.                

The Silent Generation Meets Generation Y: How to Manage a Four Generation Workforce with Panache – Part 3

Experiences of the Four Generations

In order to understand the distinctions between the four generation cohorts and understand what is driving their expectations, one must examine the historical, cultural context that shaped each cohort.  Figure 5 shows each of the four generations currently in the workforce.       

Traditionalists  Traditionalists, born between 1928 – 1945, were raised in homogeneous families and neighborhoods.  This generation witnessed the rise of the white collar job and a strong commitment to higher education. Traditionalists have a respect for authority and place a lot of value in receiving financial rewards and having security.  A good example of the focus on security needs can be seen in how important health care is to this generation.  

Boomers  The baby boom generation, born between 1946 – 1964, was shaped by the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, John F Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy.  Boomers are more suspicious of authority than their parents as a result of events like Watergate and unpopular wars.  Boomers are competitive by nature, but they do show some commitment to making a better world.  

Generation X  Generation X’s were born between 1964 and 1980 – the oldest Gen X’s are in their early 40s now.  This generation saw the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall.  They were the first to experience high divorce rates amongst their parents, and most had some exposure to parents or relatives losing jobs to the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s. The growth of the Internet and global access to information created a generation that is information rich.  Generation Xers asked the question, where can I get the information?  Generation Xers are self-reliant and have clear tribal affiliations.  To illustrate the importance of the tribe to Gen X, Casey recounted a story about how one of the Big Four Accounting firms planned to recruit and hire several Generation X accountants.  The firm was interested in hiring three Gen X employees, but was aware that the three were part of a tribe of six individuals who were very close.  In an effort to hire the three desired individuals, the accounting firm made offers of employment to the entire tribe of six friends.  The accounting firm was unsuccessful in hiring any of the six individuals, however, because the firm had failed to realize the existence of a seventh member of the tribe.  All were lost to a competitor firm who had been successful in wooing the entire group.   

Generation Y  Generation Y, born after 1980, is challenging traditional hiring and recruiting practices.  Companies don’t have a lot of experience with this generation and are still figuring out what motivates this group.  There will be a struggle for some time as to how to manage Generation Y, which comprises not only the largest consumer group but the largest employee group as well.  Gen Ys are the children of the Boomers and the siblings of Generation X.  Generation Y’s are very upbeat and optimistic despite having been exposed to routine violence in schools, and terrorism. Events such as the Columbine school shootings and September 11th terrorist attacks created an almost constant state of vigilance for many of these young people.  Exposure to technology became ubiquitous for this generation and the comfort level with the use of technology is unprecedented.  The family-centric model created a very pro-child environment; Generation Y listens to their parents and respect authority. Generation Y are pro-learning, spiritual by nature, socially conscious and have very high self esteem.  They like to be mentored by Boomers rather than peers; and while they have a high respect for older and more authoritarian role models, they don’t have a high regard for organizations.  As a result of the culture and influences that have shaped Generation Y, they are trustful of authorities, respect their parents as role models and recognize that work is just one priority in life, not the priority.  The diversity in background, experience and expectations of the four generational cohorts, require different approaches to managing them in the workplace.  The key to managing different generations lies in understanding the drivers of the differences and leveraging unique characteristics to create win-wins for employees, their cohorts and their employers.  Managing the multi-generational workforce requires that each distinct cohort in the workforce be considered individually from the standpoint of career expectations, mobility, development and recruitment.  To ignore the needs and wants of one cohort over another is a very risky practice.  

The Silent Generation Meets Generation Y: How to Manage a Four Generation Workforce with Panache – Part 4

Attracting and Retaining Generation YThe most pressing challenge for employees today is to figure out how to attract and retain Generation Y talent.  The task is daunting because this generation has such different attitudes and expectations than previous generations.  As Tom Casey pointed out previously, companies are still figuring out how to manage Gen Y employees and they had better figure out how to do it soon because this challenge can no longer be ignored. Figure 6 outlines some practical steps for attracting and retaining Gen Y employees.

Companies need to figure out what will attract Gen Ys to their organization; then the challenge will be to retain them.  Tom Casey pointed out that in the late 1990s stock options were a perk offered by many companies to attract employees.  Stocks options are of very little interest to Gen Ys because the vesting period   is generally at least three years – an eternity for a Gen Y.  The only reasonable way to figure out what this cohort wants is to engage these employees in helping to shape the company culture, work environment and compensation packages. One thing is certain, companies cannot hope to attract a new generation of employees without figuring out what drives their expectations.  Recruiting Gen Y requires a completely new set of tactics than were previously used with success.  Gen Y are born consumers and success in marketing a company (recruiting) means that organizations need to speak directly to Gen Y expectations.  

U.S. Army Recruiting Strategy for Generation Y

One employer that has had to change its recruiting strategy for Gen Y is the U.S. Army.  The Army has continuously changed its recruiting message over the years to appeal to each different generation.  The Army’s message to Traditionalists focused on authority figures and encouraged Traditionalists to join the ranks of authority.  An anti-authority message was marketed to the Boomer generation, while recruiting the Gen Xers focused on technology and collaboration while respecting uniqueness. The U.S. Army has continuously changed its marketing strategy to appeal to each successive generation of potential recruits.  Today’s Army, like other employers, has focused on the parents as a way to get their message to Gen Y.  The overall message to parents is “you’ve done a great job raising your children, let us help you develop them even more”.  The key to marketing to Generation Y is to focus on differentials.  The differentials include how to develop and communicate strategies that speak directly to Generation Y.  

Time as a Differential

The definition of time depends upon which cohort is defining the concept. Companies are aware that young workers are not going to work the types of hours that older generations have done.  It is a struggle for companies to even get Generation Y workers in the door, and companies are seeking ways to address the aspects of time.  It is widely acknowledged by most that it is not how much time someone spends at work, but rather what they accomplish in that time that is most important.  Continuous connectivity and the attitude that they can work anywhere at anytime, mean that Gen Y employees expect to work on their schedule, not yours.  Figure 7    The importance of managing the expectations of all cohorts in the workforce cannot be over emphasized.  Generation Y employees are going to require a lot of energy from other cohorts within their organization, but they should not get all the attention.  Table 1 illustrates some of the steps that organizations should take to manage the expectations of Generation X and Boomer employees in the workforce.   Table 1    

Generation X Boomers
Help them broaden their “fall back” options – increase their sense of self-reliance. Retire retirement-encourage them to stay
Don’t require moves that sever social connections Create a carillon of bell-shaped curve career options – including cyclic work
Give them choice and control over their career paths Offer them options for greater responsibility (as well as less)
Leverage their entrepreneurial instincts Allow them to “win”
Provide family-friendly flexibility Encourage giving back-through mentoring, community service, knowledge sharing.
Invest in technology-and provide the time required to incorporate it Provide opportunity (time and coaching) to experience new technology
Develop the leadership skills required to navigate the Boomer-Y love fest  
Seek out their views-and be prepared to hear they don’t like the way Boomers have run things!  

The Silent Generation Meets Generation Y: How to Manage a Four Generation Workforce with Panache – Part 5

Retiring Retirement

There is a definite correlation between overall population demographics and employee demographics in companies.  People are living longer and employers are already seeing trends toward employees having longer careers.  Individuals who retired in 2000 will, on average, spend 25 years in retirement.  Many people are now thinking about “career decelerations” as opposed to retirement because they can’t imagine 25 idle years – not to mention such an extended period without income. Employees may retire from one company or career only to move to another company or in another direction.  For companies struggling to attract and retain talent, looking at potential retirees and enticing them to stay in the workforce is a sound strategy.  Remember, many of these folks will want to keep working; they can as easily leave one company for another.  Don’t assume that workers on the “back nine” of their careers are headed for retirement; open up a dialogue and opportunities to reengage these folks through career development.  As labor markets tighten, companies will all be competing for the same talent pool.  One way to look at careers may be by viewing different work periods as being more transitional than final.  Employees can transition through careers by using a series of “on-ramps” and “off-ramps” with changes in responsibility and velocity-depending up energy, experience and enthusiasm.  Figure 8 illustrates how employees are likely to “rethink” the concept of retirement in lieu of on and off ramps or cyclic work periods.  Across the globe, workers delving into cyclical work; which simply means that many people see work as being intermittent rather than continuous. Workers are no longer thinking of the traditional continuous career and then retirement, instead people envision work segments punctuated by periods of non-work or sabbaticals.

Talent Scouting through the Workforce Crisis

In 1997, McKinsey coined the term “The War for Talent” with its landmark study and subsequent book by the same name. A key finding of this research, and Human Resources practices that ensued, was the importance of focusing on so-called “A” players and High Potential employees to drive business results.

The McKinsey Quarterly recently published an article called “Making Talent a Strategic Priority.” The article says if anything, the talent shortage has worsened over the past decade. A key theme of the article was the urgency for broadening the talent playing field: “Executives must recognize that their talent strategies cannot focus solely on the top performers.”

This is a position that BSG Concours advocated early last year with a multi-client program teleconference called “Developing Business Leaders as Talent Scouts.” We cautioned organizations about the dangers of falling into “talent myopia,” an undue focus on “stars” at the expense of your broader employee population. We also recommend that talent scouting strategies include so-called “B-players;” not second-rate employees but rather those who do the unglamorous work that keeps the organization on track – and have potential to grow.

In our opinion, the operative question is: You’ve focused on the talent you have in the pipeline; how do you plan to get new people to the pipeline?

Does your organization scout for talent broadly – outside of formal talent management and succession planning processes? Do your leaders and managers feel accountable for developing talent at all levels? Do employees at all levels have plentiful opportunities to learn and share knowledge in their daily work? Are your learning, talent development and collaboration initiatives integrated and aligned with the business strategy?

If you have done Talent Scouting more broadly, how has that paid off in terms of employee engagement, retention and skill development? Please let us know – we’d like to hear about your successes and lessons learned!