Coal Mining Workforce Growth Achieved in Exchange for Retirement Surge

During 2008, workforce growth in the Coal Mining industry came mostly from recruiting aging workers.


Surprisingly, while the industry was expanding, younger workers were exiting.


This trend is a problem.  While current labor demand is being satisfied, the tradeoff is a future retirement surge.


Furthermore, because so few younger workers are being attracted, the labor supply to fill the vacancies will most likely be insufficient.


Recession Affecting Retail Hiring Trends

During 2008, the retail industry satisfied an immediate labor demand by hiring highly educated workers.  Unfortunately – that only solved one half of the problem.  


While executives are well aware of the global economic recession’s affects on sales and profitability, few may realize the full implications for their workforce.   


A trend emerged in 2008 of highly educated workers taking positions in hourly customer service positions.  Last year, more college educated workers were hired into retail sales positions than any another other occupation. 


This trend poses problems.  While immediate labor demand was satisfied, hiring college educated workers into these roles only shifts the labor challenge from today…to tomorrow.  When the recovery begins, retailers can expect to see high turnover as these workers return to their pre-recession occupations. 


What can retailers do?  Three things:


  1. Determine Your ImpactCollect data to determine how this industry-wide trend is showing up in your stores.
  2. Monitor Turnover DataMonitor turnover for this worker sub-group.  Watching the trend may give you an opportunity to prepare replacements.
  3. Hang On To ThemCollect information from the sub-group to see what it would take to retain them, if not in their current position, possibly in another.

Critical Position IT Pulse Survey

Demographic trends are colliding with a global economic recession – how will this affect the supply of critical information technology workers is unknown.


Many are aware of the demographic trends affecting information technology occupations.  An abundance of senior workers nearing retirement and surprisingly, a dearth of younger workers entering the field. 


While the current global recession has tempered demand for IT projects, what will the supply of critical IT workers look like as the economy exits the recession and demand for IT projects rises?


Will we satisfy demand with senior workers? 

This response trades one problem for another.  While demand is satisfied, a knowledge retention problem is created for tomorrow as these workers WILL retire.


Will younger workers gravitate to the technology field? 

Without younger workers, the labor supply for future vacancies will likely be insufficient.


To understand the affects of demographics trends and the global economic recession we are initiating a monthly information technology workforce pulse survey.  Each month, the results will be distributed via email and published on our website. 


The survey is 6 questions and will take less than 2 minutes to complete – yet the collected responses from IT executives, like you, will be eye-opening!


We are releasing the survey in a few days and hope you will participate.  If you would like to be included on the distribution list, please drop me an email.


All the best,


Eric Seubert


Talent Strategy Advisors, an affiliate of Discussion Partners



Employee Concessions Could Give Rise to Labor Union Membership Growth

The end of The Great Depression saw a significant rise in union membership.  From 1935 to 1940 labor union membership as a percent of the workforce rose from 13% to 26%.


While union membership has declined to 12% in 2008, the global economic recession may usher in a resurgence of union membership.


Recent news reports include stories of companies requiring workers to accept employment concessions, most commonly involving:


  • Health benefits
  • Federal Legislation
  • Salary & performance bonuses
  • Vacation & time-off


While concessions are being advocated as a way to help the company remain afloat, overtime workers may become dissatisfied.


As the level of dissatisfaction rises, union leaders may find conditions ripe for organizing and recruiting new members.  In this scenario, it would be very difficult for management to reverse things once momentum built.


What could tip the momentum in favor of Unions?  Three things:


  • Worker Safety Concerns
  • Continued Job Losses
  • Management’s Failure to Make Significant Concessions


While the current downturn may give many workers no choice but to make concessions, these conditions could lead history to repeat itself:  huge growth in union membership and a new reality for management.

How Bad Is It vs. How Could We Make It Worse

It struck me recently that in over 30 years of consulting this is the first recession where  I have had to cope with Cable TV!  I am no longer sure that the constant flow of bad news is creating a self fulfilling prophecy.   Last week I began counting the “sighs” from those on one News network.  Fortunately at over 50 I had to leave for an appointment.   If I had sat in front of the news all day I would have needed a prescription. 


There is no question that we are experiencing difficult times.  All of us have seen our retirement savings plummet, some of us are now underemployed and many are unemployed and worried about theirs and their family’s future.Coincidentally I and 2 of my fellow bloggers were all displaced in the fall of last year so the turbulence for us is real.  At the risk of sounding naïve however, and without ignoring the 12 year lows of the market, I remain optimistic about the Labor Market.  As a global community we were heading for a severe shortage of workers due to expanding demand, shifting demographics, and job aspirations of the “new” labor force.


Candidly unless your enterprise was experiencing the pain, we were pretty clueless about the above.  The unintended consequence of the recession to me is it provides a unique opportunity for us to reflect on how we should be thinking about the future workforce.   I would submit that we can no longer disregard the resource constraints and attitudinal differentials that will face us when this recession inevitably ends.   Moreover the one size fits all of how we treat our workers has been for quite some time dysfunctional.


The fear that I have is that an already disenfranchised level of Employee Engagement will deteriorate even further during this difficult time.  During the recessions of the 80’s and early 90’s the unemployment rate exceeded the prediction we have presently for this global crisis.   This is due to the demographic shifts.  If we sustain a posture as managers of “you should be glad to have a job” as we did previously, when this recession ends we are in for a very rough ride.


The ability to instantaneously share information and a point of view should never be abused.   However in light of this capability, whether it  be the displacement of 1, 100, 1,000, 10,000 or more….we had better treat people who are leaving and staying with respect and support.   The world is much smaller since the advent of Cable News.   We should act accordingly not because of trepidation of criticism: but for respect of our colleagues both current and former, as we are all are navigating very turbulent waters.

The Silent Generation Meets Generation Y: How to Manage a Four Generation Workforce with Panache – Part 6a

In order to accommodate the four generations, companies are going to have to implement the following 4 critical steps: Insure flexibility; Create educational opportunities for as long as employee is working; Create signature experiences for employees to attract and retain them;and  Re-recruit employees everyday.

According to Tom Casey, “managing human assets is the challenge right now” for HR leaders. A few key metrics help to illustrate the urgency that is required now to manage distinct workforces:

  • +55 is the fastest growing population in the current workforce
  • +65 is the second fastest growing population in the workforce
  • 40% of MIT graduates are from outside the U.S. Historically students came to the U.S. and colleges like MIT because of the quality of the education and because they wanted to live and work in the U.S. Today, a large percentage of foreign grads are returning to their home countries to work-leaving a talent shortage. 600,000 vs. 75,000 are the numbers, respectively, of engineering graduates annually from China and the U.S.

These numbers reinforce the reality that the future U.S. workforce is facing not only a worker shortage but also a skills shortage.

Tom Casey gave three requisites that are critical components of future workforce planning initiatives.

  • Recognize all four generations of cohorts in the workforce. Acknowledge that one size fits all management is not going to work.
  • Adopt a sense of urgency – opt for “speed now” and “elegance later”
  • Create a signature experience

Casey addressed a number of specific challenges related to human capital management for HR professionals and corporate leaders. It isn’t enough for companies to say that they are the best places to work and have great corporate culture. Casey terms this “happy talk” and that does little to describe whatever their unique employee experience as a key differentiator is. Companies that are really having success in the areas of talent attraction, retention and workforce planning are concentrating on three or four areas where they can claim bragging rights. Creating signature experiences as told through storytelling is a key differentiator for many organizations. Casey suggests that HR professionals look at Fortune’s top ten companies list and review their best practices in talent management. Casey believes that leading edge companies are focusing on creating signature experiences in areas such as: hiring, employee development, recognition and rewards and talent promotion. Another strategy that is gaining popularity is hiring by team which focuses on collaboration and exposes employees from different generations to the hiring process.

The Conclusion: The Role of HR in Managing the Multigenerational workforce & Putting Work in PerspectiveWorkforce planning is the priority, says Casey, for HR when it comes to managing the multigenerational workforce. HR needs to be ahead of the worker shortages by focusing on workforce planning; HR departments that don’t take this issue seriously are putting themselves and their organizations at risk. Right now there are sectors in the U.S. economy that are running out of workers. Healthcare is facing critical shortages of nurses and radiologists and in the energy sector there’s already a shortage of engineering talent. Survival of an enterprise will be contingent upon the company being successful at attracting talent from a diminishing pool of qualified workers. A poll conducted by SHRM in 2006 stated that 70% of the HR community was not worried about the challenges of staffing related to an aging and retiring workforce. This type of “head in the sand” attitude is going to be detrimental to many organizations. HR departments will need to experience a “disaggregating and a reconstitution” of the traditional HR operations model. According to Casey, HR should be focusing on critical areas such as: learning and development, recognition and reward, talent acquisition and workforce planning. These four components will determine talent readiness. Gen Y employees don’t have the same identity through work that characterizes Traditionalist and Boomers. While Boomers may work long hours and see work as an extension of their life, Gen Y workers have no intention of defining themselves through their jobs. Organizations are going to need to adapt to new workplace attitudes about the role of work. Many Boomer parents are acutely aware that their own children have chosen careers that allow a better balance between work and life. Gen X and Gen Y employees are not lazy; they simply have a different set of priorities than their parents when it comes to work. Gen Y will enter professions like investment banking and consulting that have typically demanded total commitment and long hours. But even the monetary rewards that enticed workers into such fields are probably not enough to get Gen Y to sign over their lives. Gen Y wants to do a good job for their employers, but work isn’t all they want to do.

Based on the Human Capital Institute webcast, The Silent Generation Meets Generation Y: How to Manage a Four Generation Workforce with Panache, February 13, 2008