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


2 Responses

  1. When you use the phrase “labor shortage” or “talent shortage” you’re speaking in a sentence fragment. What you actually have to say is: “There is a labor shortage at the low salary level I’m willing to pay.” That statement is the correct phrase; the honest phrase; the complete sentence. Another point: If you raise your wages and improve working conditions enough, you’ll have people lining up around the block to work for you even if you need to have huge piles of steaming manure shoveled on a hot summer day.

  2. multiple research reports have come to the same or similar conclusions on managing Gen Y members. All of this speaks to the need to more frequently recognize desired and preferred behaviors, attitudes and actions displayed while on the job. This is a major tenet of strategic recognition in the 21st century and just one of several points I elaborate on in our latest white paper: “The New Era of Strategic Recognition: Engaging Multi-Generational and Multicultural Teams in the 21st Century Global Workforce.”

    Link to research available here:

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