August 25th, 2008

Many employers today are asking themselves what happened? When did everything change so dramatically? How do we cope? What do we do to please everyone and retain our workforce?

Today not only are employers contending with an all time low unemployment rate and increasing challenges finding and keeping skilled workers in this hot economy, they are also facing other challenges that are rocking their corporate foundations to the core.

There are all the new “buzz” words and phrases out there… retention programs, onboarding, employer branding, … and the list goes on. Many employers are scratching their heads and wondering how the heck do we do all this and still run our business?

There’s no question that today employers are dealing with a number of new dynamics within their workforces. These new dynamics are challenging them to rethink how they engage their employees, how they are perceived as an employer and ultimately how they conduct business.

In some cases, companies are now seeing a work force that encompasses 4 generations working together. These groups are the Traditionalists (born between1922 and 1945), the Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), the Gen-Xers (born between 1965 and 1978) and finally the newest group to enter the workforce the Gen-Ys or Millennials (born between 1979 and 1994). Anyone who tells you, that each group must be treated a specific way is leading you down a path to ruin. It just isn’t that simple, there are no “cookie cutter” solutions to working with multi-generational workforces.

Recent surveys have shown that Boomers may have some GenY traits and values (guess who their kids are?) and GenXers may have some Boomer traits and values (guess who mentored them when they entered the workforce?) However, overall there are definitely some do’s and don’ts when it comes to working with the different generations. It’s getting tricky isn’t it?

Another increased challenge for many employers is brought on by globalization and the skilled labour shortage here at home. We are seeing more and more international hires taking place. This in turn is creating diverse cultural groups working together within one organization. Again, it is corporate suicide to assume that each group should be pigeon holed into a distinct category. However it can be equally detrimental to a company to manage these groups without taking into account some specific considerations.

All of these demographics have different needs, motivators and value systems. The days of the “command and control” management style are gone! If a company is still practicing this style of management, it is likely that they are experiencing a higher than average turnover rate with their employees. One shoe does not fit all!

Employers today are faced with highly skilled and savvy employees who are very aware of their value in the marketplace and in many cases will look elsewhere if they are not feeling appreciated and respected for their contribution within the organization (this is especially true of the Gen Y’s). Today’s workforce is in the driver’s seat. They know what they’re worth and they are not afraid to ask for it and surprisingly it is not always about money.

Statistics show that today’s employee is far more interested in work life balance. Family and friends come first. Long hours and paying your dues are a thing of the past. They are willing to work hard and to find creative ways to get the job done, but they are not going to compromise their core value which is family and friends.

We hear over and over when interviewing candidates that they are looking for an employer that offers them challenge in what they do, along with training and development opportunities. Career path is critical to today’s employee.

Employers must take the role of human resource management far more seriously than ever before. It is critical to their survival to have a clear understanding of what is important to their employees. They need to be tuned in to what their employees want from their employment experience. They need to understand what their employees think about them as an employer and ultimately they need to do their best to deliver a positive work experience to each employee in order to keep them fully engaged.

As you can see it is literally a “minefield” out there for employers. Managing a workforce today is complex, it requires that you be a little bit of everything…. manager, coach, mentor and mom!

Sandra Reder has been a driving force within the Human Resource community for the past 16 years.

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