It’s official, Millennials (Gen Y) are 83.1 million strong and have “passed” the Baby Boomers (75.4 million). Between the ages of 18 and 35, this generation makes up a quarter of the nation’s population and 32% of the workforce. Generation Z accounts for another quarter of our population, they are more diverse and are growing every day and they will be entering the workforce before we know it.* Demographic shifts in the workplace are just beginning.
While we are seeing the affects this generation has on our political landscape, they also affect our workplace. I am from the “middle child generation” (Gen X) and I have always been fascinated by how such large groups of people are defined by their generation. I don’t know that there was a lot of research, discussion and training in the workplace when the Boomers started “taking over” the Traditionalists, but today it’s almost certain that you have seen presentations, training programs and books that will help your company transition through these multi-generational demographic shifts.
Well, I am not going to discuss the examples and statistics of how and why the millennial generation is changing the landscape of corporate America, or why you should be paying attention to it. Instead I just want to offer some tips to consider when you find yourself looking at how you can manage this shift in your organization.
Engaging your workforce based on demographics is a good place to start. Employee engagement and loyalty is essential to a company’s growth and success. Gone are the days when employees were hired and they stayed until retirement. Through a quick analysis of your workforce you can begin to consider ways to engage your employees. Who do you have on your team? Individuals that have been with you for two to three years, new hires, college graduates or people looking to retire? How you engage these individuals may be through different methods. One of the biggest mistakes we make as employers is to try and find a “one-size-fits-all” approach and then wonder why it didn’t work. It doesn’t matter what generation you come from, individuals are motivated by different things based on their background, goals, aspirations, culture etc. Do some digging and find out what motivates the individuals on your team.
Engaging a pro-active workforce is something leaders should be taking seriously. Too many times we view employees as an asset to be managed. After-all, isn’t that what you we learned in Business 101, “employees are your greatest asset”? What if we turned that around and refer to them as your “biggest investment”? Recruiting skilled employees, training them and developing their talents is not cheap. To engage your workforce, you must start with good communication, not only between employer and employee but by fostering a positive work environment where they can effectively communicate with their co-workers. Employees want to be valued, have responsibility and be recognized for a job well done. You will be most successful at engaging your employees when you genuinely care about them and spend time understanding their goals.
Finally, according to a recent study conducted by the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM)** Flexible Work Arrangements (FWA) are being used by organizations when engaging their multi-cultural workforce with positive outcomes, not only with their recruitment and retention efforts but also with employee development and productivity. While telecommuting, compressed workweeks, shift flexibility and job-sharing are often thought of as the most common FWA’s, some organizations are not able to offer them based on the type of service or product they provide. Casual dress day, meal time flex, break arrangements and flex time during business hours are also considered FWA’s.
Well, my fellow Gen X’ers, our generation will never reach the 83.1 million mark and we are not expected to outnumber the Boomers until 2028. With Generation Z (<20 years old) being the largest population in the US, we can look forward to keeping our spot as the “middle child” in the workforce.
*Census Bureau **SHRM, Workplace Trends