The Slash Generation: Millennials in the Workplace Mix it Up

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The Slash Generation: Millennials in the Workplace Mix it Up

We tend to see a lot of negative connotations and stereotypes surrounding “Millennials” in the workplace. Even though they aren’t the newest generation to enter the workforce, there is still a lot to be assumed about their work ethic and lifestyle choices from their coworkers. Recently there is a new term to describe this generation that is rather fitting. Due to their unconventional and multi-faceted career paths, Millennials have been defined as the “Slash Generation”. Not every Millennial identifies with having a ‘slash’ career, but it is becoming a very prominent trend among this generation.
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It’s Not About What Your Interns Can Do For You, But What You Can Do For Your Interns

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It’s Not About What Your Interns Can Do For You, But What You Can Do For Your Interns

There are plenty of articles out there with advice and tips for college kids looking to get internships and how to add value to the organizations they are interning for, including some of our own. This is not another one of those articles. In addition, there are plenty of articles out there that point out the organizational benefits to hiring an intern or having an internship program at your organization. This is also not one of those of articles.
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6 Ways to Motivate and Retain Millennials

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6 Ways to Motivate and Retain Millennials

By 2030, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that Millennials will comprise approximately 75% of the American workforce. The Millennial generation, born between 1980 and 1995, equal about 80 million Americans and are those in our workplaces between the ages of 20 and 35.

Millennials are praised for being the most educated and culturally-diverse generation of our time, but with the praise also comes stereotyping. Millennials have earned the stigma of being "job hoppers" because of the lack of appreciation they have for traditional methods of promotion and advancement within an organization; if they don’t see enough opportunity for growth and advancement, they will leave.  They are also labeled as having “no work ethic,” because they work in different ways, leveraging technology and the flexibility it allows.
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5 Realities of an Aging Workforce

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5 Realities of an Aging Workforce

An aging workforce is quickly becoming a reality with projections as early as 2016. From 2016 on, one-third of the total U.S. workforce will be over the age of 50. Although millions of “Boomers” are hitting the official retirement age of 65 over a very short time period, the average actual retirement age is also steadily increasing.

The combination of these two trends means that employers will likely be facing two seemingly contradictory scenarios: the mass retirement of long time employees as well as an increasingly large proportion of older employees in the workforce.
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The Most Critical Trends Shaping HR

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The Most Critical Trends Shaping HR

There are so many important trends shaping HR right now that will affect employers in years to come. Here's a brief synopsis of the most critical ones that you should know heading into 2014.

1. Social Media & Mobile

Social networking platforms are changing, and will continue to change, how HR departments operate. People's lives are becoming more social networked, and nowadays, social media is no longer simply a marketing or personal tool. It is gradually becoming engrained into many aspects of the workplace.

Although social networking is primarily used for recruiting, employers are beginning to use social networking platforms for learning and development, employee communications, collaboration and innovation, and recognition.

Similarly, mobile continues to become more central to our lives, which poses both challenges and opportunities for our workplaces. Mobile can be leveraged for learning, recruiting, and other HR needs, and provides employees with greater flexibility to do their work, but it also will continue to present difficulties (e.g. productivity).

2. Big Data

Big data, or HR analytics, is increasingly guiding decisions pertaining to talent and the workplace. As technology increasingly is implemented in HR departments, people decisions are becoming more strategic and complex.

More companies will move beyond operational reporting and benchmarking, and leverage data about employees to make their HR departments more data-driven and strategic.

This includes using data to predict outcomes (e.g. hiring, performance, etc.) and conducting strategic analytics to statistically analyze problems and translate data findings into solutions.

Because research is finding that leading organizations are using big data for HR and that it is effective in delivering sound problem solving, this trend will require HR departments to hire and develop staff with big-data related skills in business acumen, consulting, data management, statistics, communication, and executive presence.

3. Generational Issues

Four generations are in many organizations right now, and they all have very different ways of working, forcing companies to put into place practices that help manage generational issues and conflicts.

The younger generation, in particular, is creating challenges for HR departments with their distinct values, forcing organizations to re-tool their talent management practices. For example, the younger generation...

  • Desires flexible work hours and work-life balance
  • Has intolerance for boredom and 'dead-end' jobs
  • Values mentoring, personal learning, and development
  • Expects rapid career progression

Because this generation brings critical skills to the table and are the future leaders of organizations, HR will need to find better ways to manage this group in order to retain them.

4. Rise of Contingent Workforce

Studies are predicting that the workforce will become more contingent in the next five years, and that by 2019, nearly half the workforce will contract their skills to multiple organizations.

There are already signs that this is happening with a rise in temporary workers, contractors, independent consultants, and freelancers. According to a report by Accenture, the most common freelance jobs include sales and marketing, IT and programming, design and multimedia, engineering and manufacturing, and writing.

The dynamics of business are changing so rapidly these days that many employers find they need an agile, "just-in-time" workforce that is more cost-effective. Contingency is attractive because work is becoming more knowledge and project-based, and increasingly reliant on specialized skills and expertise. In addition, economic fluctuations like we've seen the past few years will require more flexible staffing models.

Though contingent workers bring benefits, they will also pose challenges for HR departments in terms of how they are managed, compensated, and treated.

5. Change & Innovation

Because organizations are changing so rapidly, HR will have to take on more significant roles related to managing and communicating change initiatives and disruption within the workplace effectively. HR will need to take on a more consultative and change-management oriented role in their organizations.

Similarly, the need for innovation, risk-taking, and creative solutions is becoming more necessary. HR will be increasingly relied upon to drive this behavior through the development of culture and programs (rewards, empowerment, suggestions and ideas, employee feedback, etc.).

6. Leadership

Traditional theories of leadership are not as relevant to today's challenges, and certainly won't be in the future.

Leaders will need to demonstrate different behaviors and skills than were required in the past. Skills such as empathy, authenticity, influencing, strategic thinking, articulating, flexibility, risk taking, demonstrating integrity, leading diverse teams, collaborating, and bringing out the best in others are all being seen as more important for leaders.

While these aren't necessarily new leadership skills, more emphasis will be placed on them in the future.

7. Total Rewards

More and more, employers are faced with the issue of "there's only so much money in the bucket" and must make harder decisions about the total rewards that they offer.

For one thing, the benefits landscape is changing with the steady rise in health care costs, the uncertainty associated with how the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the changing nature of wellness in the workplace.

Likewise, modest pay increases and a performance-oriented approach to compensating employees has also been evident. Then, there are other rewards that factor into the equation like perks, recognition and rewards/staff appreciation, voluntary benefits, training and development, and more.

Employers will have to continue to make hard decisions about what total rewards will be provided to the workforce. Business strategy, performance, and the needs and interests of the workforce will all play a role in these difficult decisions.

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Easy Ways to Keep the Generations Engaged

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The concept of Employee Engagement has grown significantly in popularity over the years. Research shows that more traditional concepts of employee opinion or employee satisfaction don’t necessarily correlate to the likelihood that employees will stay and thrive, go above and beyond their primary job duties, or recommend the company’s products and services to customers. But those are the very definitions of employee engagement.  Research also shows that top performers tend to be more engaged than average or low performers and they out-produce their counterparts. So, the question is NOT whether keeping workers engaged is important or not.  Most senior leaders today would agree it is. The million dollar question is ‘HOW do we engage our workers’? Or, more pointedly, ‘How do we engage what is now a very diverse workforce’? We don’t all follow the beat of the same drum. (Some of us have trouble deciphering text messages from Millennials, let alone producing a beat they might follow!). But if we study what’s important to the generations and we study what influences engagement, we find quite a bit of overlap and some pretty easy ‘fixes.’

For example, the Traditionalists (born before 1946) tend to be driven by formal, public recognition, leadership roles, and responsibility. These are likely the folks who’ve been with your organization for many years, perhaps approaching retirement. They may feel that ‘No one cares what we think and what we know; no one asks us for feedback anymore.’ In most cases, they are storehouses of undocumented information about the company, products and services, customers, and processes. Often they are underutilized, disengaged resources.

A great way to engage this group is to establish them as mentors. Serving as a mentor meets Traditionalists’ needs for leadership, responsibility, and recognition, and mentoring is a key driver of employee engagement.  Whom should they mentor? The Millennials (born between 1982 – 2000). A recent study discovered that unlike previous generations who joined and identified with a company, this generation identifies with a person, specifically a leader. They want their own workplace and career tour guide. They look for someone to connect with whom they can learn from and who will champion them and their career. Who better to provide that connection than their own dedicated mentor? Plus, tenured mentors can learn a lot from the Millennials too.  In fact, pairing people strategically to ensure mutual benefit is a key to the success of this type of initiative. Be sure to take personality, workstyle, skill set, background, and interests into account, and give both mentors and mentees choices in partnering. Finally, to ensure engagement is impacted, both mentor and mentee should benefit from job challenges, training, recognition, development and growth, and autonomy as part of the mentoring experience.

Baby Boomers are motivated by recognition, taking charge, making a difference, teaming, personal growth, health and wellness, autonomy and creativity, competition and success. If they aren’t already formal leaders in your organization, these are ideal people for informal leadership roles. Engage them by asking them to ‘chair’ initiatives that matter to them. Projects involving wellness, community outreach, and the ‘customer experience’ are good examples.  The key to this approach is how you go about it. Let them choose the initiatives they want to be involved in. Appoint them as chair or leader as a form of recognition. Do it publicly. Allow them to form a team to work with. Provide the ‘what’ (the high-level goal), but let them decide on the ‘how’. When creating informal, meaningful leadership roles for Boomers, a few key elements must be present in order to impact engagement, including recognition, co-worker cohesion, and autonomy.

Last but not least, what about those strong-willed, independent Gen Xers? The areas of overlap between what engages workers in general and what drives Gen Xers in particular include challenging work, training, recognition and reward, a good relationship with their boss, coworker cohesion, and development and growth opportunities. In short, this group wants to feel as though they’ve ‘made it.’ With them, keep it high profile and you’ll keep them engaged. Here are some ways to do that:  allow them to work on company-wide challenges or the newest, most high profile venture. Ensure they have opportunities to interact with senior leaders. If their boss is not a strong, well-respected leader pair them with an internal mentor who is. If they are capable, put them on a fast track to assume a management/leadership role. Give them stretch goals and meaningful rewards such as bonuses, time off, and recognition. Permit them to attend off-site training or conferences, obtain certifications or pursue a degree. Ensure they work in areas of the organization where they have peers they can partner with, learn from and befriend.

Engaging your workforce in alignment with their generation-based needs is one way to maximize your organization’s return on your leadership investment. Committing to trying just a few ideas to better engage your employees can have real impact.  Many great leaders are said to have done some sort of personal accounting at the end of each day. When you leave your office each day, ask yourself….did I give my employees one more reason to go or one more reason to stay?