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Building a Workforce for Now and the Future

Millennials are hard to manage, they're lazy and have no work ethic. Baby Boomer’s want to do nothing but work and don’t enjoy this new, trendy style of management. This has been debated time and time again, it’s an over discussed topic. Unfortunately, I expect this topic to continue to be talked about and analyzed for many years to come. With the gradual change in the workforce, new technology being created daily and the opportunity for knowledge and learning right at nearly everyone’s fingertips via the internet, this debate is far from over. What exactly are we talking about here? What we’ll look at in the next few paragraphs aren’t meant to spark the usual discussion. This discussion tends to compare and separate the generational differences and the outcome tends to either bash and/or support one generations viewpoint versus the other, not here. What you will find below is some great research done by educated individual and businesses, mixed with our founder’s experiences working in several very different workforces and cultures. Below, we’ll look at how the workforce is developing and changing, and what innovative companies and individuals are doing to stay ahead of the curve. Most importantly, we’ll talk about how successful companies and individuals can utilize this information to help create the future of business. I originally wanted this post to be very short, but my passion for the topic got the best of me and several paragraphs later, here we are. Enjoy!

Blending of Generations: A Tale of Two (or Three…) Workforces

As of 2016, Millennials, those who are currently between the age of 18 and 34, have officially taken over as the largest percentage of the US workforce, moving beyond Baby Boomers. There are two factors inevitably leading to this statistic, Baby Boomers are meeting the retirement age and immigration. As many who have watched the news recently, immigration is a hot topic in the United States of America. This section certainly isn’t inserted to start a discussion on policy, yet the section is added to bring up the fact that the increase in immigration has diversified our workforce even more, a radically positive thing in many cases. Less seldom discussed, the Generation X population (35 to 50 years of age) which sits in between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials and is rarely compared in this fashion and is the smallest of the 3 generations maintaining the majority of today’s workforce.

Why are these stats important…

There are certain characteristics that are definitive to each generation, some different and many the same. When scanning the internet, it’s easy to stumble upon millions of articles written about the polarizing differences between the 3 generations and the difficulties it has caused for managers of diverse teams. With the sheer number of articles written and the many different case studies, it’s hard to argue against this being a legitimate issue. In addition, with today’s workforce in the US in particular, immigration and growth have helped diversify nearly every industry, some more than other and technology certainly leading the way. What this means is that more and more managers should be facing the same diversity issues. Why are some managers and businesses more successful? These individuals and businesses are creating a work environment that utilizes the diversity as a propelling force, finding common characteristics to unify the generations. In particular, recognizing the differences but creating common ground where all employees can work, in harmony towards the end goal. To most that seems obvious, but recognizing and actually putting a plan together for action are two very different things. How can businesses utilize technology along with management practices to support their people and strategically create sustainable growth by focusing on their most important asset? The details of how each business uniquely identifies their ability to utilize a similar strategy are where we like to help.

What separates the people operations of a successful business vs. a failing business? Who’s doing it right and what are they doing?

There some different examples I’d like to highlight here. Some are more recent ‘start-up’ type companies that appear to have gotten it right from the beginning. Others are established businesses and corporations, that have had to either pivot or shift to create a workplace suitable for optimizing a diverse workforce. My two examples are Google and McKinsey and Company, both vastly different and created in entirely different generations, yet both ranked as ‘Best Place to Work’ according to a 2017 Glassdoor Survey. The companies, who ranked 4 and 11 on that list respectively, not surprisingly share many of the same characteristics according to current and previous employees.

Leadership starts at the top, but doesn’t stop there- The CEO’s of both companies have extremely high approval ratings (97%, Google and 99%, McKinsey). One of the characteristics you’ll notice of many high performing companies or managers in this generation, is hierarchical management styles are now less common. More companies these days are focused on creating a blend of top down and bottom up structures. Although CEO’s play a pivotal role in any company, many of these high performing CEO’s are recognizing the benefits of empowering their people to make decisions for the company rather than dictating orders from the top.

Work Environment and Culture- Employees of both firms praise the environment they get to work and learn in and the smart people who are attracted to these attributes creates an even better place to be.

Engagement and Creating a Sense of Worth- In both firms, employees site long work hours as a con to working there. At the same time, many employees also site that there is a great approach to creating work-life balance. Although work is tough and hours might be long, managers and the organization as a whole seem to care about their employees as individuals. Although the long hours might be awful, employees are recognizing the genuine effort to create a balance and let them also live their lives.

Different Ideologies…. Same shared purpose. How can HR practitioners and policies utilize this information to build a successful business?

While putting together this post I came across an interesting study conducted by EY (previously Ernst and Young). The firm surveyed 1,200 professionals, crossing generations. They found that 49% of the respondents identified Compensation as the most important perk. Now, we recognize that the sample size is smaller, but it is still telling. It possible this finding can be rationalized by looking a little deeper into why high compensation, is a main driver for nearly half of the professionals surveyed. The Boomers who’ve historically been categorized as maintaining the philosophy, “You Live to Work,” whereas Millennials have been tied to the opposite end of the spectrum, “You Work to Live.” That statement alone would likely imply that money would be less of an important factor when selecting a workplace for Millennials. Materially, that may ring true, but when you analyze this fact a little deeper you realize a characteristic that ties the two generations, both have a high sense of worth and a desire to be recognized and appreciated. Sounds pretty human, right? Now I could just be using this analysis as a self-appropriated bias, but I’d like to think about that statement a little more. In a capitalist society, what better way is there to show someone they are valued and have meaning? $$$. That seems pretty easy, just pay everyone more…we know that’s not realistic for the majority of organizations out there, so what else can businesses and HR professionals do to unify the generations and create sustainable success?

It’s human nature for an individual to desire to create change or have an impact, to leave a lasting legacy. A great philosophy I once read came from a book titled, “Peak” by Chip Conley spoke to how companies can utilize their missions to successfully empower their employees. A recognizable truth is that many companies and jobs, in particular, are not out there with the purpose of curing a disease or ending human hardships. A bank for instance, generally isn’t searching for a cure to cancer. However, the services that bank is providing including investment services and retirement planning are being utilized by those doctors and scientists who are working on the cure. If a firm were to utilize this as their mission and form their culture and core values around this and truly live it, would they be more successful in attracting talent?

In essence, with the absence of meaning and company mission, being paid highly is the next motivating factor. Although there is no replacing money as an important factor, in a tough economy, it’s difficult to simply pay more. However, both Individual Managers and organizations do have the ability and should utilize strong people practices that helps create a real sense of worth for their employee’s.

Using some of the examples set by the two companies mentioned in the paragraph above, let’s discuss a few ways we can help ourselves and our companies optimize their workforce.

Analyze The Mission and Purpose against The Employee Brand- Regardless of the size of your company, how are current employee’s talking about what they do for a living and who they work for? This will resonate with prospective employees and help build teams that share similar values. If the mission and purpose of the company seems to be missed by the majority of the employees, it may be time to assess where the misalignment is happening.

Continuously Review Your Culture- Is the culture you market externally in line with how employee’s currently see it? Has it gone off track from what your company was founded on? This is an area of focus that should be continuously looked after. Misalignment between how you are marketing and what your culture really is will create nothing but headaches, unhappy employees, high turnover, trouble attracting talent and the list goes on. Your company doesn’t need to be the next Google, so stop trying to imitate them. What resonates with your current workforce? Ask them and see if it’s in line with how you see it. If it’s different, maybe consider a review and adjustment. You’re already successful employees can be a great litmus test and might just be the key to attracting other likeminded individuals. Listen to your people. Happy people equals higher profits, one without the other is highly unlikely and a culture that is nothing more than words does nothing to create action.

People Operations is part of Everyone’s Job- It all start with the company’s mission and purpose, having this will ensure the right people will follow. Diligently working to establish the right culture based on your company’s mission will pay off tremendously. Your people will know what guides the firm and will live those values as well. For HR to be strategic it must help empower the other people managers of the organization. The function, or the people acting as the function must be willing to ensure that core competencies of HR are covered, this includes payroll, legal requirements and the like, then true strategic work can be done. To clarify, this doesn’t mean providing self-service type technology and stepping away to only provide technical support as many might think. This requires that every member of the company truly buy into the purpose and really seek to foster their most important asset as part of their day to day work.

Bringing this 180° the YGTG Way:

The key to creating a successful company and long term sustainable growth can be tied to 3 intangible keys, the culture of your organization, how many of your employees become true brand ambassadors and how many of your clients or customers continue to return and refer friends and family. If you are able to create an environment where employees want to come to work, you will not only have a dynamic and engaged workforce creating quality outputs, but you will have a steady stream of other qualified employees banging on your door to come and see what your brand is all about. With the work environment and culture, you create, these same individuals are the ones who will help build your loyal customer fan base. When done right, as you can likely see, results will follow.

It may sound cliché, and it is, but it’s tried and true for many reasons. Successful businesses all start with, and maintain the right approach to their most important asset, their people. As discussed and analyzed above, the workforce right now is very diverse and what a great thing that is. Companies that can successfully leverage the diversity will continue to come out on top, because with the diversity comes ingenuity, creativeness and fresh-new ideas for moving business forward. This exact reason is what lead to the creation of Your Go-To Guys and our forward-thinking HR and business consultancy. Many happy clients later our mission and purpose is still the same, we want to help you stand out from the crowd and create real change. We don’t believe we have all of the answers, but we feel putting people first is good business and is what helps build great, sustainable and profitable organizations and individuals.

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