Managing and Keeping the New Workforce

I wrote an article last week that addressed how to interview and hire a sales staff. A comment back said: “Interview skills and finding the right people is so important, but there is a whole different set of skills that are needed to also keep these new hires after that.”

That is so right! And managing and keeping the new workforce takes an even different set of skills. Frankly, the things that the new workforce demands make a lot of sense. Really, we should have been doing these things all along for all of our staff.

Many good employees are quitting traditional organizations because the older and/or more rigid and often inflexible, managers just don’t know how to manage them properly.

Employees are not merely leaving their jobs for higher financial rewards, they’re leaving for management reasons. They don’t believe their older or more senior-ranking staff members or managers understand their needs or manage them properly.

In general, Generation X employees fall between the ages of 19 and 34. Gen Y falls between 35 and 44; Boomers from 45 and 64. Unlike their Boomer parents or grandparents, Gen X and Gen Y employees do not plan on staying in one job or with one company throughout their career, nor will they sacrifice their family or lifestyle for their job. Many of them have grown up seeing their parents laid off or “down-sized.” Many of them have grown up as “latch-key” children with both parents having to work, or in one parent households. So, quality time for their friends and family is very important to them.

Clearly, many of these employees have different work ethics, but along with these differences, they bring unique strengths and abilities. First they have a voracious appetite for technology and learning. This is great—unless your organization is not willing or able to share information, does not have up-to-date technology or it’s rigidly adhering to archaic rules and ways of doing business.

There are major hurdles between work environments that either attract or repel employees. Most employees today under the age of 45 tend to be less motivated by promises of overtime pay and more motivated by personal satisfaction with their jobs. They want to grow in their positions and learn new skills. They want to be challenged and have the opportunity to be creative and included in brainstorming sessions.

They will change jobs often as they seek companies that offer them both better benefits and more opportunity for professional growth, personal fulfillment and flexibility.

Today’s employees want and expect their employers to hear what they have to say. They want to understand the “big picture” for the company and how it influences their employment and potential growth. They are creative thinkers, independent, results oriented, and they bring a healthy dose of skepticism to the table.

Here are a few general areas to keep in mind to improve retention and productivity of all good employees:

• Be approachable. Direct access to decision makers is very important, especially to the younger workforce. Take time to speak with them. Let them know they’re appreciated. Remember, employees look for more than just fair pay; they need and want personal acknowledgement and job satisfaction. They want to be communicated with and included.

• Take time to be personal. Thank an employee for doing a good job (in person, in writing, or both). Listen to what employees have to say, both in a one-on-one situation and in a group meeting. Let the employee know what happened to the idea or suggestion he or she submitted.

• Encourage employee growth. Provide feedback on their performance. Be specific; mention a particular situation or activity. Make sure the employee understands the company’s expectations. Involve the employee in the decision-making process whenever possible. Give an employee room to do the job without unnecessary micromanagement. Pay for employees to attend workshops and seminars; offer in-house classes where employees can learn new skills or improve upon old ones. Most jobs contain a certain amount of routine, day-to-day work. Offer employees a chance to work on something in which they have a special interest or unique skills just to shake it up a bit.

• Performance based promotions and rewards. Traditional companies lose valuable younger employees because of their longevity-based recognition and promotion systems. Recognize an employee who has done an outstanding job by giving them an unexpected reward. Manage people individually and promote outstanding performers, even if it means doing it ahead of older or more senior employees. Performance is King!

• Help employees see the “Big Picture.” Employees need to experience a sense of ownership. Encourage this by providing them with as much information as possible. Let each employee see how they fit into the picture; how meeting their goals contribute to meeting the company’s goals. How they are an integral part of the company’s growth.

• Build morale. Have an open work environment. Encourage initiative, and welcome new and innovative ideas. Employees should enjoy their work and have fun at it. Happy employees are more productive and more creative. Don’t be afraid to try something new every now and then.

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