Baby boomers are slowly exiting the workforce, and the millennials are taking over. In 2017, an estimated 50% of employees were born between 1981 and 1997. As this new generation makes its mark, employers are faced with a new challenge—how to cater to the younger millennials. These fresh-faced people view the world through a lens unique to the time in which they were introduced to it. The things they value differ greatly from their predecessors.
For example, due to the meteoric rise of social media and collaborative software, they want to engage—and be engaged—in a more intuitive and interactive way than ever before. Yet, they want the freedom and autonomy to do this remotely, from a location of their choosing. Further millennial job candidates are shifting towards seeking less full-time employment and more freelance opportunities.
So, what’s an aging organization to do? The answer is simple. Change.
Now, executing this change—that’s the hard part. But, first, let’s take a look at why we should change.
Drivers for Change
- The Digital World is transforming the workforce
- The workforce is increasingly diverse
- It’s getting more difficult to find candidates with the right skill sets
- Employment expectations are changing
- Organizations have an increasing need to be adaptable in the face of unpredictable change
And, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are several other drivers for change that could’ve easily made my list, but for the sake of this post, let’s just focus on these. Next, let’s look at some of the key challenges organizations are facing in the new, Digital World of Work (DWOW).
- Traditional HR strategies fail to promote those with potential to thrive in DWOW
- HR departments struggle when updating employee development methods
- Outdated talent management restricts progress
- Old, hierarchical leadership strategies for incentives fall flat.
Trust me, as a no-doubt-about-it member of Gen X, I know all of this can seem a little overwhelming. I came up in the professional world being recruited, incentivized, and promoted by a lot of these outdated HR practices. Heck, in previous roles, I even helped create and implement some of them. Nevertheless, the times—they are a changin’.
As the Chief Cultural Officer at LeadingAgile, I’ve had the opportunity to implement some new, Agile HR strategies that are gaining a lot of traction and success within our organization. I’ve also revamped our internal screening process and been afforded the opportunity to speak with a multitude of potential new hires. All of this has given me a ton of great insight into what works and what doesn’t, and into what makes current employees want to stick around. Here are some of my latest thoughts on how to navigate the DWOW.
Hire the Right People
This day and age, everyone feels the shortage of talent in the workforce, but you must stop relying on traditional job postings. Chances are, the super-talented people are already employed. Your time is better spent building relationships. While it’s easy to post a job listing on your website and wait for inbound submittals, what ends up happening is that you’ll waste a lot of time wading through resumes of subpar talent to get to the one or two qualified people that might be in the mix. Instead, have a strategy for how to gain visibility into the community. You’ll also want to be thinking about how you’re going to differentiate your company in the job market, so it becomes an attractive destination. Don’t forget to have a clearly-defined mission statement that will resonate with the younger workforce.
Once you’ve finally met the right candidate, don’t be afraid to court them. You wouldn’t marry someone after the first date, would you? Then why rush into this partnership? Get to know what drives them into top efficiency. Find out what motivates them to fit in with the team, and make sure their “why” matches that of your organization. You’ll always want to be playing the long game when hiring, not the short one.
Look beyond the buzzwords on a resume and find out what a potential candidate can offer the team. Five years of experience—of using one skill in a mundane way—doesn’t always translate to this person’s ability to help solve your particular problem. Having a variety of skills and a breadth of experience is a much better indicator that a potential new hire is going to engage in creative problem solving. Gamify the hiring process. Value quality over quantity. Hire strictly for team needs. You should always be hiring the correct people with the correct skillsets for positions in which they will be best suited to help your company.
Improve Employee Development
Investing in individual employee development creates a culture of growth throughout the entire company.
First, ensure a fantastic onboarding experience. Using reliable communications and providing available aid will set the tone of the relationship. Use onboarding as an opportunity to build foundational trust. Then, immediately upon hire, encourage new employees to venture outside their comfort zones. This way you’ll understand your employee’s limitations and can begin deliberate development.
Next, you’ll want to create opportunities for daily recognition. Never underestimate the significance of employees feeling valued, validated, and supported in the workplace. In fact, employees who feel undervalued are more likely to leave an organization than those who feel underpaid. Understanding both an employee’s personal and professional needs goes a long way, so be sure to engage in frequent and consistent conversations with employees.
You’ll also find that organizing teams based on tribal—or pod—thinking will get the best results. In general, people seek to be a part of small groups of like-minded people, so make sure you’re capitalizing on this dynamic of human nature. Once you have the right teams in place, focus on continuous learning and connectivity. Start integrating various growth opportunities such as user groups, lunch-and-learns, and lightning talks. Your employees will also appreciate an education allowance system.
Perhaps the most important piece of advice I have is: stay away from traditional compensation models and annual performance reviews. Often these two staples of traditional HR act as a disincentive and squash employee morale. Instead, you should set definitive goals, give clear instruction, and establish a system for regular goal achievement. Internal competition is a great motivator and will drive performance much more than a yearly gold star. Also, make sure to pay competitively based on talent and performance and offer team-based bonuses. Individual incentives are toxic. Period.
Make sure your HR strategies are flexible and adaptive. Design a system based on community management that enhances resilience and improves company capacity to cope with adversity. Adaptive HR systems can handle change and limit the toll taken on company resources during momentary setbacks. Create space for flexibility within the organization by making room for salary increases, setting aside time for employees to ask HR or management developmental questions, and incorporating time for relationship-building.
Create a Culture of Trust
Use HR to enhance leadership, values, and trust. Foster a culture of trust. For talent management and leadership teams, ways to build trust with employees include being honest and supportive, following through with your commitments, being consistent, and modeling the behavior you wish to see. Some enemies of trust, according to the Harvard Business Review, include relaying inconsistent messages, setting inconsistent standards, offering false feedback, and failing to address controversial issues. Trust within an organization is fragile, and building trust within an organization takes much more than personal integrity (“The Enemies of Trust,” Robert M. Galford. Harvard Business Review).
The Digital World is transforming the workforce, and organizations have an increasing need to adapt to unpredictable changes. If you couple this with the fact that employee expectations are shifting, it’s no wonder that traditional HR is being challenged. Don’t be late to the game. Embrace the inevitable. It’s important to proactively reshape your HR practices alongside this younger, developing workforce. Make sure you’re transforming the way you work now to accommodate the next generation of employees.