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The Realities and Challenges of a Multi-generational Workforce

Once upon a time, HR managers preferred to hire the more experienced candidate over the well-educated. These days they are being forced to take education in lieu of experience, leaving a workforce heavy on theory and light on practice. The fact is the steeper learning curve, the less time to get inexperienced team members on board and up to speed. Making the situation even more complex, is the lack of middle management in many organizations. In this article, we will take a look at the demographic reality of today’s workforce, and discuss strategies for hiring, managing, and training those with less experience.

Demographic Reality of the Modern Workforce

  • The majority of today’s workers are either over 50 years of age or under 30.
  • The mid-90s through the early 2000s witnessed a sharp decline in middle-management, due to corporate restructuring.
  • Most companies admit they have not sufficiently addressed the gap in management.
  • Today’s over-burdened middle-managers are suffering from burnout which leads to higher than average numbers of alcoholism, depression and other mental health issues.

5 Common Scenarios and Strategies to Consider

1. You aren’t sure how to hire for your future needs.

Perform workforce projection for all upcoming projects, including succession planning and replacement planning. This is the only way to know where your deficits lie and where they are likely to widen in the future.

2. You have a multigenerational workforce that is not performing as a cohesive team.

Managing and leading a multigenerational team takes patience and understanding. However, if you can help your team overcome the personality clashes that are inherent, you may discover some great mentorship opportunities. When the outgoing staff is motivated to properly to take newcomers under their wing, the bulk of training takes care of itself.

It’s no secret that people are living and working longer and the days of two generations making up a workforce will be a thing of the past. We will likely see three to four generations working together in the near future. The key is to develop methods where the younger and older generations have respect for one another and cultivate an environment or culture where they all learn from each other, working together to create a  productive workplace.

3. You don’t know how to engage your new millennial workforce.

Let’s face it, this generation is different. They are not only very well-educated, but they also have ideas and values that set them apart. We have discussed previously, how best to attract, engage, motivate, and keep millennials by responding to their deep need for purpose and place within your organization.

4. You need to have your new hires up to speed faster, but you don’t have the HR support that you need.

Consider outsourcing part of your human resources operations. This simple step can eliminate much of the admin work that weighs down your already overworked middle management staff. A Professional Employer Organization (PEO) can help in a wide variety of areas, from sourcing and pre-screening candidates to complete onboarding and even initial training.

Another important consideration is the different styles of learning. Here are a few tips to help differentiate the generational learning preferences:

Veterans: Prefer classroom setting with little ambiguity and clear direction.

Baby Boomers: Generally they are team-oriented but like to have the opportunity to practice new skills alone before proficiency is checked.

Gen-X: Typically pragmatic, like succinct and clear instruction with less emphasis on non-value added activities, have little tolerance for incompetent instructors. Hands-on learning should be conducted in small breakout sessions.

Gen-Y or Millennials: Accustomed to group work. Requires more instruction, structure, and supervision. They appreciate highly visual displays and digital media. They do not like to reach out for help, meaning it is important to be proactive when offering guidance.

“Encourage your employees to take advantage of specialized training to enhance their skills, and access promotions.” – Important HR Tips for Small Business Owners

5. You lack management bench strength.

Focus on hiring for the mid-term instead of the long-term. This may seem counter-intuitive. Of course, you’re told to target enthusiastic go-getters who will disrupt and innovate your organization. However, with a lack of leadership and experience, that may not be the best strategy.

As a business owner, you want to focus on running your company but you know that hiring the right team is critical —because every bad hire is costly and risks damaging the morale and continuity of your workforce. Fortunately, we can help. Harbor America is a leader in the Professional Employer Organization space. From HR, payroll, and benefits administration to training, risk management, and compliance, we leverage our technology and know-how to expertly hire and onboard your crew. Get started today with a free consultation.