Retaining Top Talent

Employability Today: Part 6 

In Part 5 we looked at how to select the best candidate.  What to look for in a potential candidate and some new interview practices that will lead to a higher retention rate.  Next, it's time to tackle how to keep the employable talent you've hired.  And not just to keep them at your organization, but to keep them engaged and passionate about they work they are doing.

An Introduction to Work Force Generations -

One of the biggest frustrations that CEO’s and leaders today are experiencing is effectively managing across the five generations within the work force. Surprisingly, this one pain point effects a multitude of facets within an organization such as company effectiveness, recruiting, retention, turnover, and compensation, just to name a few.The notion that generations have distinct personalities extends back to at least 1991, when Wade Strauss and Neil Howe introduced this approach to understanding human resources in their book, Generations. The authors proposed that a generation must span at least a 20-year range to establish a personality and that individuals within each generation share a significant number of attributes. These shared attributes help make identifying, recruiting, and retaining workers for optimal gain an easier task.

Among sociologists, defining historical events are regarded as major clarifying factors in understanding the generations and what their impact might prove to be within business and organizations. While a range of years generally classifies each generation, th

ese act more as guidelines, as there is much debate and no distinct “cut-off” as to when each generation begins and ends.

Senior generation employeesSeniors

The first or oldest generation of workers in today’s workplace, depending on what source you consult, are known as “Veterans,” “Matures,” or “Seniors,” as we will call them for our purposes. The approximately 46 million members of this group were born between 1920 and 1945. While admittedly there are fewer than 5% remaining actively employed, they still have a significant influence on our work environment and business.

The decade-long Great Depression and the calamitous events of World War II have influenced Seniors along every step of their career paths. Serving today in advisory and leadership roles, Seniors provide critical organizational memory and serve as pillars of stability and continuity.

Seniors are known for their loyalty to their spouses, employers, community, and country, among other things. They have a vested interest in maintaining personal privacy and financial security. Some observers characterize them as less flexible than other generations. That might be less true today than it was in earlier times, as Seniors have begun to adopt social networking in surprising numbers.

baby boomer generation employeesBaby Boomers

The next generation in the work force is the Baby Boomers, a group so widely reported on over the years that some consider reading about them painful. They are the most analyzed and characterized generation the world has ever seen.

Most sources agree that the Baby Boomers were born between 1946 (the end of World War II) and 1965.

In their early years, Baby Boomers were experimenters: “drugs, sex, and rock and roll” is more than a catch phrase. Baby Boomers lived through the death of JFK, the U.S. civil rights movement, Woodstock, the moon landing, Watergate, Nixon’s resignation, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, among other huge events.

The Baby Boomers number 76 million. Prior to the Millennials, this had been the largest U.S. generation. Boomers were profoundly shaped by the sheer size of their generation, which forced them to be competitive in every aspect of life. Baby Boomers currently serve as senior managers and executives helping to formulate strategy, policy, and new organizational initiatives while focusing on growth and expansion. Some of the Boomers are now retiring or seeking encore careers.

Gen X EmployeesGeneration X

The third group, known as Generation X, or Gen X for short, includes individuals born between 1966 and 1987; some sources use 1985 as the endpoint for Generation X.

Generation X is small in number compared to the Baby Boomers preceding them and the Millennials following them. There are only around 36 million Gen Xers, making them a scarce commodity within the work force and presenting numerous logistical and hierarchical issues for organizations everywhere.

This group grew up amid legions of Disney characters, Pac Man, talk-show celebrities, and such rock legends as Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Culture Club, Madonna, and Prince. Gen Xers have been called “latch-key kids” because many of their mothers worked outside the home to help support the family, leaving their children to make do. Thus, Gen Xers are seen as resilient, innovative, and independent. They are also more global in their thinking and accept broad diversity as a norm.

Generation X represents a departure from its elders, having experienced endless rounds of technological innovation and cultural change.

These workers populate the ranks of supervisors, middle managers, and moving frequently into executive positions. They are system architects who understand how things fit together and how they’re supposed to work. They maintain an innovative predisposition.

Millennial employeesMillennials

The newest and largest generation at 84 million, the Millennials include individuals born between 1987 and 2005. College-educated Millennials will undoubtedly become the knowledge workers and future leaders of organizations, large and small, for generations to come.

Raised by Baby Boomers, Millennials have been coddled in ways unknown to the previous three generations. Millennials have a positive, can-do attitude coupled with a free-wheeling approach to employment and career direction. More than other generations in the workplace, Millennials are adept at on-the-fly learning—and why not? They’ve grown up with easy access to digital resources and the ability to gather information quickly.

Now rapidly entering the ranks of organizations and management, Millennials have already established themselves as workplace innovators, particularly in harnessing technology to achieve objectives. They’re predisposed to having enjoyable experiences, achieving some form of self-fulfillment, and feeling as if they’re making a difference.

Because of their gargantuan numbers, the particular way they were raised and nurtured, and the vagaries of today’s economy, Millennials are destined to have a more dramatic workplace impact than any previous group has had.

Gen Z.jpgI-Gens

The Information Generation (the I-Gens) was born in 2006 after the last of the Millennials joined us. This generation will continue to increase until 2025. As predicted years ago, the Millennials now number more than 84 million and are—by far— the largest birth group we have seen in the past 70-plus years. By contrast, we expect the I-Gens to be a much smaller group.

With all the changes going on domestically and around the globe, I-Gens are navigating this sea of changes more rationally than the Millennials.  Not unlike their parents, Gen Xers, they are attempting to make pro-active choices versus reactive emotive responses.  They have learned foundational rational analysis with critical thinking using instant information gained by judicial use of e-media and technology driven information.

Work Force Generations and the Four Pillars -

Understandably, each generation involuntarily regards its own views as the norm. So, too, organizations well-practiced in the art of employing Seniors and Baby Boomers tend to assume that applying the same principles and standards to Gen Xers and Millennials will yield similar, desirable results. Often, such presumptions lead to pervasive tunnel vision that impacts Employable Talent in ways that are often misunderstood by all parties.

As a talent manager is it vital to be aware of the strengths and values— as well as the challenges— of each generation in the work force as each brings a different perspective to an organization. An organization needs to understand, respect, and appreciate each generation that contributes to its performance. Just as each employer and organization places emphasis differently on the Four Pillars of Employable Talent, so does each generation. As you can see below, what is important to Seniors isn't necessarily important to the Gen Xers or the upcoming I-Gens.  While all candidates and current employees across the various generations have different motivators, there are still a set core factors that are of value to all. There are essential steps to be taken even before you hire a candidate to ensure they are entering a work situation which they will find of value and want to stay with your company while maximizing their efforts and potential while under employment.


Generational Emphasis on the Four Pillars of Employable Talent


Proactivity Pays Off -

Most people interviewing for a job are happy to gain employment and receive a decent salary. Yet, you want to proactively discuss your organization’s policies on all benefits, whether the candidate brings it up or not, because it’s in everyone’s best interests. 

The Proactive Employer

Some employers offer retirement plans. Their Employable Talent will receive a percentage of their annual incomes in a modified 401(k) retirement fund or some other vehicle. These funds supplement Social Security and, in part, replace the long-term pension that was available when people stayed with an organization for an entire career.

Progressive corporations who understand the new employment agreement offer such incentives to attract top talent. They know that these benefits will help nurture and support Employable Talent. Most younger individuals (below 45 years old) will not make personal/voluntary contributions to their retirement funds. It’s easier to attract somebody with a $60,000 per year offer and no benefits vs. $50,000 in salary and $10,000 worth of company-paid benefits. People realize they need the benefits, but they don’t want to deal with the hassle of selecting options, securing them, and paying for them.

Today, many companies are moving away from the traditional full-time employment with benefits and are placing the burden on the employee to purchase their own health and welfare insurances. The proactive employer will support, usually through a third party, information and training on how to select health and welfare benefits to best meet your particular needs today and over the next 5 –plus years. There will be many changes to available options driven by the affordable health care act. This ever-changing landscape is in significant flux and requires further review based on a cadre of issues. 

Counseling Counts

The further that business and society move away from the era of lifetime employment, the more important active financial planning becomes in the lives of Employable Talent. Insurance and estate planning are part of the overall picture.

All else being equal, the organizations that proactively offer financial, insurance, and estate planning are more attractive to Employable Talent than those that do not. Depending on what your organization is seeking to achieve—and the availability or scarcity of talent in this particular endeavor—you may well need to have this ace up your sleeve to attract prime candidates, even if it’s only for 18 to 36 months.

The savvy HR professional understands the different types of coverage, planning, and counseling required—or finds out about it. Perhaps these haven’t been everyday issues for you, but now they need to be. Being able to offer Employable Talent options— straight salary, lesser salary with benefits, or a higher base salary with no benefits—is a strong incentive. Some people already have policies in place. Some people have spouses whose employers provide for spouses and the family.


Stay tuned for the second part of Retaining Top Talent as we dive deeper into specific strategies and changes to implement to help keep your best employees.


Dr. David Miles is Chairman of the Miles LeHane Companies, Inc. He is a member of the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD), a member and founding chapter President of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the Association of Career Professionals (ACP) and a Charter Fellow of the Institute of Career Certification International (ICC International), as the largest global non-profit certification Institute.  Author of The Four Pillars of Employable Talent and Building Block Essentials.  Follow David on Twitter @David_C_Miles

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