Managing Multiple Generations
Droste Group facilitated a group of HR Senior Executives to discuss best practices in managing different generations in the workplace. The emergence of the ‘Millennial Generation’ (18 to 29 years of age) has certainly caused many companies to rethink hiring processes as Millennials’ values and skill sets are perceived to be vastly different from their predecessors and more mature counterparts. Droste Group presented a summary of common traits in the new generation entering the workforce and discussed best practice ideas on the subject from multiple evidence-based articles and research publications. The participating HR Senior Executives shared some of their internal practices in the areas of recruiting, onboarding/orientation, training, job design/managing work, compensation, career development, benefits, and diversity.
Texting can be used to communicate with younger workers during the recruiting process. In addition, LinkedIn.com has become increasingly important in recruiting; it is used to communicate, as well as find people and confirm resume content and references. Social networking is also becoming more prominent in the business setting, although government contractors find they can’t rely on it fully because of strict job posting requirements. Community outreach programs and other ‘altruistic’ endeavors are also becoming recruiting tools, as new hires find them to be attractive selling points for organizations. However, HR professionals should also consider that simple things like texting can alienate a potential hire if they perceive it to be unprofessional. Similarly, relying upon social media may be perceived as an invasion of privacy and unfair, as the ‘snapshot’ based content is typically unrelated to one’s performance in the workplace. These recruiting tools should be used with caution, as misuse in hiring practices can lead to legal troubles.
It is becoming increasingly important to teach the expected ‘basic’ social and work habit skills to the younger generation of workers, as many of these expectations are no longer the norm. Etiquette for the use of computers (specifically checking personal email and social networks), cell phones, and texting while working in a business setting, appropriate breaks, and proper interaction with senior leaders, and other expectations, should all be included in the orientation program for new hires. As previously discussed, onboarding is a good time to support these more independent workers, who also need to be told the big picture of the organization and how their jobs are integral to that picture. Doing so helps Millennials to be more receptive to following the company’s policies and procedures and helps them to fit the desired culture in less time, while avoiding culture misfit issues due to miscommunication or perceived lack of support and unfairness.
When managing and training different generations in the workplace, be sure to use a blended learning approach, because it can lead to more successful training outcomes. Specifically, on-line or e-learning can be effectively used to transfer content skills, while face-to-face events reinforce soft skills and build company culture and improve engagement. Because these younger workers want to learn new things, they expect the company to provide new learning and development opportunities. Utilizing technology to deliver this content also supports their desire for a supportive and fitting environment. Interestingly, they also expect opportunities for personal development (such as financial planning and training) which broaden their skill sets outside of their current job responsibilities.
Job Design / Managing Work
Millennial workers desire more face-to-face time with their boss, which may seem like high maintenance behavior to Baby Boomers. However, more interaction with superiors does not mean Millennials want to follow detailed policies and procedures to complete their work nor do they appreciate micro-management. On the contrary, they find detailed rigid processes to be restrictive and prefer more flexible, self-customized ways to work. That may correlate to the way they blend their personal and work time. Thus, allowing more flexibility on the process and focusing on the results is best for Millennials.
This HREE session’s attendees noted that not many changes in compensation programs are being made to support Millennials. Then again, cash compensation is not crucially important to this group. One noted exception is that high potential/unique skill set hires from colleges continue to demand higher salaries and create internal salary compression issues. One solution is a focus on total rewards, which seem to work well with this demographic. Total rewards may include adding education reimbursement, extra paid time off, sabbaticals, at-work services such as dry-cleaning or food service, public recognition, career development opportunities, and other ‘perk’ type programs.
Career development is important to the Millennial Generation; they expect quick promotions. When it is not possible to promote regularly, it has been beneficial to use more job rotations and special projects to expose them to new skill sets. It may also be beneficial to create a system for mini-promotions, with small steps leading to more intricate requirements, eventually building to the bigger promotion. Each stage has a set of requirements, a timeline, a new title, and a small compensatory ‘perk’ from the list above as the reward. If carefully constructed and followed-through, the benefits greatly outweigh the costs.
In general, benefit packages are less important to this generation than those that preceded it. They are more amenable to consumer-based health plans and don’t find long-term saving plans (such as a 401k or IRA) to be as important as previous generations did. Fortunately, they may see the ability to have fewer long-term benefits as a tradeoff for other items that mean more to them (i.e., the ‘perks’ previously discussed).
Because of their exposure to multiple cultures and diversity from an early age, Millennials may not require additional diversity programs such as ‘Affinity Groups’ or a similar long-term inclusion-based training program. Their lifelong exposure to technology has given them a global perspective that fewer older workers had when they entered the workforce, therefore, going above and beyond the government’s required diversity training program may not be necessary. Caution must be exercised in this realm as well; anti-discrimination laws protect workers over 40 years of age and the perception of unfair training requirements may lead to legal issues.
When managing different generations in the workplace, it’s important to recognize that this new generation of workers brings a unique mix of skills and behaviors to the workforce that we have previously scarcely encountered. It will not be very long before this generation is the majority of an organization’s workforce. Modifying current policies and practices, and even evolving the organizational culture to fit their needs, may require more creativity on the part of HR professionals. However, we are optimistic that the benefits gleaned will certainly be felt by workers across generations and inclusion will help to create high performing organizations.