Changes in Workforce & Attracting Millennials

At a Professional Developers of Iowa conference I recently attended with Teresa Nicholson of Winn-Worth Betco., workforce issues were in the spotlight. Preparing for a new wave of generational changes will be essential in the near future as it is no secret that businesses, especially manufacutring and industry, are having trouble attracting and retaining young workers who are qualified for the current and future jobs that need filling. During the conference, orgnanizations were encouraged to pursue an emergent mentality, striving to continually evolve to meet the changing views and expectations of today's workers. According to the Emerging Workforce Study by Spherion, many companies are already making the transition from traditional to ermergent.

Information and visuals via Emerging Workforce Study by shperion.

The road to emergence can be driven by making changes in the following areas of workforce relations: Attracting & Recruiting, Engaging & Retaining and Succession & Talent Planning.

Attracting & Recruiting

During a breakoff session, I sat through a pannel of leaders from two companies (Tanya Doyle of Vantec, Inc. and Dave Tucker of Workiva) who were using non-traditional methods to attract dedicated workers. In the process of becoming emergent, these organizations attracted not only millennials, but they attracted engaged and creative workers of all ages. They even went on to say attracting millennials was a by-product of altering their business strategy.

When discussing what attracts workers to their organizations, both Doyle and Tucker mentioned one thing pretty consistently: "Mission and Values." Doyle said "we carry our mission in our pocket each day. Our team came up with a list of core values and potential [Vantec, Inc.] employees are screened on that list." Tucker said to get involved and offer a culture that is challenging and supportive.

Back to the Emerging Workforce Study (let's call it EWS,) when employees were surveyed about what factors were most influential when searching for a potiential workplace, they said environmental factors are more influential than overall benefits. You can see that employees consider mission and values to be very important as well.

A closer look says 78% of candidates agree that the mission, vision and values of a company impact their evaluation of potential employers. Eighty five percent agree "a company's ability to follow through on its mission, vision and values impacts my decision when evaluating potential employers," and 51% say a company's online reputation is as important as the job offer. In sum, digital and social initiatives matter to Millennials, and despite the growing importance of an online reputation, less than half of companies surveyed have a social media strategy (and only HALF of those people believe their strategy is successful!)

Many companies who are not participating in social media efforts say it takes up too much time and don't see any return on investment. A key place to start is decide what you are trying to achieve with your social media efforts; are you trying to recruite workers? Promote products? Or are you just trying to have social presence? Then you can more accurately measure the success of your social media strategy. If you are trying to recruit workers, a measurement tool could be the number of applications you are receiveing or the amount of clicks you recieve on a job posting.

When it comes to job searches, potential employees are chosing these platforms to see what's out there for them.

Referrals is #1 on the list. Oh great, a method that is very hard to monetize and regulate! This is where social media, reputation and your current workforce come in VERY handy! Accordng to, improving your culture and promoting it on social media can increase the number of quality candiates applying for positions posted. One company saved over $300,000 on tradition recruiting by using social media to promote their culture and has seen a 25% increase in the number of candidates applying for their positions! Check out that article on social media recruiting here, or check out this article from titled 3 Ways to Be Constantly Recruiting Star Talent Through Social Media.

Engaging & Retaining

Efforts to keep employees engaged can reduce turnover by 36%, but younger generations seem to continually become less engaged. How can we improve Millennial engagement? There is a diconnect between employers idea of what drives engagement and what employees say drives engagement.

Retention drivers are also misconcieved by employers.

Circling back to the importance of the company mission and values, organizations with a clear mission and follow through show over double the amount of people (67%) rate their job satisfaction as "excellent" or "very good" than those in an organization with no clear mission (29%,) and 71% say they are likely to stay for at least 5 years (compared to 31% at mission-less employers.)

Succession & Talent Planning (Training)

Training workforce can be costly, especially with high turn over rates. Today's employees desire (and young workers demand) fast, fun and varied training.

In coming years, we can expect to see a dynamic shift in workforce where training will be absolutely necessary, especially becuase Millennials feel the least prepared and equipped to further their careers.

So how can you adapt to the training desires and demands of the emerging workforce? Well, what do we know about this group of talent?

Generation Y is made up of 22-39 year olds who believe in work/life balance, crave rewards and ability to contribute, enjoy collaboration and connectivity, have a renewed focus on growth and development, they are highly innovative, entrepreneurial and desire flatter organizations. By 2020, 51% of the workforce will be made up of this generation.

Generation Z is made up of 4-21 year olds, and while we don't know much about them yet, we know this is a highly diverse group who are digital natives, entrepreneurial, highly educated, collaborative and socially responsible. It could be said they will be similar to Gen Y's but on steroids!

Organizations need to begin to adjust and bolster training methods so that they are fast-paced, visual and fun with a focus on managerial training for Millennials. In an article for Incentive magazine, manager of the Human Capital Community, says "Millennials love to learn. This generation has grown up discovering ideas from Google and YouTube, and their hunger for knowledge is insatiable." She goes on to encourage organizations to offer opportunities for employees to develop their knowledge and skills. Providing continued professional education and offsite conference opportunities are a way to invest in employees and retain engaged, loyal and motivated employees who are eager to contribute to the growth and mission of the organization.

So, where do we start?

If you're like me, you get excited about the idea of becoming more emergent and want to start making changes today - but don't know where to start! A key step is to get management on board. Many company culture variables like actions, behavior, and allocation of attention and resources are driven by management and leadership. It starts at the top and works down. If leadership is not spending time working on culture, the rest of the company will not see it as important. How do you get management on board? Show them what your culutre could be like. Take them on a visit to Vantec, Inc (offers visits IF the president or CEO is present) in Webster City, or Workiva in Ames.

Once your culture is on the right track, use social media for good. It is vastly critical when attracting potential employees to your organization and should show off your culture, missions and values.

Need to work on your engagement? Ask yourself the following MAGIC questions (as provided by Paula Ketter in her article, The Frustrating World of Employee Engagement):

Do individuals have meaning in their lives?

Do they have autonomy?

Are they growing?

Do they hae impact on the organization in the work that they do?

Do they ahve a connection to the organization?

Engage employees through autonomy and professional development. Make work meaningful and show them how their work affects the company in the big picture.

Easier said than done, right? Yup, it's going to be difficult and most failed attemps to alter culture happen mid-transition, so be persistent and set small, attainable goals and communicate clearly (and repititively) where these goals are taking the organization.

Full Emerging Workforce Study presentation (recreation): View here

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