With a continually changing workforce, employers and managers can’t ignore that multigenerational and multicultural workforces are the norm. This mindset will help prepare businesses to be successful through 2020 and beyond.
The first question every employer will want to ask themselves when it comes to their business is, “How are we preparing for a generationally and culturally diverse workforce and customer?”
Employers should look around at their workforce. There’s most likely a range of ages, from younger, new-in-the-workforce people, to those who may be at traditional retirement age but choose to stay gainfully employed. That includes a slew of multicultural backgrounds as well. Customers may also mirror the variety that is the current workforce.
Because of the ever-evolving workforce and workplace and a strengthening economy, company culture is becoming more important for retention and recruitment. As the economy grows, people have more employment choices, and go where they fit in and feel valued. This mentality also works with customers in a growing economy because they’ll have more options for services as businesses expand, merge or open their doors. If a business doesn’t offer an appreciation of diversity and community involvement as an inherent part of the company’s culture, customers and employees will likely go elsewhere. In fact, a 2013 USA Today poll found that 66 percent of the workforce would look for a different job when the economy improved. As the economy continues to improve, employers will need to focus more and more on keeping their employees happy and engaged going into 2016.
While it may seem as though different generations look for different things in a company, they are looking for similar things. The biggest difference is in how long the younger generations, just entering the workforce, will stay at a company that is not meeting their expectations. Feeling valued, being challenged, the desire to have a good working relationship with supervisors, the desire for the company to care about each employee and to connect to the community are all important to people, regardless of age or “generational” titles. While sometimes these must be communicated differently for the digital generation, the core desires are the same. When these expectations are not met, the boomers may still work in the organization longer, even if they describe their work situation as “not happy”. The younger generations, however, are quite comfortable leaving the employer, without real concern about getting another job, if they are not happy in or with their workplace.
One way to begin to test the waters of employee happiness is to measure employee engagement. It would be wise for businesses to do this as a measure of performance, but also as a way to see where people are at in the company. Are they engaged and eager to work? Another key is to consistently give and receive feedback to and from employees at all levels of the team in addition to a once-a-year performance conversation. The immediate dialogue (texting, emailing, Twitter, etc.) and instant gratification that we have all become accustomed to has set an expectation of rapid and regular feedback on job performance. This is not a new desire. Everyone wants feedback, however, the newer generations are simply going to go where they get it. Staying connected to those who make the company run can make the difference between its successes and setbacks. This is not a “millennial” thing, this is a people thing.
Taking engaged employees and business to the next level involves ensuring the company’s leadership is clearly communicating a vision for the organization so employees can feel connected. The words vision and mission are sometimes used interchangeably. For clarity, the definition of vision is “a condition that is imagined – a future state where the organization creates something of unquestionable value, serves customers in a unparalleled fashion or reinvents the way it does business.”
Business owners should think about how the organization aligns everyone to that future state and what communication mechanisms are in place and identify how the organization is executing its core competencies to achieve the vision identified. When a company’s leadership is doing these things consistently, it becomes easier to achieve the connectivity and communication that employees crave.
Focusing on the people within the organization allows the machine to run well. Losing sight of the happiness/engagement of the employees, and the company will likely face uncertainty in retention and recruitment of workers and customers.
Ann Simmons Nicholson is owner of The Simmons Group