Workforce Planning Across the Generational Continuum – Thinking Past the Traditional

Onboarding newbies? Check. Leadership preparedness for that middle group? Check. Knowledge transfer and retirement planning for your oldest workers? Check. There you go. Workforce Planning for 2019. Next.

Not so fast. It’s easy to fall into stereotypes when thinking about workforce planning. For some, it looks like equating Baby Boomers with retirement, or Generation X with “sticking around.” Often, Millennials are looked at as “emerging leaders.” And, of course the newest group, perhaps labeled as “Gen Z,” equate to “entry level workers.” However, to stereotype in this way likely causes you and your organization to miss some big opportunities. It may also create potential headaches for your Human Resources. When constructing your workforce planning and development strategy, go past the traditional stereotypes and examine your organization across the generational continuum.

Boomers The Brain Drain. The Silver Tsunami. Whatever name you give it, we’ve been discussing it since the early 1990s. While some of the drain that we’ve been anticipating has presented itself, it seems more like a slow-moving Seattle drizzle than it does a tsunami. The truth is that 18.8 percent (or 9 million) Americans ages 65 and older report working full-time and have no plans to leave anytime soon. As a result, while organizations certainly need to prepare for effective knowledge transfer, they also need to be creating age-agnostic development opportunities. “High Potential” and “Emerging Leader” programs are often codes for “young.” Besides ignoring the developmental capacity of a large portion of your workforce, these stereotypes also have the potential to set you up for claims of age discrimination if these programs are not genuinely offered across your workforce continuum.

Generation Xers It seems that almost every professional publication is talking about the retirement of the Boomers, the rise of the Millennials, or the mystique of the new workplace generation to come. The pain of Jan Brady’s “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!” can be felt by most “Xers” when reflecting on their forgotten place in today’s workforce. Still one of the smallest generations in modern history, there are not many “Xers” to go around. As you examine your workforce planning needs, don’t take this generation for granted. While typically not a high maintenance demographic, creating growth and developmental opportunities will assist you in retaining them.

Millennials Hasn’t enough been written about this group? Just kidding. While cautioned about earlier, this generation is eager to grow their untapped potential through developmental programs and challenging opportunities. In addition, the two-way mentoring relationships with their Baby Boomer colleagues can provide rich benefits for both sides of the mentor-mentee equation. One of the principal challenges for workforce planning will be in giving this group of employees the leadership opportunities to hone their skills as organizational stewards and work team leaders.

The “Others.” Whether we call them “Gen Y,” “Gen Z,” Founders, or “iGen” – the list is plentiful.While still their defining stages, there are some facts we know about this generation that are essential to your workforce planning endeavors. This generation has access to vast amounts of information and alternative educational opportunities (such as dual enrollment, apprenticeships, professional certifications, and credentialing). As a result, these “others” are entering the professional workforce earlier than their “Xer” parents did. As an employer, you should be exploring relationships with your local community colleges and workforce centers to tap into this next generation of workers. You may be surprised at the credentials and educational backgrounds that many of them bring with them at a very young age.

Finally, don’t fall into the trap of assuming that technology, telecommuting, flexible schedules, child and family care, and other benefits are age-specific. These are workplace incentives that are critical to all generations and need addressing in any planning process. A new year is always an exciting time to set goals, make plans, and create change. As you kick your workforce planning and development programs into high gear, don’t let them fall apart like neglected New Year’s resolutions often do. Give us a call and we’ll help keep you on track.