Finding and retaining top talent in today’s highly competitive business environment is challenging and complex. We are five generations in the workforce, all seeking work, but approaching it with very different styles and attitudes. Organizations are faced with an ever-increasing demand for talent, a shrinking talent pool and a desperate need to groom leadership from within.
The Baby Boomers, who climbed the corporate ladder, and sacrificed personal life balance for success and prestige, are changing the timeline of retirement. A 2015 Gallup Poll shows that approximately 50% of Boomers age 60 and above are still working, and a third who are 67 and above, remain employed. The news continues to report that 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 each day. In the not too distant future, this generational mainstay of the workforce will disappear, except for those resistant stalwarts who can’t imagine life without work and will continue until they drop. Organizations throughout the world are pondering how to deal with this loss of leadership and sheer volume of experience and how to cultivate the four other generations, garnering the best each generation has to offer.
One population, the Millennials (born 1977 to 1995), is cited as being very different job seekers and employees than Baby Boomers. But are they? It’s often a challenge to Baby Boomers to understand and work with Millennials, but to also use the differences between them to advance growth, foster mentorship and help them make the transition to leading the future workplace. I fall on the younger side of the Baby Boomers, and though I’ve always worked well with colleagues regardless of generation, I believe we must make a better effort to bridge the generational divide.
The Pew Research Center reports that more than one-in-three American workers are Millennials and currently represent the largest share of the American workforce. The more I read about them, the more I truly appreciated who they are! The distance between us (Boomers and Millennials) offers bold opportunities for partnership that have the potential to be recruitment and retention game changers when it comes to Talent. But the trick is speaking to the differences between our generations and then maximizing our strengths to their needs. As Baby Boomers, we were the corporate ladder climbers, we strived for leadership roles, and trained to reach success by investing in ourselves, working as many hours as possible to catch the brass ring and we were willing to wait or be tapped to achieve it.
Millennials are confident multi taskers. They are “can do” believers in their own abilities who want to work in diverse teams and believe that leadership is the ability to make an impact on their company’s success from day one, as well as an ongoing impact on the world community. They know they need some degree of structure and want training. They crave challenge and feedback from us, but demand immediate opportunity and respect for their work, and operate in a sphere of social media where constant communication feedback and over-sharing are the norm. They will not be held back and will not stay in a job and wait. I say to any Baby Boomers struggling with how to turn over the keys, this is not a problem, this is an invitation! Millennials hold all of the ingredients for SUCCESS! They are tenacious and will use the network and visibility that they have personally crafted to advance to the next opportunity. They are positioned with strength from Day One and are not afraid of change! That’s really not so very different from the Baby Boomers, but the Baby Boomers’ journey and struggle to this same space was perhaps longer and more arduous.
On a recent visit to an Apple store, I watched a Millennial in action and admired his capabilities. There he was at the “Genius Bar” surrounded by a multitude of consumers, and an ever growing stack of problematic iphones, laptops and ipads. Jared, the young man, smiled broadly as his hands and fingers rapidly took on the challenges before him. He knew everyone’s name at the Genius Bar, remembered everyone’s immediate issues and was working very hard and quickly to resolve them. He was courteous, clear and determined. It was amazing to watch his cool, confident, eager composure in the midst of total chaos. One by one the matters were resolved, and yet for every one resolved, there seemed to be four more devices added to the stacked pile and an increase in the crowd watching him. He thrived on the attention and on questions being pelted his way. All the while Jared’s eagerness and confidence kept climbing higher while he gave credit to the triple expresso macchiato Venti he enjoyed earlier as the source of his strength and his delight in doing more. When my own iPhone’s issues stumped him, he impressed me even more by reaching out to his Manager, Joseph (a Baby Boomer), to join the team. Together, they indeed resolved the matter by collaborating and respecting one another’s input and skills. It was wonderful to watch the interplay between the two generations and how each of them approached the situation – each one with his own bag of tricks, but with a united purpose and common goal.
As Managers and Leaders, I believe we must celebrate, foster, support and embrace this generational detente. It means we may have to change our way of thinking and see the similarities instead of the differences. We must raise up these new young leaders, who – with our leadership, will develop faster if we provide feedback, challenge, praise and acknowledgement. Help them rise within your ranks instead of seeking a new opportunity elsewhere. Unless you give them a reason to stay, they will always be looking. Losing talent is one of the greatest threats to any organization. A joint study by the firm Millennial Branding and the online career network Beyond.com showed that Millennials leave because they believe they are not in a good culture fit or their goals weren’t in line with their employer. Within their teams and through their focus on work, we commit to feeding the Millennial employee’s quest for balance so that they are given every opportunity to achieve and perhaps even surpass their goals. Their greatest enemy is boredom, lack of authority to achieve and not enough challenges to quench their thirst for more. It’s our job to make sure we satisfy the hunger, feed the spirit and provide a bounty of tasks to feed upon. If they don’t make it after that, they will not have lived up to the meaning of a Millennial. If they do, they will have the baby Boomers to thank and that will be our greatest legacy of all.
Jeanine Bondi Banks, CSP is an Executive Vice President and currently manages LLoydSouth in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.