Changing workforces presents new challenges for HR managers

 In Press Releases

With a younger new group of job seekers, often known as the Millenials or Generation Y, now entering the job market, human resources (HR) managers will have to adopt new approaches to recruit and retain the staff of the future, according to Mark Gray, head of specialist HR technology and marketing firm Graylink. Not only does the new generation of employees have a different view of the world, but they also do things very differently, and this will reshape the work environment, Gray says. The impact will be exacerbated by the fact that an ageing population worldwide means that companies will lose large numbers of experienced workers within the next few years. He cites the findings of RHR International, a US executive and organisational development firm, which reported that over half of the American companies they surveyed expect to lose 50% of their senior managers by 2010.

This trend will also impact on South Africa as the skills shortage turns the talent hunt global, with resources at home dwindling, says Gray. UK recruitment consultancy Joslin Rowe, for example, reported in its Financial Service Employment Index: September 2007 that financial services companies in London are on the hunt for South African professionals, who are in high demand because of the quality of their education, their work ethic and the similarity between the business cultures of the two countries, he says.
Gray believes that because of these trends, the search for talented employees will continue to become tougher, and South African HR managers will have to use imaginative, cutting-edge methods if they want to attract, retain and motivate the next generation of workers. HR managers need to understand this generation to relate to them in a meaningful way, he says.

Generation Y, also known as the digital generation or the entitlement generation, is a very different breed from the Baby Boomers “ those born between 1946 and 1964 – who have dominated the workplace until now. Disenchanted by the old paradigm of employee loyalty because of workplace trends towards consistent downsizing, rightsizing and retrenchments, they are not easily attracted and retained, says Gray. According to the US Department of Labour™s Employee tenure in 2006 report, the average 25 to 34-year-old employee keeps their current job for only 2.9 years.

He adds that, unlike the Baby Boomers who would have given almost anything for a top-paying spot at a big-name firm, younger employees are more interested in what companies can do to help them lead a more purposeful and meaningful life.

This is reflected in the findings of a recent volunteer impact survey carried out by Deloitte & Touche USA, which showed that 18 to 26-year-olds would prefer to work for companies that give them opportunities to contribute their talents to non-profit organisations. This generation expects to make a difference. They give of themselves and they want their employers to help them contribute as well, said Stan Smith, national director of Next Generation Initiatives at Deloitte & Touche USA. Companies that facilitate meaningful community involvement opportunities for their people will be very attractive employers.

This thinking is in line with the work/life balance that Generation Y employees “ those born between 1977 and 1994, representing over 70 million people in the US “ want to achieve and believe they deserve, having been brought up in a world in which they were told that they could have it all. As spending time with family and friends is important to younger workers, companies may increasingly have to consider benefits such as flexible work schedules and longer holidays to attract and retain the services of high-calibre staff, says Gray.
Surveys also show that Generation Y employees expect more rapid career advancement and better pay than older workers, and are more likely to move on if their goals are not quickly realised. They seek challenging work, and try to find ways of working better and faster, rather than spend long hours behind their desks, as their parents did. Generally more highly educated than previous generations of workers, they constantly seek to expand their skills and value opportunities for ongoing learning in the workplace through activities such as mentorship and coaching.

There are many differences between the attitudes, values and work ethic of the different generations that will now find themselves working side by side in the workplace. A critical difference is the way in which they communicate. Growing up in a world of rapid technological advancement, with more access to electronic equipment such as computers and cell phones, 25 to 34-year-olds have embraced mobility, accounting for 36% of South Africa™s online population and owning about half of the country™s cell phones, Gray says.
This generation increasingly consumes news through a collection of websites on their laptops, cellphones and iPods. As the media becomes more fragmented, media planning has become more complex, and it is difficult to speak to the right candidates using only traditional advertising methods, says Gray. He points out that a common misconception among HR managers is that companies need to reach as many candidates as possible but, in fact, using the most appropriate channels and devices to get the right message across to the right audience can substantially increase a company™s hit rate.

Technology has created many new opportunities for targeted recruitment via new media channels, he says. It can also improve recruitment efficiencies and reduce costs by automating the management of manual processes, such as managing job applications. For example, an external careers website that we implemented for SABMiller enables the company to filter, screen, manage applications and engage with a large volume of job seekers in seven different languages across Africa, Europe, the UK, Central and South America each month.

Graylink provides recruitment technology and marketing solutions built on international best practice and has amassed extension experience through direct involvement with client in global markets, he says. The company also spends a lot of time tracking and analysing global trends.

Gray says that to stay in the game HR managers now need to develop a level of comfort with technology and marketing practices. One way of up-skilling fast is to hire consultants. Another is to integrate a new generation of more internet-savvy practitioners into the organisation.

One thing is clear. The basic approach to recruitment is changing, and for recruiters and employers who want to source, recruit and retain the best talent, doing nothing is not an option, nor is mildly incremental improvement. It™s a challenging new world out there for HR managers.

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