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Stacy Spradling - Blog

Driving Attendance

Please share your company's best practices for driving attendance. We have had tried everything from contests to a no fault attendance policy and we still seem to struggle with high absenteeism. What is the secret sauce?

Publish Date: June 1, 2010 3:24 PM

Motivating the Generations

A revolving door best describes the challenges of the contemporary workplace. Ambitious applicants enter from the outside excited about the possibilities that they can not yet see, and with one push of the door they are on their way. At first glance the environment is buzzing with promise. They launch into their careers leaving the doors swinging behind them. As time goes by, these same ambitious people begin to wonder what is beyond those swinging doors. Unchallenged and unmotivated they are convinced that life beyond the doors holds more potential. A glance at the classified advertisements or a quick visit to the job boards happens nearly every day as they anticipate their departure. Soon, they push the door going the opposite direction and the organization begins to hunt for their replacement. This happens over and over again, just like the turn of a revolving door. Just as a bit of heat is lost into the cold winter day when a door opens, each time an employee leaves, money falls off the bottom line. All hope is not lost. Research indicates that organizations who engage in culture shifts around two specific generations will see positive trends around retention, employee morale and earnings (McKee, 2008). The formula is simple, in order to effectively retain the X and Y generations, organizations must understand what challenges and motivates them.

            One may start by asking the question, what makes a person a member of Gen X or Gen Y? Generation X members were born between 1964 and 1980. They experienced the women’s liberation movement, the introduction of the personal Apple computer and the onset of the AIDS epidemic. Generation Y members were born after 1980. They experienced the Oklahoma City Bombing, September 11, 2001, the Columbine shootings and the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal (Lewis, 2005).  Research indicates that in order to produce a highly effective team, organizations must recruit with a multi-generational approach. The focus on these two specific generations is important because they account for nearly 111 million employees in the current labor force (Hacker, 2008).

            Entry-level hiring increased by nearly 17 percent in 2007 and it is predicted that most Baby Boomers will retire around the year 2010 (Durkin, 2008). For this reason recruiting the X and Y generation becomes very competitive, because for every two Baby Boomers who leave, only one employee will be entering the workforce. Therefore, effectively recruiting high school and college graduates is critical to the future success of businesses around the country. In 2007, 50 percent of workers in the labor market over 65 years old held a college degree (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2008). Employers must target the Gen X and Gen Y members to remain competitive and maintain their current head counts and production levels.

Organizations must consistently focus on retention strategies that impact the X and Y generations. Organizations should ask themselves the following questions. What motivates these employees, what frustrates them and what is their preference around modes of communication? In some cases both groups have the same tendencies. For instance both Gen X and Gen Y members value time over money. Unlike previous generations Gen X and Gen Y members do not identify themselves by the work they do. Rather, they use their free time to express who they are through hobbies and other non work related activities (Gurchiek, 2008). Because of their love of time versus money this generation may not be interested in traditional promotions from entry level to management. In many cases these promotions involve more hours at work, which to these generations mean more time away from the activities that make them who they are. Employers may want to redesign job responsibilities or restructure promotions to attract the Gen X and Y members to these opportunities. On the other hand, these generations are frustrated by very different things. The Gen X members want to be left alone to do their work. They are independent and strong willed. They do not enjoy group projects and become unmotivated when they are asked to complete a project as a group. On the contrary, Gen Y members are social butterflies that thrive in a group work setting. They are frustrated when they are left to do a project alone. It is important for them to be managed and they have a need for ongoing feedback and coaching. Similarly, both groups have a tendency to use technology (email and the internet) as their primary mode of communication. The Gen Y members are more inclined to use advanced forms of technology to complete projects at work and home. They find MySpace and other social networking sites to be a critical element of their social lives. On the other hand, the Gen X members may or may not dabble in technology once they are off the clock (Shaver, 2008). Employers must use this information to gain an advantage over their competitors when it comes to retaining these generations.

            Employers who understand these generations should implement strategies that speak directly to the needs of these employees. The ideal workplace for both generations includes flexibility of scheduling (Hastings, 2006). Employers should consider implementing a job sharing model or a flex time policy that includes more time off. Many organizations are engaging in a 4 X 10 (four days per week for 10 hours per day) workweek to attract and retain the Gen X and Y members. Another popular model is time sharing, where two employees share a 40 hour work week. This allows for flexible scheduling among the two employees and more time off.  The Gen X members are looking for job security, so they will thrive in an environment that communicates its financial standing and reassures the work force of stability. On the contrary the Gen Y members expect to change jobs frequently and may get bored doing the same job year over year (Wallace, 2001). For this reason, an employer may want to consider a cross training model that allows employees to switch up the job duties every couple of years.

            The job market is a melting pot of generations. With the exit of the veteran and baby boomer generations employers need to gain understanding as to what makes up the X and Y generations. The X and Y generations are often misunderstood, which leads to higher attrition and lower employee morale in the workplace. Employers lose money each time an employee leaves their organization, so a business case for implementing programs focused on understanding these generations is compelling. However, just understanding these generations is half the battle. In order to be successful at retaining these generations, employers must implement change across their organizations that foster an environment that challenges and motivates them. Successful execution of these programs will pay long term dividends. Organizations who wish to stop the constant flow of applicants in and out of the revolving door will take note!


Publish Date: April 19, 2010 3:48 PM

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