December 13, 2013

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Generation Divergence: Closing the Gap

The HR objective:  to create talent synergy through the efficient use of resources

A pervasive question floating around human resource departments today is how to manage talent with the inevitable “generation gap”. With the emergence of Millennials into the global workforce as well as the proliferation of mobility and cloud computing, employers have no choice but to change how they manage their most salient assets: their employees.  Unlike their counterparts Generation X and Baby Boomers, Millennials (also known as Generation Y) have different expectations. Millennials want flexibility, feedback, a work-life balance. They are tech-savvy, multitasking through all of their different devices. They are opportunistic, lost if not provided with challenges and growth prospects.

According to Forbes, ninety-one percent of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years, most having 15 – 20 jobs throughout their career! 1  Unlike Baby Boomers, who will sometimes stay in a single job for their entire career, Millennials continually seek out growth opportunities and new challenges and will go across industries to find them. This tendency to “job hop” has been a prevalent new challenge surfacing for HR departments globally and has led to an increasing amount of new hires as well as a constant need for training and focused retention.

As a result of these new expectations, HR leaders across industries are being assimilated into top-level planning meetings to help combine talent management with corporate strategy.  They are becoming an extension of the marketing department in the development of internal corporate branding. The HR department has an increasing responsibility to be proactive in recruiting, retaining, and growing top talent among this new generation.

“The Nexus of Forces”

But how do you manage this heterogeneous workforce made up of Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y?  HR leaders are beginning to look more towards “out of box” systems—IT transformation. With the emergence of new applications and solutions such as SuccessFactors and Workday, companies now have access to customizable solutions tailored to meet the unique needs of their business.

​In particular, to reflect the cultural change and differing needs within the workforce, SMAC (Social Media, Mobility, Analytics, and Cloud) solutions have entered the market rapidly, changing traditional HR practices. These four disruptive technologies are the key forces driving employee engagement and increased productivity— essential to driving growth within an organization.

Rise of the Cloud

The emergence of cloud technology is one critical factor affecting how HR is managing the generation gap and increasing Millennial expectations. Cloud solutions such as Cloud Software as a Service as well as HR Platform as a Service are making their way to the forefront of talent management, giving Millennials the freedom and flexibility to work on the go. With cloud technology, employees are able to manage their tasks remotely without the heavy investment in additional hardware or software. They are able to access data and work on a mobile platform. With increasing flexibility, employees are able to communicate and stay up-to-date in any location. New players in the market, such as Workday and SuccessFactors, are leading this transition from traditional HCM systems to the cloud, painting a new IT landscape within the workplace.

 

Staying Connected through Social Media

Furthermore, social media tools are becoming the primary platforms facilitating idea exchange, innovation, and internal networking. They are the channels keeping global teams connected. Many companies are looking towards internal social media strategies to keep employees engaged—a top priority for Millennials. According to Forbes’ A Snapshot of Social Media 2013, 61% of businesses feel social is having a positive impact on internal structures (e.g., teamwork, collaboration, workflow and breaking down silos) that enhance productivity.2

One example is Salesforce.com’s Chatter application. This internal tool enables collaboration among teams using real-time updates and the sharing of information. Through a central system, a team is able to upload updates to a document and then receive notifications of each member’s contribution in real-time, increasing the efficiency of project execution.

In addition, companies are using social media for external uses, particularly in recruiting. One primary example is LinkedIn, one of today’s top recruiting tools. With about 84 million users in 200 countries, LinkedIn is a paradigm of a social media tool that connects people on a global scale. 3

To note also, social media, in general, plays a large role in the life of a gen Y at home. With platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare—just to name a few—constantly being introduced into the daily lives of Millennials, these new employees are already accustomed to these various communication tools. By bringing this consistency and familiarity to the workplace, transitions become easier, while internal communication becomes second nature.

Mobility:  Shared Information Anytime, Anywhere   

Following the expansion of the Information Era, the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) phenomenon has rapidly evolved. Due to advancements in the consumer electronics sector, personal computers are often more intuitive and simplistic than laptops issued by employers, causing Millennials to be more inclined to use their own personal devices.

Millennials today are accustomed to being able to connect, engage and manage tasks anytime from anywhere, drastically increasing efficiency. However, many companies are still slow to provide the necessary mobile apps for simple tasks such as time, expense and travel.

It is critical for companies to realize the importance of integrating mobility into their internal processes. By providing these applications, these companies are able to increase flexibility and levels of productivity for all employees, particularly Millennials.

Analytics: The Conundrum of Big Data

Another expectation for Millennials is the need for constant feedback and growth. This new generation expects to advance quickly and seeks a clear tangible path to get there. As a result, workforce visibility is increasingly becoming critical to HR departments globally. Workforce Analytics and Workforce Planning allow HR leaders to develop a big picture view of internal operations. With this, they are able to optimize resources, while lowering costs—HR’s main objective. With comprehensive HCM systems set in place, they are able to deliver these critical functions and provide a return on investment on key initiatives.

Takeaway

With the array of solutions available, whether traditional core HCM applications or HCM in the cloud provided by companies like SuccessFactors and Workday, HR leaders are now able to recruit more effectively, promote knowledge sharing through project collaboration and informal learning, and increase employee perception and engagement. With the introduction of Millennials in the workforce, human resource departments are in the process of mirroring this shift and transforming their processes to bridge the “generation gap”.