Managing the Next-Generation Workforce

 -  2/4/08

The challenge of managing the next-generation workforce should be considered from two perspectives.

The challenge of managing the next-generation workforce should be considered from two perspectives. Beyond evaluating how the incoming workforce will respond to the culture and offerings of the company, it is also critical to delve into the rationale for the company’s current programs and policies. Developing an effective approach to managing the next generation requires a close look at the assumptions on which current management practices are based. Many companies will realize some of their practices have been perpetuated because of cultural momentum or habit and are inconsistent with current and future objectives. Consequently, the major systems that govern human behavior require review.

These systems include:

  • Recruiting: Attracting and sourcing of candidates.
  • Performance management: Goal setting, performance assessment, feedback and ratings, and succession management.
  • Compensation and benefits: Direct pay, equity, promotional opportunities and recognition, health, dental and vision coverage, wellness programs, life and disability coverage, long-term care and child care programs and opt-in plans, such as tuition reimbursement and employee discounts.

For each system, consider what behavior the current practice is intended to drive and if that behavior is consistent with the current goals and strategy. For instance, if the recruiting practice is based on the assumption that all hires will be geographically mobile, is this the reality? Will it be the reality in the future? Is the assumption behind the performance management system that individual stars matter more than collaboration, or that specialization is more valuable than breadth? Does the core assumption drive an outcome that is desirable today and in the future?

Compensation and benefits will require a detailed review, including feedback from current employees and recruiters, to assess the attractiveness of your offerings. Is compensation based more on group or individual results or seniority? Are programs motivating the results needed for the business to thrive, or creating barriers? Will the next generation be motivated by the current programs? For example, a very competitive pension program may be effective in an environment where long-term careers are desired and likely. If this is no longer true, emphasis on the pension plan may detract from other offerings or even hinder appropriate succession of executive roles. Long-term care and child care were not historically important in a workforce that lacked financial responsibility for their parents and had child care delivered by relatives. That is not the reality today.

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