The Workforce Evolution

Changing employee demographics means companies have to think outside the box.

When it comes to today’s employees, one thing is clear: change is everywhere.

Defining Generations

According to the Center for Generational Kinetics, the generations are broken down by age born. However, the Center notes slight variation in the exact years based on a myriad of reasons, such as geography.

Baby Boomers:

Born 1946 to 1964

Generation X:

Born 1965 to 1976

Millennials or Gen Y:

Born 1977 to 1995

Gen Z, iGen or Centennials:

Born 1996 and later

In 2015 the Pew Research Center published a report showing millennials had surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. And since that time, company human resource leaders say change has been one of the few constants in the workforce.

Michelle Kirby, chief people officer at Texas Health Resources, says the health care industry typically lags behind in workforce stats because it takes longer for people to earn nursing and physician degrees. Even so, she said millennials surpassed baby boomers as the largest segment of Texas Health’s 24,000-plus workforce early this year. And she expects for millennials to surpass Gen Xers in 2018.

“Companies across the U.S. are seeing this shift in the demographic makeup of employees,” Kirby says. “At Texas Health, Gen Xers and millennials account for 73% of our workforce. In fact, we’re now seeing the entrance of Gen Z. And for us, that means change.”

But how? Kirby says much of the change is in the area of communicating and connecting.

“These younger generations are true digital natives. They know how to do anything and everything on their phone and as that grows in our workforce, we have to change how we work – and how we communicate,” Kirby says. “It starts with digital, but it certainly doesn’t end there.”

 

Expectations

Kirby says at the root of the recent change are the expectations that different segments of the workforce – particularly millennials –bring to the workplace. For example, Kirby says her team knows millennials prefer a collaborative work environment to a competitive one.

“That in in of itself is a big change,” Kirby says. “Millennials, in particular, are showing they want a collaborative environment when it comes to things like performance reviews and relationships with their boss and their work teams. They don’t want to compete to be best – they want to collaborate.”

Mobile first to mobile only

When it comes to younger generations in the workforce, one only needs to look at Amazon to see what employees want, Kirby says.

Employees enter the workforce and expect it to mimic what they experience in their personal lives.

Amazon One-Click is a great example, Kirby says.

“They want convenience and information at their fingertips,” she says. “Fast, efficient and informative. And that’s how companies need to stay connected with their employees – the challenge is figuring out the mechanism that will create that connection.”

Kirby says at the end of the day, now it’s mobile-first, but in the future, she and her team anticipate it will be mobile-only.

Reviewing annual reviews

One age-old practice where change is in full swing is annual reviews, Kirby added.

Historically, employees in many fields are reviewed annually. Work is done and noted in one annual review document and at the end of the year, a manager will look over the body of work and review an employee, offering tips for areas of improvement, recognizing good work and making plans for approaching work in the coming year.

This is the idea of a retroactive review and it is a practice that Kirby says is likely to fade away in coming years.

“If you coach a kids’ soccer team, you don’t wait a year to tell them how they did. The same is true for employee reviews,” Kirby says. “Annual reviews are a thing of the past. We need to review employees in real time, make course corrections and keep moving.”

A new kind of work-life balance

Employees of all ages tend to rate flexibility as a No. 1 motivator when reviewing their own job or looking for a new one. And while that does include their work schedule, it also includes their ability to chart their own path, Kirby says.

“Many people are looking for a gig economy, where they can work on projects, increase their skills and move up – or on – and not necessarily in a traditional employee to manager to director scenario,” Kirby says.

Though when weighing choices of companies to apply to, Kirby says today’s employees say that flexible organizations offering remote work options have a competitive edge over companies that only offer a 9-5 work schedule.

What once was thought of as work-life balance is moving more toward what Kirby calls work-life integration – or, the act of integrating all functions of a person’s day together.

Kirby says more and more, employees are ceasing to operate in segments, where when they’re home they only do personal things and when they’re at work they only do work-related tasks.

“It’s not so much work-life balance; it’s work-life integration. People’s lives aren’t segmented: people work when they’re home and do personal stuff at work. And companies don’t just need to know that – we need to be OK with that.”

Kirby says perhaps the most interesting point on work-life balance, is that’s not just something millennials or Gen Xers want – that’s something employees of all ages want.

“Times aren’t changing. They’ve already changed,” Kirby says.

Kirby recently was featured on a Texas Health Out Loud podcast, discussing trends related to an evolution of the workforce. Check out that podcast here.

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