Employee retention doesn’t have to be a big problem!

Did you know that in today’s workforce we have four to five generations of workers?  This made me think of the businesses I know that truly understand how to manage the various challenges that come with a diverse workforce.  I get into many organizations and have the privilege to talk with many business owners on a daily and weekly basis. In recent discussions with some organizations, I hear their main concern is retaining the employees they have and stopping the employee turnover they are experiencing.  From other organizations, this topic does not come up unless I bring it up. I was curious why some businesses have huge retention issues and others do not.  

In my opinion, there are many reasons for this, one overarching reason for poor retention is The Boss’s lack of understanding of the several generations in their present-day workforce.  Here are a few points to think about;

First, I have been carrying an AARP card in my wallet for more than a decade now.  In my generation, I was trained in an autocratic management style. If you didn’t like what The Boss said and didn’t comply with The Boss’s demands, you would often hear, “My way or the highway!”  There was no discussion and you were expected to do what you were told. As many of us know too well this is not the case today, and in my opinion, we are all better off because of it. Bottom line; The Boss cannot manage like they were managed years ago!  The Boss must change with the times.

Second, I feel managers of my generation do understand the employees we have that are the ages of our children.  My children are in their late thirty’s and early forty’s and I feel I have a handle on what motivates them and how to manage this segment of the workforce because I was there as this generation grew up.  This generation must be the bridge between The Boss and the younger generations of our workforce. They can give valuable input into establishing and managing a diverse culture.

Third, as I think about retention in today’s economy, I see the organizations that have little to no retention problems are the companies that have a culture that supports the lifestyles of the various generations.  Some of the younger employees we have are not necessarily working for a certain “hourly wage” but are working for a certain “lifestyle”. That lifestyle may include working from home a few days a week, it may be working at various jobs within the organization (becoming cross-trained) to keep from becoming bored with their main jobs, and it may include more single days off rather than the weeks’ vacation, we grew up with.   These are just a few observations I have noticed as I talk with various managers and The Boss, I am sure you can add a few more from your organization.

Culture begins with The Boss and filters down throughout the organization.  The Boss cannot create a culture that he or she grew up in. Today is a very different world.  I often address myself as the “old white guy” in the room. As that “old white guy” I must listen and learn from the younger generations as to what motivates them and what they see as their career tracks.  What I have found is their understanding of a career is much different than what I had as a career. The organizations that understand this and create cultures that nurture an environment that welcomes diverse generations are the organizations that do not have run-a-way retention rates and ultimately a healthier bottom line.