It’s no secret the world at work doesn’t look like it used to. Today’s workforce is more mobile, diverse and multi-generational than ever before. Employers are witnessing an astounding five generations within their walls and are experiencing the associated growing pains. Amid record-low national unemployment and a widening skills gap as 10,000 baby boomers exit the workforce daily, organizations are struggling to recruit, engage and retain talent. These generational transitions have shifted the employer-candidate power dynamic, as workers now have a wealth of options to seek employment elsewhere.

As companies fight tooth and nail for top talent in this tightening labor market, being an employer of choice – especially among younger generations like millennials and Gen Zers – is no longer a luxury. In 2018, keeping pace with changing workforce expectations is table stakes. Yet, many organizations are using the same tactics over and over.

A new world at work demands new ways of working, so let’s return to the basics. At the end of the day, all businesses are left with one sole differentiator that will separate them as employer of choice for years to come: their people. The business world has squeezed processes and practices to death. People are the one secret weapon that will differentiate a business from its competitors and keep it afloat in unsteady waters.

How should an organization demonstrate it cares about its employees? It should listen to them, train them and invest in their success. Here’s how you can develop a people strategy that engages and retains your workforce.

Don’t Have a Workforce Plan? Develop One!

As demonstrated by ADP’s Workforce Vitality Report, the needs of a workforce vary across industry and organization. It’s true that all companies face similar struggles, but they also need to investigate their own unique circumstances to determine what employees – and skills – they’ll need to hire or train for two, three or 10 years down the road. This is what’s known as a workforce plan – an inventory of an organization’s current skills and a projection of where it needs to go in the future to meet business needs. Even if it’s just one year out, leaders should examine their workforce and ask, “What do we need? Do we know our critical roles and the critical jobs we need for success in the future?”

The results might present a less-than-rosy outlook about the state of your workforce. But there’s no need to panic and no need to think you must rehire your entire workforce. Many companies are investing in upskilling current employees and training them to take on new roles based on their workforce plan. Not only is this approach more cost-effective than re-hiring for a position, but it also presents an opportunity – an inflection point – for employers to engage with their employees and invest in their development.

It is important to note that this reskilling process needs to be driven from the bottom and middle of the organization rather than from the top. Nowadays, leadership is shuffled and restructured just as rapidly as any frontline team. Expecting executives and top managers to drive reskilling initiatives is bound to fail. Businesses must flip the model by incentivizing employees to take their training into their own hands, network, build their own brands, and seek out growth and development opportunities.

Incentivizing Training Among a Multigenerational Workforce

According to the study “Fixing the Talent Management Disconnect” by the ADP Research Institute, 60 percent of employees are looking for growth within their own companies. In addition, a survey by recruitment consultancy Robert Walters found that career progression is a top priority for 91 percent of millennials and that while 60 percent of millennials want to receive formal feedback every one to three months, 38 percent receive feedback once per year or less.

Many companies are looking for emerging leaders at younger and younger ages. But don’t forget the importance of your older workforce members. Gen Xers and boomers can often feel that they are being edged out of the workforce by younger and more tech-savvy employees. The solution? Embrace the benefits of a multigenerational workforce. Cross-generational training and reverse mentorship programs are a great way to promote knowledge transfer. They allow experienced team members to identify and coach younger employees and younger employees to educate older ones on innovative tools, trends and technologies. The business benefit is twofold: These programs build up future leaders within your company and allow institutional knowledge to stay within your walls. Most importantly, they engage everyone involved.

Using Self-Produced Micro-Content

Great training doesn’t always have to come in a pretty, polished package. It can come in smaller chunks of content, which is a method called microlearning. This concept isn’t new, but you can use it to keep people focused on quality-rich training. For example, if your company offers a webinar, small pieces of content will keep viewers engaged and prevent them from multitasking during the presentation. Content that is short and to the point can also lead to better retention.

Using professional videographers to make lengthy corporate videos is not always the best approach. Today, especially among younger generations, it’s more about producing content more quickly, at less than 100-percent quality, and meeting learners on the platforms they use. Content doesn’t have to be beautiful, just succinct and relevant. For example, employees can shoot 30- to 60-second real-life or real-time training videos, empowering them to create their own content and share it with colleagues via an employee intranet or on mobile platforms.

Shifting From Position-Based to Skills-Based Career Conversations

Many companies are reevaluating their approach to the performance review process, moving away from annual conversations to improve continuous engagement and productivity. It’s also important to flip the performance review conversation to be more skills-focused than title-focused. These conversations used to involve talking about the job employees wanted, but today, that type of conversation is more difficult. Because many businesses are in the middle of multi-year transformations, having coaching or career growth conversations focused on skills and strengths, rather than titles, will ensure longevity.

At the end of the day, winning the war for talent comes down to empowering employees so you can understand their needs. Listen to them. Ask what your organization can do to create a culture of transparency. This feedback is crucial for any business, as talent strategies are not always one-size-fits-all. Remember: Your people are your greatest asset. If you’re going to invest in anything, invest in them.

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