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Fired up!--Igniting Gen B and Gen V
by Nancy Ahlrichs

Can America’s longtime employees-your employees with 15+ years of experience--muster the productivity, innovation and creativity of new hires? Absolutely! But only if they are treated like “up and comers.” Productive, innovative and creative employees of any age require training, specific expectations (but not longer hours) and new metrics that emphasize results--not just attendance and tenure.

In today’s global economy, it is not enough for America’s Baby Boomers (ages 43-61) and Veteran generation employees (age 62 years and above) to be loyal, dependable, punctual workhorses. Today, every employee must do more than their job description. Highly paid, experienced Americans are being pushed out of jobs by Chinese, Indian or Eastern European workers willing to work longer and harder for less pay. Complicating matters, large numbers of Baby Boomers and Veterans are planning to retire or cut back their hours, and may be starting to “coast” to retirement. Their “replacements,” Gen X employees, are too few in numbers by about half.

Got employee-related tips, questions, gripes? Check out the "People Issues" forum at grainandfeedmanager.com!

Doing today’s job by today’s standards will not be enough for employees of ANY generation if we are to provide the higher quality goods and services that are more valued than the cheaper ones offered from elsewhere. Employees can and will learn to innovate—and every available employee will be needed from all generations to participate. For the first time, employers will need their long-term employees to be an innovation resource.

How vulnerable is your business?

Some of my clients are discovering that some branch offices will have 100% retirements of key employees in the course of a one-year time span. Staffing plans must go beyond the present year. Even organizations with strategic plans that require developing a skills need projection for the next five years need to follow through with both a current gap analysis AND a projection of retirements and other turnover losses.

What talent management strategies are needed?

Three strategies must be put in place:

1. Ensure that the right people are in place, that they understand the challenge and opportunity ahead, and that they have the skills needed to succeed.

Map skill needs identified by both managers for their staffs and by the staff members themselves against the most recent strategic plan as well a the values of the company. Depending upon the gaps (organization-wide? departmental? individual?), a plan should be developed that includes a variety of approaches from classroom training with validation of learning transfer to book clubs, "lunch & learns", pursuit of certifications and accreditations, etc. Finally, develop a recognition and reward process for those employees who meet the new skills goals.

2. Develop strategies to delay the retirement and lengthen the workspan of Top Talent among your longtime employees.

Like recruitment, retention is a one-on-one activity. Set up metrics to determine whether retention goals are being met. After age 40-45, too many people are overlooked for promotions, projects and new positions of all types—especially if they involve relocations. Promotions and cross-departmental task force participation are the most visible signals that long-term employees are valued. Feeling valued is a major motivator for staying engaged (and staying!) on the job.

3. Rekindle engagement among longtime employees.

Get your experienced employees involved! Set the expectation of both managers and employees that laurels are great--but no one gets to rest when the marketplace demands innovation and creativity! If that means getting new skills, get them—management will help! If that means raising your hand to be on a project, raise it! If that means speaking up, speak!

What metrics indicate engagement among long-term employees?

Some of the best metrics include voluntary participation in:

  • 360 Degree Feedback
  • Career Planning
  • Training Classes
  • Mentor Programs
  • Job Description Review
  • Promotions
  • Project Leadership

How can managers be rewarded for “going above and beyond” in the development of their people?

Managers need to encourage and make time for their staffers to attend training, participation on projects, and suggest them for promotion. On a monthly or quarterly basis, employees should vote for the manager who develops them the most and in the most ways. Additional rewards (pay, non-cash benefits, time off, etc.) should be the much-publicized rewards for managers who develop all generations of employees.

Reverse age bias and ignite performance

Put age bias on the table for discussion. Provide all managers and employees with inclusion training. If your organization does not have inclusion training, contact your local Diversity Roundtable or go to www.DiversityInc.com for resources. Create a “Diversity Dashboard” or scorecard to track a range of diversity metrics, including age. Develop metrics around the hiring, training, lateral career moves and promotion rates for longtime employees, as well as career path movement, rehiring, compensation rates, and other relevant indicators of fairness.

Your Boomers and Veterans have ideas and energy. They want new assignments, training and to be mentored. Engage them and your organization will beat its global competition!

Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, is an international speaker, author and human resource consultant. Her newest book, Igniting Gen B and Gen V: The New Rules of Engagement for Boomers, Veterans and Other Long-Termers on the Job is available on www.Amazon.com. Visit her website at www.eocstrategies.com

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