The year 2020 is Manitoba’s 150th birthday which got me thinking about birthdays in general. I was thinking especially about those individuals that are turning the so called "magic" age of 65 but who are still in the workforce. Statistics show this group of workforce seniors doubled between 1995 and 2015 and grew again by 20 per cent between 2011 and 2016.
Most of these seniors work either full and/or part time and count on their paycheque as their main source of income. This statistic is the highest recorded since 1981. Many of these workers retired from one job and quickly signed up for another job.
As you might expect, there’s plenty of discussion regarding the benefit of seniors continuing in the workforce. For instance, the Conference Board of Canada projects that if there was a large exodus of retirees, Canada’s economic growth would slow down. On the other hand, there’s a common perception that if older workers hang on to their jobs and/or take up new jobs after retirement, they are preventing younger workers from entering various occupations. Or, at the very least, these seniors are preventing Millennials from being promoted. In other words, they suggest there is a "multi-generational" traffic jam on the rungs of our career ladders.
On the other hand, some economists call this picture a fallacy because in reality, businesses need workers of all ages to meet the demand. As well, some business leaders point out that they make a concerted effort to keep their seniors because they can’t find younger workers. This lack of skilled labour is also what drives governments to consider immigration as a key to expanding the available workforce.
There are indeed geographic areas where youth employment rates are low but there are also areas where there are plenty of opportunities. Education also plays a key role in that young people who leave school may find it easier to access job opportunities in rural and/or resource-rich areas but choose not to move. On the other hand, some so called "white collar" jobs in larger cities may see more seniors holding on to their job thus reducing the openings for younger people.
So, if it is anticipated that the 2020 workforce will consist of 30 per cent Millenials, then we need to get to know more about these young people. What are their dreams? What are their expectations? An international survey by the Manpower Group identified several interesting characteristics. First of all, the survey identified that 15 per cent of Millennials in Canada expect to work beyond age 65 while others remain optimistic about retiring at age 65. At the same time, 60+ per cent of these Millennials are upbeat about their careers and are confident that if they lost their job today, they would easily find another one within a three-month timeframe.
While many observers see Millennials as less than hard working, the survey suggests that 70 per cent of participants reported working more than 40 hours per week while 26 per cent held two or more paid jobs. At the same time, one big difference between the baby boomers and today’s Millennials is how they want to shape their career timeframe. For instance, the survey reported that women planned to take more time off to care for children and/or family members, and men/women in general anticipated more "me, me, me" time where they would take a break for a longer vacation and/or travel.
Interestingly enough, three of the big career drivers for Millennials as identified in this survey were financial reward (92 per cent), the need for holiday time off (86 per cent) and flexible work hours (79 per cent). I must admit, these three drivers will create quite a challenge in today’s work environment.
At the same time, the survey shows that Millennials recognize the importance of continually improving their skills through training, and seeking new roles and assignments. They also accept that good performance in their current job is equally as important for success. Another item of interest was an acknowledgement by Millennials that they know they have to keep abreast of trends in their profession so that they can always be seen as current. This is an excellent trait because I have seen so many baby boomers lose their jobs because they couldn’t keep up with the changing skills in their workplace.
Keeping in mind that Millennials have grown up in a fast changing world, it shouldn’t be a surprise that their top priorities are regular change, new challenges, frequent feedback and career advancement versus simply a paycheque.
What does this mean for today’s employers? The following provides some potential suggestions to keep your Millennials interested:
● Look beyond the organization chart — be creative and look beyond specific jobs to find different small projects that could be carried out in a variety of departments. This creates continuous learning, develops multiple skillsets, exposes young people to different supervisors and creates an employee that is "cross trained" and can fit anywhere in your organization.
● Teach career management – involve Millennials in career management seminars inclusive of psychometric assessments to improve self-awareness. Help them envision a career path. Teach them the skills-based resume approach, networking and interviewing skills. Teach them about organization culture and what is expected in the long term. Help them create readiness for the challenges of change and promotion.
● Provide mentoring and feedback – don’t wait for the annual performance review, set up regular feedback sessions and career conversations. Help the employee set their own goals. Discuss future trends and how individuals can take advantage of them in your organization. Find ways for younger employees to act as mentors to your seniors, especially in the area of new technology.
● Focus on continuous learning – look beyond technical skills and offer leadership training to all employees in preparation for taking on more responsibility rather than waiting until after a promotion. Many of the leadership skills learned in these programs can be used immediately especially in project management, teambuilding and time management.
● Review potential for flexibility – take time to review your human resource policies and determine where and how you could build in flexibility. Be creative and adopt programs that have worked in other environments such as an employee contributing a portion of their pay for a set number of years and then taking personal time off with pay. Look at the various options of flextime schedules. Be creative. Try something new as a pilot project.
● Identify and overcome roadblocks – over time, organizations get in a rut and are used to doing things in the same way and so it is important to identify potential roadblocks that are preventing the Millennials in your organization from getting what they need in order to stay committed. If this means fixing the traffic jam on your career ladder, then find a special project that will increase their skillset and create the challenge they need.
Labour force stability and skill development are the key to all organization success. This means that you must value all of your employees, no matter their age. This in turn means that leaders must pay attention to the different interests and needs of their employees and adapt as best they can. Get creative and be determined.
Source: Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision, Facts, Figures and Practical Advice, Manpower Group, Statistics Canada: Working Seniors in Canada, 2015 Census; Canadian Workforce seeing baby boomer boon but lacks young talent; The Canadian Press, May 3, 2017.
Barbara J. Bowes, FCPHR, CCP, M.Ed., is with the Legacy Bowes Group, the author of eight books, a radio personality, speaker, an executive coach and workshop leader. She is also the chairwoman of the Women’s Advisory Council. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.