Today, the workforce is undergoing serious demographic shifts. Baby boomers are retiring. Generation X-ers and millennials are moving into top spots in the corporate world. Generation Z-ers will soon occupy the majority of entry level positions in the workforce.
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The needs and wants of each generation vary, which means recruiting and human resources must evolve if employers want to attract and retain members of the new talent pool. One major change employers should look out for: phasing out traditional styles of leadership in favor of more employee-centric models.
Start Your Company on a 'Journey of Transformation'
To attract and retain quality talent, recruiters and human resource managers must be able to appeal to the wishes and sensibilities of the talent pool. Whether its millennials or Gen. Z-ers, young employees are attracted to companies that have demonstrated their ability to change with the times.
"Millennials – and smart people of any generation – will be most attracted to organizations that are on a journey of transformation," says Kelly Max, CEO of Haufe, an enterprise human resource and talent management software company. "The most successful companies on a global basis have constant transformation built into their DNA."
The "journey of transformation" is no mere catchphrase or motivational mantra, nor can it "come from a peripheral – and easy to ignore – HR department," says Max.
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"Organizations must be whole-heartedly committed to transformation, beginning with top leadership, because cultures don't change overnight," Max says. "Culture is organic. Change requires sustained, sometimes painful effort. Everyone must buy in, every day, again and again."
It's important, however, to be honest with candidates about the vision of the company and the road ahead.
"As crucial as transformation is, don't try to hire people – millennials especially – with a promise of what your organization is going to be," Max says. "Don't try to fool them, because they'll just walk out the door if you haven't achieved the transformed future state the day they arrive. Be honest about your progress toward transformation. New employees must work with the organization you have today while helping transform the organization into what you're working to become."
To streamline the process for attracting talent, resist the urge to keep each action in the hiring process and employee life cycle in separate silos. Instead, Max suggests creating a "talent operating system," which she describes as "an integrated HR ecosystem that offers an exceptional user/consumer experience enhancing an employee's entire journey with the company."
"That means integrating talent attraction, applicant tracking systems, talent acquisition, onboarding, and talent management/career development – and everything in between – into a single OS designed for a single purpose: to find, attract, retain, and enhance the talent that will make or maintain your organization as a leader," she explains. "An integrated HR ecosystem OS will empower employees to get better at their jobs, reach higher to do things they've always wanted to do, improve leadership and management skills, make work and career more meaningful, and allow employees to make more money while increasing their professional passion and satisfaction."
Workplace Democracy Key to Retention
Attracting talent is hard enough. Hanging on to it is harder. Instead of sticking to a traditional management structure, Max suggests spreading leadership around.
"Workplace democracy means rejecting power for empowerment," Max says. "It also means rejecting management in favor of a new definition and style of leadership that goes beyond the concept of a 'career ladder' – gaining power and staying as high as possible for as long as possible – and promotes a more democratic concept of choosing the right leaders for the right tasks at the right time. Everyone should be a leader and a follower. Great leaders are also great followers."
For example, Haufe takes a rather unique approach to executive appointments: Executives are elected every year. While Max doesn't necessarily recommend that every organization follow Haufe's footsteps exactly, she does thinking the concept of electing executives shouldn't be as unusual as it is.
"I'm an elected CEO who must stand for reelection by all my colleagues every year," Max says. "If the employees who run my company don't want me as their leader, I take another job in the company – executing a 'spiral' or 'horizontal' career move – or head for the door. If the needs of the company and its teams change next year, I may find myself an ex-CEO. The prospect of doing something new and different to help my organization is exciting."
While a democratically elected C-suite might not be for every company, Haufe's willingness to explore a different style of leadership appeals to millennials and Gen. Z-ers, who are often frustrated with traditional corporate structures and methods of advancement. The very concept of electing executives may seem extreme to many, but employers willing to give employees more say in the direction of the organization will find it easier to attract and retain candidates who think outside the box.
Identifying Future Leaders Through the Right Tech
To identify future corporate leaders, managers and executives need to keep pace with available technology and methodology or risk promoting unqualified candidates.
"The key to identifying future leaders is to implement agile new forms of performance systems that replace the old one-to-one/manager-to-employee evaluation matrix with transparent, crowd-sourced, many-to-many team-oriented evaluations," Max says.
She believes the annual performance review – especially its "static" approach to goal-setting – is dead, or at least should die.
"Instead, companies must develop systems that continually track what people are working on; how they're doing at it in the opinions of their leaders, their teammates, themselves, and their peers; and whether they're ready to take on more," Max says. "Instead of one goal for the year, there could be 3-5 new goals a month ranging from team needs to company needs as everything constantly changes. Yes, the goal posts are always moving. Welcome to today's reality."