Finding the Workers You Want: Understanding the Modern Workforce

August 17, 2018
Your markets are bustling. Your KPI's are kicking. All signs point toward growth. As an HR Manager, it is time for you to develop a plan for increasing labor to accommodate the projected growth before your current staff becomes overloaded. Before you do, it is important to understand the U.S. labor force. Who are the job seekers, and how will they fit into your organization?

Generations working together

First thing's first: Who is swimming around in the labor pool? Overall, families are shrinking and life expectancies are growing, so the make-up of the workers worldwide is changing. In 2017, for the first time in history, the U.S. labor force was comprised of five generations. The distribution looks like this:

- Traditionalists or The Silent Generation (born 1945 and prior): 2%
- Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964): 25%
- Generation X'ers (born 1965-1976): 33%
- Millennials (born 1977-1995): 35%
- Generation Z'ers or Post-Millennials (born after 1996): 5%

The number of participating millennials will continue to outpace the other generations.
The future of the labor force

A Pew Research study from 2014 indicates the makeup of the labor force is changing. The number of participating Millennials will continue to outpace the other generations, including Generation X'ers. As Baby Boomers age, they are predicted to remain employed longer, generally due to economic reasons. Given governmental cutbacks in social security programs, and recessional losses on investments, older workers will be postponing retirement until much later. As they come of age, Gen Z'ers will begin to enter the workforce, though their participation rate is slowing, likely due to a growing belief that they must earn a college degree in order to obtain a successful career.

In 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that hourly workers made up nearly 60% of the labor force. The good news is that for aging Boomers and emerging Z'ers, hourly employment is a suitable option. Older workers are selecting hourly positions because they no longer need to advance their careers, and don't want the burden of full-time employment. In contrast, the Z'ers are prime candidates for hourly positions because they are generally entry-level employees, or have school schedules to accommodate in addition to their work hours.
They want a company that will support them, if not actively, then by giving the space and freedom they need to work toward their personal goals.
Meeting their needs

Now that you know who makes up the U.S. Labor force, you need to know what they want. Millennial pressure on the workplace in recent years has succeeded in shifting the way businesses run. It's tough to tell specifically how the incoming Gen Z'ers will drive workforce demands, but experts agree that it's safe to predict the following employer trends will remain:

Offering a work-life balance. Employees have big dreams and responsibilities. They want a company that will support them, if not actively, then by giving the space and freedom they need to work toward their personal goals. This may include allowing them to work from home, or proving flexible schedules and adequate time off to attend to their personal and family demands.

Using technology wisely. Paper time sheets, checks, handwritten notes and hard copy documents are quickly becoming archaic. Employees continue to require more mobility, accessibility, and flexibility at work. Allow them to communicate with coworkers and managers via mobile devices. Convert the dispatching, completing, and sharing of work assignments to electronic systems if it's possible. Provide frequent and meaningful communication. Engaging with employees through a variety of media helps foster deeper relationships and inspires loyalty.

Valuing time. Every employee's time is important. Respect it by automating or outsourcing mundane tasks to make their jobs as efficient as possible. Brainstorm ways to streamline company processes and procedures to eliminate or reduce time and resource drains.

Working toward a bigger purpose. Nowadays, employees want to work for companies that can help make a positive impact in the world. It matters to Millennials and Gen Z'ers whether their employers are philanthropic, ethical, environmentally sustainable, etc. Create or rewrite your mission statement and value systems to align with a bigger purpose. If nothing immediately comes to mind, consider starting or increasing charitable contributions to organizations that are meaningful to your company or your industry. Organize volunteer opportunities or collections for employees to participate in.

Facilitating upward mobility. Encourage growth and provide employees with ample opportunities to move their careers forward. If promotions or transfers aren't feasible, many will be satisfied with the ability to learn more. Supply a variety of educational exercises or training programs on the systems, procedures or skills your company utilizes. However informal, they'll appreciate the chance to educate themselves and develop talents that may help them in the future.

Emphasizing importance. The working generations are increasingly creative and open-minded, and they expect their employers to be as well. They want to feel free to express ideas and receive recognition for their accomplishments. Listen to suggestions, and remain open to changes or improvements in efficiency. Offer rewards for valuable input and achievements.

Paying adequately. The bottom line is: money is still important. Ensure that your company is offering competitive wage and benefits packages. If budgets allow, implement rewards, bonus, or commission programs for meeting or exceeding goals.

The U.S. workforce is in a constant state of change. Finding the right hourly workers for your organization can be a daunting task. With a clear understanding of the available labor pool and what they want from employers, your company can adapt and evolve along with them. These valuable insights can help HR managers find the sweet spot between merging the needs of the company with the expectations of prospective employees.
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