Why are so many managers in a perpetual state of irritation about their twentysomething employees? More important, why do they keep HR busy rounding up individuals who’ve repeatedly demonstrated they don’t want to be there.
The organizational landscape is relentlessly changing. Twentysomethings who are just passing through companies can’t be “seasoned” into management — or even long-term employees. Yet, the managers and senior executives I talk with believe that if HR only did a better job they could recruit and retain more young workers. What a hope! HR doesn’t create the talent pool, it merely fishes there. As long as top management dictates that HR must fish in that pool the organization is doomed to frustration and disappointment.
If you knew a particular talent pool contained overwhelming numbers of people who didn’t want to work for you wouldn’t you look for a different pool? Basic self-preservation would seem to dictate that. But, no! Companies are sure they can find an elixir to make people who don’t admire them want to work for them. It’s nonsense. Consider the following strategies.
Think short-term. What kind of employees can help the company succeed right now? I know this is heresy. Manpower planners are gasping. So be it. If you’d hire with a five-year window instead of 20 you’d be more successful with less cost. Turnover costs are killing — if companies calculated them correctly. Most don’t.
Hire counter-intuitively. The woman who’s been at home for 20 years and is now free to work is a bargain. She has twice the enthusiasm, flexibility, and desire to succeed of all but the exceptional twentysomething. Training dollars invested in her will be met with gratitude. When did you last experience gratitude from a young employee?
Charge workers for training. If you’re investing $5000 in training ask each employee — not just the young — to sign a contract to stay for a certain number of months. If someone won’t sign they are giving you important information — if you listen.
Stop telling yourself — and others — that you have the one true work ethic. All we can agree on is that it’s yours. A shocking number of people don’t want to be you! I worked with a CEO who would only hire clones of himself. Unfortunately, demographics did its thing and 75 percent of his workforce is over 55. He faces horrific challenges keeping the company going.
Consider ideas you hate. Yes, you read that right. If you don’t, you are grabbing a handful of obsolescence. I know someone who still uses a Selectric typewriter. I know people who have rotary dial telephones on purpose! What’s the point? Hire people you intuitively dislike and ask what they need and want to be successful. Supply it. Insist that HR fish in other pools.
If your system survives the shock you may find yourself and your organization ahead of the competition who are still doing what you used to do.
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