Retaining staff in a changing environment: Part 2
Thursday, May 17, 2012/
Further to my last post, where I discussed the implications of a shrinking workforce, significant skills gaps and the engagement of the Baby Boomer generation, today I will look at the implications of an increasing global, diverse and virtual workforce on the retention of staff.
A big statement, but it’s probably fair to say that the workforce is more diverse today than it has ever been in the past. There is diversity by generations, gender, and, of course, geography and culture.
On a generational level, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and the very first of Generation Y are all in the workforce at the same time. Each of these generations brings along its own set of values based on life stage and their own particular environment. Not a day goes by where I don’t hear a comment by a senior manager (usually a male Baby Boomer) about the perceived lack of application of the Gen Ys. And concern from the Gen Ys that they don’t want to turn out like the Baby Boomers. Organisations are in a unique position of having to juggle the needs of different generations to attract and retain talent.
Secondly, there are more women in the workplace today than ever before. Some say that it is reaching parity with males. Why is it then that there is still a substantial imbalance in gender in the senior ranks of organisations? Reading through the literature on why women seem to “opt out” of the workforce at some point in their career leads to some interesting conclusions. Mostly, that women are not “opting out,” they are in fact writing their own deal and going into non-traditional work environments that provide them with more control over their time. In fact, women lead the way in terms of entrepreneurs who are starting their own businesses. Being a business owner is by no means dropping out. It is simply finding a different way to weave together women’s work and personal lives.
Thirdly, as we all know, and have experienced, the country of origin and related culture of staff plays a very large role in defining diversity in Australian workplaces. While there is an overarching Australian work culture (can we really define it precisely?), how does this diversity impact retention? Do we know?
In addition to demographic diversity, today’s staffing is truly global in nature. Some organisations are outsourcing to geographies that provide more competitive rates for services. For global companies, teams are formed of individuals from different parts of the world. So we are increasingly trying to be fair to everyone on the team by having conference calls at all hours to the day (and night) to rotate which groups get to hold meetings during their “normal business day”.
This brings up another important issue: the “normal business day” used to be nine-to-five, but because of global teams, the ideal of a normal business day has been expanded to 24/7, especially for the workforce of the global companies in Australia. Given the technology advances of the past 10 years, plus the geographic dispersion of teams, work is happening virtually, on a regular basis. Employees are able to work from anywhere at any time to meet the needs of the organisation.
So, when considering staff retention, how do we balance the needs of different generations, more women in the workforce, and different ethnic groups, underpinned by the complexity of working globally and virtually? With difficulty is the easy answer, but clearly the secret to successful retention lies in understanding and acknowledging these needs and the effect of global, virtual work.