Category Archives: Baby Boomers

Are You Putting All Your Eggs Into The Engagement Basket?

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George LaRocque, Founder and Principal Analyst at #HRWINS, has published a new report that caught my eye. Where Purpose Meets Performance:  Can HR Tech Solve Culture, is an interesting look at the culture challenges of the U.S. middle market (5,000 and fewer employees) which employs roughly 90% of the U.S. workforce.

Here’s where he grabbed me:

“Studies show that companies with performance enhancing cultures far out-perform those without it in terms of revenue growth, stock price growth, and net income growth. Yet, it remains nearly impossible to tie HR and people programs to business results. Business leaders and HR practitioners have looked to employee engagement as a measure of successful corporate culture but first even defining employee engagement presents a challenge. There have long been efforts to standardize its definition and measurement, and the result has been just the opposite. We’ve seen a proliferation of science and methods narrowly looking at everything from happiness to community embeddedness, social network analysis, motivation and incentives, collaboration, personality and culture assessments, and more.”

What follows is an interesting discussion, with 3 strong case studies, that shows how the acquisition and deployment of core HR technology is supporting the increase in HR credibility and impact on corporate performance, as well as greater employee satisfaction. It’s interesting stuff and incudes results from several surveys that George put out in the field.

At 20 pages, it isn’t a long read and is well organized. The main points cover the following:

  • What employees rate as the leading drivers of their feeling of engagement.
  • What employers feel are the HR and people programs delivering the best ROI.
  • How employee engagement fits in the new world of work.
  • What role core HR technology plays in building culture and aligning with business performance.

The survey work underpinning this analysis lead George to believe as I do:

“…perhaps the strongest component of culture that resonates with employees, of ALL generations, is having purpose and meaning in their work.”

The survey results, as shown below, show that, at least in the vast middle market, Baby Boomers and GenX are the most interested demographic as it relates to meaning and purpose. That’s not what you expected, is it? But it tracks with my research and observations.

#HRWINS 1

This report includes several such graphs and data points that provide solid context for whatever thinking and planning you’re doing regarding culture, engagement and your employee experience. Putting all your eggs in the “engagement” basket will most likely not produce the returns you expect. There are stronger fundamentals that may well have a stronger positive impact on your employees’ experience. Especially if you’re in the middle market.

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Filed under #HRTechTrends, #HRWINS, Baby Boomers, China Gorman, Culture, Data Point Tuesday, Employee Engagement, GenX, George LaRocque, HR Technology, Millennials

Lights Out Productivity

data point tuesday_500One of the benefits of writing a blog that is focused on bringing interesting research analysis to the HR community is that people (vendors, academics, researchers, associations…) send me all kinds of research reports. I receive cool data analyses every day. And I learn a lot reading through them. Here’s a funky little survey analysis that won’t surprise anyone. But it brings up a good point.

The research goal of Generational Trends in Employee Desktop Expectations and Behaviors sponsored by AppSense, was “to capture hard data on experiences and attitudes towards desktop experience among business users.” The methodology included a series of online surveys that were fielded to independent sources of business professionals, all of whom worked at companies with more than 500 employees (1,000 employees in the U.S.) and lived in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, The Netherlands or Australia. All in, a total of 258 full-time business professionals who use a desktop computer for than 10% of their work participated in the survey.

If we needed to see more data that would drive a wedge between the Millennials and the Boomers, this would qualify. Except that the data aren’t surprising. Millennials grew up with technology in their hands, pockets and backpacks. Boomers grew up with almost no technology and when it did appear it wasn’t personal, mobile or transportable.

Generational Trends 2 October 2015So, while we all get distracted when our desktops are slow to load, how we spend our time while waiting is different. Evidently Millennials only know how to be productive on a computer.

Generational Trends October 2015On the face of it, it looks like Boomers try to be more work-productive while waiting for their slow desktops to catch up with them, and Millennials tend to be more personal-productive. What we don’t know is how much time these activities take – seconds, minutes, or more.

As I said, this is a funky little survey analysis. You certainly wouldn’t create any policy changes based on these findings. But you might ask questions about how much time is actually spent waiting for slow computers at your organization. If it’s minutes a week versus hours a week, you’re probably fine. If the available time due to slow computers is hours a week, the investment in alleviating the down time might be well-spent.

But the more interesting question this brings up for me is whether or not our workforce, now dominated by digital natives, can be productive when the lights go out. Are we’re teaching them how to be productive off the digital reservation? For sure the Boomers can go Old School and use paper, spreadsheets, telephones and other relics of bygone business eras to get work done if the systems go down. Is it possible that our younger colleagues don’t know non-digital ways of being productive? Is this funky survey and analysis an inadvertent call to ensure that productivity isn’t bound by turning on a computer and being connected to the internet?

Can your workforce continue to serve your customers and be productive if the systems go down for an hour? For a day? For several days?

I’m just sayin’.

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Filed under AppSense, Baby Boomers, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Desktop Computers, Millennials, Time Management

The Win-Win of Leveraging Baby Boomers

data point tuesdayI’m a Baby Boomer, born smack-dab in the middle of my generation. And I’m beginning to concretely think about the answers to questions like:

  • What is the legacy that my career will leave behind?
  • What kinds of work do I really want to do going forward?
  • What will retirement look like for me?
  • When will I want to retire (because it certainly is the last thing on my mind now…)?

Just as I wrestle with these questions, organizations are facing stiff headwinds on the talent pipeline front making workers like me critical components in workforce planning activities. We all know that workforce demographics are changing rapidly and many organizations are flummoxed when they try to get a picture of how to respond to this critical talent dynamic. Say what we will about the criticality of Millennial employees, many organizations are starting to pay equal attention to retaining the backbones of their organizations: Baby Boomers.

A terrific source of practical and actionable research based information is the SHRM Foundation’s recently published Effective Practice Guideline: The Aging Workforce: Leveraging the Talents of Mature Employees. As with all the reports in this series, it takes a rigorous approach to discovering what the research says and what organizations are actually doing in the topic area. If you haven’t discovered the SHRM Foundation’s EPGs, you’ll thank me after you download and read this free report. Not just because the data are useful and the examples practical, but because it is written for practitioners not academics and is super easy to consume.

“Mature workers will be a firm’s largest source of talent in the next two decades. There will not be enough younger workers for all the positions an organization needs to fill, particularly those requiring advanced manufacturing skills or advanced education in science, technology engineering and math.”

We all know this. The real question is what do we do about it? And this report lays out a roadmap for data gathering within your organization, a planning outline, successful examples from other organizations, and strategies for moving your plan forward.

EPG April 28 2015This chart lays out the challenge well. What follows is a trove of information about mature workers. What they want, what they can do, and the inordinate benefits of keeping them engaged in the workforce. Here are several benefits outlined in the report:

EPG 2 April 28 2015The real meat of the report are the 15 strategies for engaging and retaining mature workers that are based on both research and real organization practice. There are mini-case studies from 30 employers sprinkled throughout the strategies that share effective practices. Perhaps the most impactful sentence in the entire report is in the introduction to the 15 strategies: “The best way to engage and retain workers of any age is to provide a strong vision at the executive level, fair compensation and competent, respectful supervisors.” While the focus is clearly on the acquisition and retention of mature workers, every age demographic benefits from these strategies.

15 Strategies for engaging and retaining mature workers:

  1. Acknowledge Work Contributions
  2. Offer Flexible Work Arrangements
  3. Offer Bridge Employment
  4. Support Health and Wellness
  5. Provide Caregiver Support
  6. Offer Skills Training
  7. Provide Career and Personal Growth Opportunities
  8. Use Mixed-Age Workgroups
  9. (Re)Design Work to Match Worker Capabilities
  10. Train Managers and Supervisors
  11. Provide Support for Retirement Planning
  12. Address Age Discrimination (Real and Perceived)
  13. Foster an Age-Positive Organizational Culture
  14. Foster Job and Career Embeddedness
  15. Facilitate Critical Knowledge Transfer

It’s obvious that none of these strategies are rocket science. In fact, as you look at the list you might think, “well, these are just common sense practices that will support the engagement and retention of ALL of our workers.” And that’s the point. We can’t focus our workforce planning activities on one generation alone. And ensuring that we Baby Boomers remain engaged and valued will make the demographic transition that is looming just over the horizon more effectively managed for organizations, for workers and their families, and for society. I call that a win-win!

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Filed under Baby Boomers, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Effective Practice Guidelines, SHRM Foundation, Workforce Demographics, Workforce Planning

From the Archives: We can’t succeed without Millennials

This was a very popular post from April, 2012. The data is pretty much the same. And it bears repeating.

Managers and supervisors (especially in the Baby Boomer cohort) in almost every type and size of business have been known to lament the lack of loyalty and so-called business savvy in the Millennial generation.

  • “They want to be promoted too fast!”
  • “They don’t want to pay their dues!”
  • “They don’t understand how things work!”
  • “They want too much flexibility!”
  • “When things don’t go their way they quit!”
  • “Why won’t they stay?”

The bottom line is that organizations are finding it challenging to keep Millennials engaged and on the payroll.  In fact, with the average employment tenure of workers in the 20-24 year -old age group at 1.5 years (per the BLS), it’s challenging to keep all our employees engaged and the on the payroll.  (See my previous post on the Quits vs. Layoffs gap.  It might not be what you think!)

Achievers and Experience Inc. fielded their annual survey of graduating college students in January.  The data are eye opening.

Despite what we think we know about them, the vast majority of these about-to-enter-the-workforce Milllennials would really like to stay with their next (in most cases, first) employer for 5 years or longer!  Wait.  What?  Look at the chart below:

47% of the 8,000 college graduating respondents in the Achievers/Experience Inc. survey indicated that they expected to stay with their next employer five years or longer.  Note the language:  expect to stay not would like to stay!  That means when they join our organizations they have every expectation of making a career with us.  They’re not just accepting a job.  They’ve evaluated our EVP (Employer Value Proposition) as a match for the meaning they want to create in their lives through their work.  (Interesting to note that the biggest percentage of respondents expect to stay with their employer for 10+ years!)

So, OK.  This has got to be their youthful exuberance and relative inexperience speaking, right?  Well, I wonder if that really matters.

Employers need these Millennials.  Employers need these Millennials now.  Employers will need these Millennials more every day.  (See my recent post here.)

And employers need them to stay a whole lot longer than 1.5 years!

So what happens between “I expect to stay with my employer for 10 or more years…” and “…after one year with the organization I’m leaving for a better opportunity”?  I think we all know that answer to that question.

We don’t live up to the EVP we sold them.  We don’t engage Millennials the way they tell us they want to be engaged.  Instead, we…

  • make sure they fit into our existing career paths and job descriptions
  • focus on making sure they “pay their dues” – the way we did
  • keep our processes and rules rigid and unbending – and only pretend to listen when they offer up “different” ways of working
  • resist the notion that work can be done with excellence anywhere but in a cubicle
  • make it difficult for Millennials to interact with senior leaders
  • make it difficult for Millennials to collaborate with colleagues
  • designate social responsibility activities a perk instead of a foundational value
  • try to “lure” them to stay with tenure-based plaques and timepieces

These data are a wake-up call for employers.  It’s a message from our talent pipeline that they really do want to engage with us; they believe our employer brand marketing messages; they want to learn and grow with us.

It’s time to listen harder and make sure our employer brand messages aren’t experienced as bait and switch tactics.

I don’t know about you, but I’d hate for the Millennials to have such negative employment experiences at the beginning of their careers that they opt out of organizational life altogether before they’re 30.  We’d really be in a pickle then!

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Filed under Achievers, Baby Boomers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Business Success, China Gorman, Demographics, Employment Data, Engagement, Millennials, Rewards & Recognition, Student Job Search, Talent pipeline, U.S. Department of Labor

Jobs recovery? Not so much…

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I’ve referenced several times the good work that Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce is doing in predicting the educational Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce logopreparedness (or lack thereof) of the workforce in relation to the anticipated jobs growth in the United States. Anthony P. Carnevale and his colleagues have just published Recovery:  Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020. This is a follow up to their 2010 publication, Help Wanted:  Projection of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018.

The bad news is that the educational preparedness of the U.S. workforce is getting worse as we look to the future. Without systemic changes to the U.S. post-secondary education system, the economy will now fall 5 million workers short with post-secondary degrees by 2020 – an increase of 2 million from their projection of a 3 million shortfall in 2018.

While many sources are predicting that the U.S. economy will create 55 million new job openings over the next decade, these new job openings are a combination of an anticipated 24 million newly created jobs and 31 million openings created by Baby Boomer retirements. Foundational to the calculations are that jobs are returning much more slowly that we thought they would following the recession.

Recovery Figure 1

Still, an increase of 24 million new jobs between now and 2020 seems hugely optimistic. That’s an average of 307,000 new jobs per month between now and 2020. When has the U.S. sustained that kind of consistent job growth? Well, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the last 30 years, only 1994 averaged new jobs creation at a rate of over 300,000 per month. 1994. A long time ago.

So there’s that.

But there’s more from this report that’s worth noting for those concerned about the future of the talent pipeline:

  • By 2020, 65% of all jobs in the economy will require post-secondary education and training beyond high school

    • 35% of the job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree

    • 30% of the job openings will require some college or an associate’s degree

    • 36% of the job openings will not require education beyond high school

Reccovery Figure 4

The implications here are clear regardless of the numbers of new jobs created: employers and others predict that soon nearly two-thirds of all jobs will require some kind of post-secondary education or training. In 1973 – just 40 years ago – less than one-third of all jobs required the same. Forty years isn’t a very long time – just one generation. Lots of change in the nature of jobs, work, education, skills and employability in 40 years.

The report also defines the skills that will be most valued and in demand for the new jobs landscape. These are not as revolutionary as one might think. Cognitive skills of leadership, communication, analytics and administration will be most valued and in demand. Take a look and see what you think.

The Center on Education and the Workforce generates useful information for those involved with education and/or workforce planning – functions that should joined at the hip today and in the future.

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Filed under Baby Boomers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Center on Education and the Workforce, China Gorman, College Graduation Rates, Education Deficit, Job Creation, Post-secondary education

Gen Y’s Self-fulfilling Prophecy

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Accenture recently published its 2013 College Graduate Employment Survey Findings. Lots of great data. Especially if you plan to hire recent college grads. In fact, some of the data are surprising.

One of the important takeaways is that employers have unrealistic expectations for the skills of the hires they make out of college. They think these young people should be able to hit the ground running and are surprised and disappointed when they don’t. And to compound the problem, these employers are not investing in training initiatives to get the newly hired up to speed in the short term or effective in the long term. This is all pretty logical. It’s good data and if you plan on hiring entry level employees from the ranks of the newly graduated, you should read this.

But here’s what caught my attention. It’s about the willingness to commit. And it isn’t the first time I’ve seen data like these.

Young people, entering the economy for the first time, want to commit to their employers. It’s not what we expect, I know. We expect these youngsters to be gone in the career equivalent of sixty seconds. And sometimes they are. But it’s important to know that that isn’t what they want! This isn’t what they expect!

From Accenture:  The class of 2013 is expecting more career longevity from their first jobs:  68% of pending 2013 college grads expect to be at their first job more than 3 years compared to 49% of 2011/2012 college grads.

Accenture career longevity in first jobs 2013

And from the Achievers Class of 2012 white paper:

Achievers Class of 2012 White Paper

In this survey, more than 70% of 2012 college graduates expected to be with their first/next employer 3 years or longer — and 48% expected to be with their first/next employer 5 years or more. Surprising, right? Not what we expect, right? Not what we “know” about Gen Y, right?

But the BLS shows us what happens once they join our organizations:

BLS years of tenure by age

So, young people entering the economy for the first time with a newly minted degree are filled with optimism and have every intention of committing to their first employer for 5 years or more. Is it naivte or is it a real desire to commit, belong and make a difference?

And what happens once they start that first job that impels them out the door in 18 months or less?  Are employers so inept at selection that they really can’t hire employees that will persist? Are young people so naïve that they don’t really know what they’re signing up for and leave when reality doesn’t match expectations? Or, as the Accenture survey suggests, are young people disappointed when expected training and development doesn’t materialize and they leave in search of greater learning opportunities?

Clearly this is a complex issue with lots of dynamics, as the Accenture survey results show. However, if we started with the belief and understanding that young people really do want to engage and commit to their employer, would we be more likely to invest in developing their skills?

If we started with the belief and understanding that young people really do want to engage and commit to their employer, would we create onboarding processes that ensure expectations – on both sides – are being understood and met?

If we started with the belief and understanding that young people really do want to engage and commit to their employer, how would we approach them differently?

I suspect that most employers believe that there’s no return in investing in a talent pool that will be gone in 60 seconds.

I further suspect that the EVP that is sold in the recruiting process doesn’t exactly come to life once the recruit joins the organization.

But I suspect that the real issue is that Gen X and Baby Boomer managers, supervisors and recruiters believe all the negative stereotypes about Gen Y and their lack of commitment to any agendas other than their own — despite multiple data sources that show just the opposite. And we’ve ended up in this tough reality that has become a full-fledged self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Filed under Accenture, Achievers, Baby Boomers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Employee Value Proposition, Gen Y, GenX, HR Data, Turnover, U.S. Department of Labor

Fighting for a Pessimistic Workforce

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OK.  So there’s an awful lot to be pessimistic about these days.  That goes for Baby Boomers, Millennials and Xers.  That goes for your workforce.

There’s the economy, the unemployment rate, cost of benefits, the fiscal cliff, taxes, the soaring price of college educations, the high school dropout rate…  There’s a lot. And Mercer has captured some critical information about how this pessimism – that isn’t going away – is coloring the views of the future held by many of your employees.

The questions we need to ask ourselves are:  how do I engage and motivate a workforce mired in pessimism, and, how do I (we) counteract a perceived environment of scarcity?

The recently published 12th annual 2012 Mercer Workplace Survey provides results that should give any HR professional more than a momentary woah! as we think about these questions. The survey has a cross-section of active 401(k) participants who were also enrolled in their employer’s health plan.  1,656 participants were interviewed online in June of this year.

The high points include:

  • US employees are still concerned about saving enough for retirement
  • Workers over 50 are more concerned than their younger counterparts about their job security and have much lower retirement expectations
  • Workers perceive that the value of their benefits has dropped

If you haven’t surveyed your workforce lately, this report’s results might just motivate you to start asking some questions.  Questions beyond, would you recommend our organization as a good place to work?

Other nuggets from the survey:

  • 36% of the respondents over 50 are still concerned about losing their jobs, its highest level since 2007 (25%)
  • a survey record 44% of all respondents have considered delaying their retirement – with 59% of those aged 50+ considering delaying their retirement, up four points from last year
  • 62% of those over 50 believe they will have to work at least part time when they do retire vs. 48% of younger workers

Mercer Putting Off Retirement

Data like this can be helpful in knowing what questions to ask yourselves and your workforce as you deal with the talent challenges that face most organizations.

  1. If Baby Boomers are putting off retirement indefinitely, how do we keep the Millennials who want those jobs engaged and continuing to develop their skills?
  2. If all workers – and Baby Boomers in particular – are concerned about job security how do collaboration and innovation fare in a culture of perceived scarcity?
  3. If Baby Boomers believe that they’ll have to work part time once they do retire, how can we harness that experience in a win-win solution?

Pessimism is insidious.  It worms its way into your workforce and destroys your employees’ visions (and expectations) of a bright future for your organization and for them.  While it’s true that many of the concerns that are driving employee pessimism are out of your control (the fiscal cliff, taxes, politics, healthcare costs, etc.), you need to find powerful, positive evidence in the organization that will counteract the pessimism attacking from the outside:  a strong, ethical culture; authentic and transparent leadership; a focus on employee and customer engagement; commitment to learning and development – all of these can convince a workforce that, although the outside world may not be as friendly as it could be or once was, the inside world of your organization is a place worthy of the investment of time, commitment and heart.

Of course, you have to believe that first.

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Filed under Baby Boomers, China Gorman, Connecting Dots, Engagement, GenX, HR Data, Mercer, Millennials, Retirement Planning, Talent Management

What Gets Your Employees Out of Bed in the Morning?

SHL Talent Analytics™ has published a white paper that you need to read if you are involved with acquiring, developing or managing talent.  And that would be everyone in HR.  The SHL Talent Report: Big Data Insight and Analysis of the Global Workforce is a thorough review of the state of talent – especially leadership talent – around the world.  Using their vast global supply of data from organizational surveys, almost 4 million assessments from almost 200 countries, and the work of 300+ occupational psychologists, authors Eugene Burke and Ray Glennon provide compelling insights into the state of today’s talent as well as opportunities to prepare tomorrow’s talent for success.

The white paper covers the following talent issues with data that is deep and makes it easily understandable:

  • Leadership
  • Innovation
  • Organizational Risk
  • Diversity
  • Global Distribution of Critical Skills

Each section is compelling and could stand alone in its organizational usefulness.  At 72 pages long, though, it’s a not a tough read.

I was particularly taken with the section on Diversity.  Its discussion of gender and leadership should be required reading for all those involved in the acquisition and development of talent headed to the C-Suite.  (I wrote about that here recently.)

But even more interesting was the discussion of generational differences.  This is a topic that won’t go away for those in the talent management business –for good reason!  Burke and Glennon believe “it’s not really about gender and generations…it’s about the best person for the job and having managers who know how to leverage differences effectively.”

Right.  How many times have we heard this?  But the data they share are compelling.

I’ve seen a great deal of analysis that show that, while the values differences between generations are more a difference in  order of importance than a complete difference in values, these data show the impact of the difference in order of importance in a pretty dramatic visual:

Think about the beleaguered manager in your organization who has all three generations represented on their team.  Do you think they understand these motivational and values differences?  Do you think they interact and communicate differently with their team members in order to engage their team?  Do you think they have the skills to leverage these generational differences in ways that motivate their team to greater productivity and efficiency?  Do you think they could use these insights to become a more effective leader?

What would be the impact on turnover, engagement and performance if all the managers in your organization had these insights and knew how to leverage them?

And, oh by the way, what gets you up in the morning?

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Filed under Baby Boomers, China Gorman, Connecting Dots, GenX, HR Analytics, HR Data, Millennials, SHL, Talent development

Data Point # 10: The Unemployment Rate Went Down? Really?

There is no irony in data.  Except if you put two graphs side by side that tell the same but different story.

The April employment data was released on Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor, which, of course, is part of the U.S. Federal Government.  The BLS paired these two graphs together.  Chart 1 shows the civilian labor force unemployment rate from April 2010 through April 2012.  Chart 2 shows the growth (or not) of nonfarm payroll employment in the same time frame.

Given this data, it’s a little hard to understand why  the unemployment rate went down .1 point to 8.1% during a month when far fewer jobs were created than in the previous 6 months.

During the slow crawl out of the Recession, many economists and pundits positioned that for the unemployment rate to hold steady month over month, a minimum of 150,000 new jobs would need to be created in that month.  And yet the data show that in a month when only 115,000 new jobs were created and the number of employed people was down 169,000, the unemployment rate still went down.  How does that math work?

Here’s the chart that makes sense of it all direct from the BLS Employment Situation Report:

The civilian labor force actually decreased from March to April by 342,000; the number of employed people decreased 169,000; the number of unemployed people (still looking for work) dropped by 173,000; and the number of people not in the labor force grew by 522,000.  What we can’t tell is how many of the unemployed became discouraged and stopped looking for work.  They drop out of all calculations.

If we do the math, the lower unemployment rates over the last several months are not the result of job growth, but rather a shrinking civilian labor force and a decrease in the labor force participation rate.

While the numbers of the unemployed – that’s people unemployed and actively looking for work – appear to be shrinking, the numbers of people “not in the labor force” is growing.  And growing rapidly – by nearly 3 million in the last year alone.  We can’t tell from this data whether the rapidly growing number of people not in the labor force are Baby Boomers retiring (that wouldn’t be totally unexpected) or more discouraged unemployed people dropping out of the job search.  But it’s a safe bet that it isn’t entirely people – Boomers or otherwise – voluntarily leaving the workforce.

So.  The number of discouraged unemployed workers grows at the same time the number of participants in the labor force is decreasing.  And that results in a lower unemployment rate.  Maybe data is ironic after all.

How’s this scenario?  What happens when the economy and the job market really improve and the discouraged unemployed workers re-enter the job market?  Under this math, the unemployment rate could very well go up.  The more workers are in the workforce — either employed or actively looking for work — the higher the number of jobs we’ll need to create to keep the unemployment percentage even.

Bottom line:  the lowering unemployment rate isn’t about more workers going back to work at all.  It’s about more workers leaving the economy.  Really.

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Filed under Baby Boomers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Demographics, Employment Data, U.S. Department of Labor, Uncategorized, Unemployment, Unemployment Rate

Data Point #5: We Can’t Succeed Without Baby Boomers

In earlier Data Point Tuesday posts (here and here) I’ve recommended the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website as a treasure trove of talent management related data.  Another great source of useful information is SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management.

SHRM’s research group works tirelessly to bring relevant, actionable trend and survey information to its members.  And if you aren’t a member (why aren’t you?), the value of SHRM’s research services alone is more than the cost of membership. *

Workplace Visions is part of SHRM’s Workplace Trends and Forecasting program and is published multiple times each year – as new data become available.  The reports are useful signposts for new developments that impact organizations, talent management and HR professionals.

The first such report published this year is “Changes to Retirement Benefits:  What HR Professionals Need to Know in 2012” (member protected).  It’s full of useful observations about changes coming to 401(k) plan rules, Social Security changes to keep an eye on and great data from EBRI (The Employee Benefits Research Institute).

One of the discussion points piqued my interest:  data from EBRI about the reduction in confidence by Baby Boomers that they will have enough money in their retirement years to live comfortably.  See the chart below.  This has big potential impact for employers.

The aha! is that while a steady stream of Americans still plan to retire in their early to mid-60s, many more workers are unsure when they’ll be able to retire – or if they’ll be able to retire.  As you can see from the chart, in 2007 70% of EBRI survey respondents reported some level of confidence in their retirement plans.  That number fell to 49% in 2011.  SHRM also cites data from Towers Watson surveys with similar outcomes.

What does this mean for talent management professionals?  Well, SHRM thinks that providing a stronger hand in retirement planning and financial education for Baby Boomers will help reduce retirement-related anxiety.  I absolutely agree.

Additionally, though, SHRM counsels HR professionals to “weigh the positives and negatives of employing an older workforce.”   They counsel that “older workers are often costlier to keep on board, due to higher salaries and health benefits costs.” Woah.  The  thought that employers will have robust options besides Baby Boomers and other older workers to staff their organizations isn’t supported by the demographic trends.

My take is a little different.  Here’s what the data say:

  • the U.S. population is growing more slowly leading a more slowly growing civilian work force (http://bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ecopro.pdf),
  • the Baby Boom generation moves entirely into the 55-years-old+ age group by 2020 and will represent 25.2% of the work force (up from 13.1% in 2000)
  • the “prime-age” labor cohort (ages 25-54) is projected to drop to 63.7% (from 71.1% in 2000) of the work force

So the engagement, development and retention of Baby Boomers and other older workers will be a very critical part of most organizations’ talent strategies because they’ll make up 25% of the available work force.  Providing incentives to stay, financial education for pro-active retirement planning and unique engagement strategies — among others — will all be part of talent strategy in 2020.  There won’t be any weighing the positives and negatives of employing an older workforce.  But there will be significant effort spent in figuring out how to keep the Baby Boomers’ skills, talents,and  organizational knowledge in play in the work force — and in our organizations.

At 25% of the available workforce, there won’t be other options.  We won’t be able to succeed without Baby Boomers.

*Full Disclosure:  I am SHRM’s former Chief Operating Officer

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Filed under Baby Boomers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Business Success, China Gorman, Demographics, Employment Data, HR, Retirement Planning, Talent Management, Talent pipeline, U.S. Department of Labor