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How Do You Engage and Retain Gen X?

August 24 - Posted at 8:47 AM Tagged: , , ,

As the economy remains resilient, companies are in a battle not only to hire capable talent, but also to retain the workers that are assets to the organization.  Much has been written about the impact of the Baby Boomers and Millennials in the workplace. However, what about the smaller Generation X cohort that is sometimes the forgotten middle child of the generations? While they may be outnumbered by the Millennials and Boomers, their influence has shaped US companies during years of technological advancement and corporate change. What are the characteristics of Gen X, and what do they want from their employer?

Independent
The Gen X group born between 1965-1980 was often referred to as latchkey kids. This term was used because a number of them came home alone after school because both parents worked. This fostered a sense of self discipline and autonomy. These individuals had to self-manage their own activities and make decisions based on judgment in the absence of an adult. Gen X learned not to depend on others for constant direction; they created their own outcomes.

Adaptable
Gen Xers childhood predated the internet, personal home computers, and cell phones. They had to learn evolving technology as well as embrace and master it to be successful in corporate America. From the generation that used the first cordless home phone, to commanding the world of work on a smartphone, their actions illustrate the ability to adapt, pivot, and embrace change.

Self-Reliant
This cohort has experienced two Gulf Wars, dot com bust, 9/11 tragedy, The Great Recession, and COVID. All of these events came with a great loss of jobs and retraction of the economy. Gen Xers have managed to navigate some of the most unprecedented events in history that impacted careers and livelihoods. Their resourcefulness helped them thrive and develop the expertise needed to stay relevant in the workforce in the midst of those events.

What Does Generation X Want from Their Employer?

Growth and Development
Invest in Gen X workers continued growth and development.  Whether it be formal classroom leadership training, conferences and seminars, or online courses, help them enhance their skill set. They already have a wealth of business acumen, so modernizing their tool kit benefits them and improves results for the organization. Most of Gen X has been working for decades, and any job can become repetitive and monotonous if skill sets become stagnant. Create a culture of learning and design training programs that address the needs of mid-career professionals.

New Projects & Meaningful Work
Invite them to lead new company projects and initiatives. In addition, consider offering Gen Xers a different role outside of their comfort zone that teaches them a new talent. They likely have a distinguished track record of tackling new assignments, so keep them energized with new leadership responsibilities. Evaluate your process for promotions. Is it based on performance data?  Many in this group want to achieve the next level of success within a company. Engage in dialogue and determine what is important to them in their career trajectory.

Flexibility
Some Gen Xers want enhanced flexibility to care for children, parents, or pursue outside interests.  Flexibility desires may reach beyond the ability to work from home periodically. Moreover, some may want to take on a part time role or become an independent contractor supporting their current team. Some workers may simply want more vacation days. One size does not fit all when it comes to flexibility, and people have different motivators – ask them.

Mentor Others
Every organization is engaged in succession planning as the life line for business continuity. Gen X is an irreplaceable asset of industry knowledge and expertise. Many want to mentor, teach, and help the next generation succeed in their careers. They have a command of workplace dynamics and want to impart their skills and coach new leaders to excel in the organization.

The Generation X Influence
As pivotal members of corporate work teams, Gen X is 53 million strong in the US labor force. This group is often described as autonomous but driven to make a difference and have an impact. By using different methods to engage Gen X, we can align to their values and retain them for decades.

The 4-Day Workweek: Helpful Innovation Or Expensive Risk?

March 09 - Posted at 9:00 AM Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

In 2016, Millennials surpassed Generation X as the largest generation in the American workforce. Given their reputation as the driving force behind workplace change – from the birth of the #MeToo movement to the expansion of technology – it isn’t surprising to learn that there is gathering momentum for another significant change spurred by this generation of workers: the implementation of a four-day workweek.

Just as the identity of the workforce has changed, so has the type of work that Americans are performing. Technology has made it easier for employees to seek non-conventional employment. Tools like video conferencing, productivity software, and artificial intelligence are changing how we work and what we do while we are at work.

Put simply, technology has made it possible to take office work out of the office. According to a recent survey, telecommuting is offered by over 40% of organizations and some form of flexible scheduling is offered by 57%. With the face and tools of the workplace evolving, employers are being challenged to reevaluate other traditional elements of work.

One of these being the length of the workweek. 

Potential Benefits Of A 4-Day Workweek

The four-day workweek typically exists in two variations, either the 4-10 workweek, which redistributes the 40-hour workweek over four days, or the 4-8 workweek, which simply cuts a day and makes the workweek 32 hours. Those who have implemented one of these types of schedules primarily cite one of these four reasons to support their decision:

Retention

The four-day workweek may help to address one of the major problems that modern employers face: employee turnover. A recent Gallup Report estimated that Millennial turnover costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion annually. According to that same report, Millennials rank work-life-balance high on their list of priorities when considering employment options. Because of this, an alternate schedule which allows one additional non-work day a week may be attractive to your workers.

Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand-based financial services company, reinvigorated the four-day workweek debate when its CEO announced that the company was moving to a four-day, 30-hour workweek. Guardian made the decision to permanently alter employees’ schedules after test results demonstrated that employees were performing the same amount of work in the shortened week and reported significant improvements in work-life-balance.

Similarly, last year in Colorado, Adams County became the first school district in a major metropolitan area to institute a four-day workweek. The change was made to attract and retain teachers to the school district. And it worked. The district, which compensates teachers at the lowest rate of any district in the Denver area, experienced increased applicants and lower staff turnover during the pilot year of the program.

Productivity

Some case studies suggest that instituting a four-day workweek can boost employee productivity. In Japan, Microsoft reported that implementing a four-day workweek led to a 40% boost in productivity compared to the previous year. Notably, Microsoft Japan’s model included other modifications to the workplace, including limiting meetings to 30 minutes and encouraging online discussions instead of face-to-face encounters with coworkers.

Operational Costs

One positive byproduct of the four-day workweek is that employers save on operational costs. One less day of work is one less day the lights are on at the office. Microsoft Japan saw a 23% reduction in electricity consumption and a 59% reduction in paper printing after implementing a four-day workweek.

Climate Solution

Finally, Andrew Barnes, the CEO of Perpetual Guardian, advocates for the four-day workweek as a step employers can take to combat climate change. According to the University of California the two largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. are transportation (29%) and electricity production (28%). Theoretically, both emissions are reduced when employers cut the workweek by a day.

The 4-Day Workweek Is A Gamble – And Maybe An Expensive One

For all the potential benefits of the four-day workweek, there are associated costs that must be taken into account before implementation.

Unpredictable Outcomes

In 2011, the Utah state legislature scrapped the four-day workweek for all non-emergency state workers after a three-year test run. The decision was made to return employees to a five-day workweek after reports concluded that the expected benefits of the program, including reduced operational costs and increased employee productivity, never materialized.

Conflicting Or Rigid Compensation Laws

States often have rigid compensation rules which could affect the pay scale of employees on a four-day workweek schedule. This is especially true for employers considering a 4-10 workweek. For example, in California, with some limited exceptions, employees receive overtime compensation for shifts over eight hours long. This has obvious implications for the 4-10 workweek. Employees working the same total hours a week would be entitled to more compensation under a 4-10 schedule because they would be entitled to two hours of overtime compensation per day.

California has established a mechanism for employers to institute a 4-10 workweek without paying overtime wages. However, the process involves proposing the modified schedule to all affected employees and holding a secret ballot election to approve the modification. Failure to correctly follow this procedure before instituting a 4-10 workweek could lead to considerable wage and hour exposure for the employer.

Conclusion

At this point only one thing is certain about the four-day workweek is that it’s a gamble. While employers utilizing the four-day workweek will almost certainly attract job-hopping Millennials, there is no guarantee that it will increase productivity or reduce operational costs. One of the inherent risks of adopting the four-day workweek is that you could spend time and money on a new work schedule that ultimately delivers underwhelming results. And, in the wrong state, incorrect implementation of the 4-10 workweek could expose you to significant wage and hour violations. Employers considering implementing a four-day workweek should consult their employment attorney before making the change.

Study Finds Millennials are Less Healthy than Generation X Were at the Same Age

April 25 - Posted at 1:00 PM Tagged: , , , , ,

A third of millennials have health conditions that reduce their quality of life and life expectancy, according to a new study of medical claims by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index (BCBS Health Index). The report found that millennials had substantially higher diagnoses for eight of the top 10 health conditions than Generation X, and based on their current health status, millennials are more likely to be less healthy when they’re older, compared to Gen Xers. These findings are based off of a study of millennials who were between the ages of 34 and 36 in 2017 and Gen Xers who were 34 to 36 in 2014. 

The biggest health differences between the two generations was the higher impact of physical conditions driven by increased cardiovascular and endocrine conditions, including diabetes. 

A recent Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) survey found that 83% of millennials consider themselves in good or excellent health, and that 68% of millennials have a primary care physician, compared to 91% of Generation X, which is an important factor in preventative care.

“Based on these findings, we’re seeing that millennials are not seeking preventative care and it’s not only having an effect on their immediate health, but will significantly impact their long-term health as well,” said Vincent Nelson, MD, vice president, Medical Affairs for BCBSA. “With millennials on track to become the largest generation in the near future, it’s critical that they’re taking their health maintenance seriously. Our plan is to address this issue now to ensure millennials, and all Americans, take a proactive role in maintaining their health and wellbeing.”

The Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report series, “The Health of Millennials,” examined the BCBS Health Index, a database of de-identified medical claims from more than 41 million commercially insured members of Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies. The findings revealed overall health begins to decline at the age of 27. 

Additional findings from the study are: 

  • Millennial women are 20% less healthy than their male counterparts, specifically driven by cases of major depression, type II diabetes and endocrine conditions. 
  • Millennials in southern states, particularly Alabama, West Virginia and Louisiana are the least healthy, while millennials in western states, such as California, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado are the healthiest. 

To identify key drivers of millennial health and how to improve it, BCBS companies will host Millennial Health Listening Sessions across the country. Through these workshops, BCBS companies will hear from millennials, leading health care experts, employers and digital leaders on how to improve the health of millennials. Independence Blue Cross will kick-start the listening sessions by hosting the first one on April 25 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

A millennial is someone who was born between 1981 and 1996, and there are nearly 73 million millennials in the U.S. right now – the second largest generation among commercially insured Americans. Gen Xers were born between 1965 and 1980. 

This is the 26th study of the Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report® series. For more information, visit https://www.bcbs.com/the-health-of-america
 

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