Take a couple minutes today and simply look out onto the production floor of your contact center. Chances are pretty great that you are seeing a diverse group of people that span across several generations. If so, you are certainly not alone. For the first time in history our workforce is comprised of four generations, and that will jump to five by 2020!
In The 2020 Workplace by Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd, it is disclosed that within 7 years, Millennials ‐ people born between 1977 and 1997 – will account for almost 50% of employees. For anyone in a managerial position, that is a figure worthy of consideration. A single generation is going to consume nearly the majority of available jobs, while an additional four generations will be the remainder.
The generations prior to Millennials are usually referred to as Gen X (1965‐1976), Baby Boomers (1946‐1964), and the Traditionalists (before 1945). Gen 2020 currently refers to anyone born after 1997.
Each generation comes with their own view of the workplace and their own career intentions. The Traditionalists are considered to be disciplined and loyal, and the Boomers experimental, hard‐working and team‐players. Gen X is independent, entrepreneurial, and looking for a challenge, while the Millennials demand high work‐life balance, are confident, and desire immediacy. And we anticipate that Gen 2020 will be optimistic and have even higher expectations than the preceding generation.
Of course, demographics are generalizations and can’t account for all scenarios, and won’t apply to all organizations. They can, however, help with establishing trends and assist in preparing for certain employee behaviors and expectations.
What we do know for certain, is that technology is the major differentiator between the generations. As our workforce expands, the comfort level disparity with computers, mobile devices, tablets, gaming, and social media does too. The Millennials will not just expect, but require that their work environment be as digital and interactive as possible. On the other side, the Traditionalists and Boomers will need more training and time to adjust as we incorporate concepts and tools that they did not grow up with.
So, it is imperative that contact centers look at their recruiting, hiring and retention plans for not just the Millennials, but for all generations. And they need to be looking at those plans NOW.
Here are just a few ways that contact centers can prepare for the ever-changing workforce:
- Create training programs that appeal to all learning styles. This will need to include in‐classroom training and online or virtual sessions. Gamification techniques will be more effective for the younger generations in training and performance management.
- Ensure career paths are available for everyone. In many cases, this may mean coaching and mentoring opportunities that allow each generation to share their strengths and experiences with others.
- Be prepared to teach the practicality of social media and emerging technologies. It is important to not just teach the basics, but also the purpose.
- Introduce flexibility in technology and workplace conditions. Offering innovative workspaces, choices in technology, and flexible hours will attract a varied and robust workforce.
- Review HR policies and consider making them more adaptable to the generations. Customized benefits t hat take into consideration the differing priorities of the workforce can be a great retention program. Offer financial planning and life skills, as well as different medial options.
There is a great benefit to any company and every contact center by appreciating the talents of the generations in our workforce. Each brings a unique perspective to the collective that ultimately creates a stronger team. It will be up to the managers to harness these talents, and provide the appropriate incentives and motivation to increase performance and maintain attrition levels.
Sarah Stealey Reed
Sarah is the Content Director for ICMI, where she is responsible for the editorial content and community engagement strategy for icmi.com. She’s a writer, blogger, and social poster, and often speaks on Customer Support and Emerging Channels at national events and through webinars.
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