Motivating the New Workforce: Strategies to Attract and Retain

October 28, 2021 Oak Street Funding

Motivating the New Workforce

Today, owners and managers who are part of the Baby Boomer and late Gen X cohorts often find themselves baffled by the choices and actions of the Millennial and Gen Z age groups. But those owners and managers must develop strategies for motivating the new workforce, as Zenefits reminds us that Gen Z will make up 30 percent of the workforce by 2030, eclipsing the number of Boomers and Millennials.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic and a healthy economy has further complicated matters as business owners and managers grapple with an environment in which finding good talent appears to be more difficult than ever and keeping high performing employees in their companies is a constant challenge.

That's why it pays to take time to look beyond common stereotypes and better understand what motivates the actions and behaviors of Millennials and Gen Zers.

Worker attitudes and how they differ

It's easy to accept common assumptions about generational cohorts, such as the idea that Gen Zers only care about technology and Millennials have no interest in moving into management. Those assumptions are oversimplified and rarely apply to everyone.

Although Millennials have been in the workforce for a couple of decades, companies still struggle to understand their motivations. One theme is clear, however, and that's the reality Millennials are less motivated by money and traditional measures of prestige (such as a big title or corner office).

Instead, most prefer to work for companies that share their personal values and want to be confident they're performing meaningful work that contributes to advancing those values. Baby Boomers entered the workforce accepting the basic concept that they would have to work hard in their early years for a shot at high-level jobs decades down the road. By contrast, Millennials aren’t willing to wait to have an impact.

Millennials also value flexible work environments and fitting work around their personal lives instead of the other way around. As Gen Zers have entered the workplace, they've shared that desire for flexibility. The first generation to grow up with smartphones sees the digital world as a natural extension of life.

Equipped with the latest technology throughout school, they can be disappointed when they discover their new workplace's technology lags behind the times and become eager to update to advanced technologies.

Both cohorts embrace inclusion and diversity, welcoming the opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds and expecting equal opportunities for everyone.

Attracting the new workforce

Creating workplaces and opportunities that will draw the new workforce may generate discomfort for more veteran managers and owners who are more accustomed to neatly ordered offices and top-down organizations.

Flexibility, purpose, and inclusion are more important to these groups than a company’s history or reputation. Younger workers also place a higher value on authenticity and environment. For example, if a company says it embraces diversity, but a walk through the offices reveals very little of that quality, a candidate is unlikely to believe the claim. Businesses have to walk the walk to be considered.

In fact, the hiring process has shifted to some degree from candidates explaining why they’re the best choice for employers to companies convincing those candidates that they offer the right environment for the next stage in their careers. Workers also expect companies to be more open and transparent about plans and expectations.

Strategies to consider

Attracting and motivating the new workforce is not about offering one thing or demonstrating a specific trait. It involves developing new attitudes toward business that align with the values and objectives of prospective candidates, then supporting and encouraging them once they become members of the team. Ideally, your workplace will consider all of the strategies indicated below.

Provide flexibility. This is a primary issue for many in the new workforce who seek to develop a balanced work-life balance. Being generous with time off, allowing work to be performed from home and other locations, and accommodating needs for childcare and eldercare will encourage workers to give their best performance while they’re at work.

Embrace technology. Everything from smartphones to social media is an integral part of life for the younger workforce. In addition to keeping the company's technology up to date, it involves being tolerant of different work habits. For example, a Gen Z employee who's typing during a meeting is accustomed to multitasking. She isn't rude; she's more productive.

Practice inclusion. Your offices should be welcoming places that reflect the population of the communities you serve. Having (and enforcing) policies that support that environment is part of the equation, but a clear and open commitment on the part of leadership matters even more.

Celebrate success. The new workforce is accustomed to receiving supportive messages from family, friends, and social media networks. Public recognition for personal achievements and jobs well done will go a long way.

Deliver development. As team members master their roles, offer opportunities for professional development, whether that’s a new position or training in an additional skill set. Career growth makes people more effective employees and helps them become more marketable (an important consideration in today’s more mobile workforce).

Create paths. Today's workforce may not talk about advancement as much as their predecessors, but they do want to progress in their careers. Creating defined plans for advancement formalizes the process and helps them set goals. Discuss, review and have them update their career plans at each yearly review.

Provide autonomy. If team members find their work meaningful and satisfying, they shouldn’t need to have supervisors looking over their shoulders. Giving an assignment and the time and space to accomplish it builds trust for both sides.

Stay transparent. People can see through deception and weasel-wording. Share news about the company and its health and be honest about it. Workers are naturally curious, encouraging that curiosity is a way to enhance their sense of ownership.

Reward innovation. Another way to motivate today’s workforce is to reward them for coming up with ideas that improve business processes and client relationships. When someone comes up with a bright idea that advances the company, publicly recognizing them will encourage others to do the same.

Getting the funding you need

If you want to increase headcount or need to freshen up your technology resources to meet growth, you may be hesitant to dip into your working capital.

That’s when it may make sense to consider a loan to fund those activities that should lead to growth and higher profitability. If you seek out funding, you'll probably find that traditional sources such as community banks can be uncomfortable making loans that aren't backed by collateral or personal guarantees.

An alternate for many companies is specialty lenders that are accustomed to working with your industry. Such lenders understand how a business like yours operates and are familiar with the nature of your income streams so that they can approach the underwriting with realistic expectations and an appreciation for inherent risks.

A growing number of business owners in your industry are turning to specialty lenders like Oak Street Funding, who are accustomed to working with businesses like yours.

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Disclaimer: Please note, Oak Street Funding does not provide legal or tax advice. This blog is for informational purposes only. It is not a statement of fact or recommendation, does not constitute an offer for a loan, professional or legal or tax advice or legal opinion and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining valuation services or professional, legal or tax advice.

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