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Mind the Gap

How managers are getting greater value from millennial and baby boomer employees

by Christopher Sowa

Christopher Sowa

Human resources and IT managers would do well to be attuned to two very different generations of employees rapidly growing in their workforce: millennials entering the workforce (born between 1982 and 2002) and baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) intent on working past the traditional retirement age of 65.

HR managers are becoming aware of the challenges millennials face as they enter the workforce. As a consultant, I have observed that single-threaded processes and mainframe function key environments often baffle this group of digital natives. These employees feel more comfortable with technology that enables multitasking, uses touchscreens, incorporates social networks, and takes advantage of mobile everything. They come into the workplace with a lot of confidence and are very interested in identifying how to add value to organizations.

HR is often less aware about the needs of baby boomers working past traditional retirement age. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of employees over age 65 has reached a record high, with more than a third of men and a quarter of women working past 65. Older employees often feel more comfortable using function key combinations, and find it slower to use visual interfaces such as the mouse and touchscreens. Due to their relative inexperience with new technologies, baby boomers are often overlooked as managers struggle to hire employees with critical skills. However, baby boomers with the base competency for these skills are often hidden in the organization.

Improved human capital management (HCM) capabilities can help organizations to increase the value and productivity levels of both these generations. For example, millennials can use HCM performance scorecards to understand how they can best add value to organizations. They can then leverage social capabilities and online training on their mobile devices to improve the skills they need to create this value.

There are important business implications to supporting millennials and baby boomers, and HR executives would benefit from communicating the needs of these constituencies to IT and advocating for new human capital management capabilities.

In a different (but equally powerful) way, baby boomers can be helped by competency management, learning management, and recruiting capabilities found in HCM technology solutions. With these tools, HR can catalog base competencies of baby boomers, link these competencies with new required skills, and then link base competencies with hard-to-fill job vacancies. For example, older employees may not have data scientist on their resume, but they may have an advanced degree in statistical research and analysis—which, with the right training, can be put to good use in dealing with big data.

Business process automation can institutionalize HCM best practices used by baby boomers to benefit other employees. If a productive baby boomer employee with deep cross-organizational knowledge uses several mainframe systems to rapidly bring new employees onboard, an automated process can capture the best practices. All new HCM process solutions should also be matched with current data and analytics tools to improve workforce management. This allows executives to create scenarios for deploying human capital to adjust to business changes in near real time. Such a capability could determine which areas of the business would benefit from new millennial hires, and where to redeploy baby boomer employees.

There are important business implications to supporting millennials and baby boomers, and HR executives would benefit from communicating the needs of these constituencies to IT and advocating for new human capital management capabilities. HR executives who make an active partnership with IT will not only aid employees on both sides of the generation gap, but will also serve the best interest of the business.  

Christopher Sowa is a senior director and services and energy industries lead, Oracle Industry Strategy and Insight.

 
 
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