Strategic Human Resources and Human Capital Development: Strategies for Managing the 21st Century Workforce

Article excerpt

Introduction

Organizations today, large or small, public or private, profit or not-for-profit, are faced with the daunting task of managing a "multi-generational" pool of employees. The various generations: Baby Boomers, Baby Busters, Generation X & Y all have differing and competing interests, needs and expectations that are placing a demand on organizations to embrace, cultivate and incorporate these needs within the organizational structure. Moreover, despite the real or perceived strengths that each group brings to the organization, the realities of the marketplace are placing a demand on the organizations as well (economic instability, downsizing, rightsizing, global competition, privatization, rapid technological advancements) to quickly find solutions and insure a competent workforce is in place and prepared to meet these challenges. These realities have caused management to rethink and ultimately abandon the traditional "one size fits all approach" to management in search of more creative, balanced and flexible strategies to manage the new/emerging populations.

Herein lies one of the perceived barriers to organizational effectiveness, not only are the various generations motivated by different incentives, but the American workforce is largely comprised of baby boomers who subsume approximately 76 million of today's workforce and are expected to remain in the workforce well beyond the retirement age. (2)

Moreover, boomers disproportionately comprise a larger share of the managerial and administrative positions in public organizations and are primarily responsible for managing many of the new entrants. These trends suggest that if organizations want to attract, retain and motivate Generations of younger employees, then it is imperative that policies, programs and strategies are developed to ensure the effective utilization and management of these employees and forces organizations to find solutions to these probing questions: How will these groups relate to one another?, What are the implications for workforce productivity?, What strategies/management tools are effective? Ineffective? How can each group work to capitalize on the strength and expertise of the other? The goal of this research seeks to answer these questions and to identify effective tools and techniques for managing the new workforce. These tools will include the utilization of census data, department of labor and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) statistics as well as identifying best practices through relevant literature in meeting the needs of these employees. The implications for recruitment, retention, human resource management policies and programs, technological advancements/communication will be used to guide this discussion.

Historical Overview and Problem Identification

One of the most pressing questions among management is how do we find a perfect medium among the diverse groups? However, before this question can be addressed, it is important to understand the various groups who comprise "the new American workforce". Baby Boomers, (first wave) were those born between 1946 and 1954 values, beliefs and work ethic were formed largely by the social, political and economic realties of their time: strong family values, strong sense of community, and a commitment to democracy. (3) These realities created a sense of pride, responsibility, obligation and loyalty to organizations and a need for "self-actualization." Management's response was simple: a good/healthy work environment, minimum training/development, and a good salary and benefit package in exchange for a consistently high level of productivity.

A recent workplace demographics study revealed that many baby boomers are planning to retire from their full time jobs. After retirement 8 in 10 baby boomers anticipate working after retirement. Baby boomers are currently the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. labor force, according to the Labor Department. …