Dr Kohl: The Future of People Management: Part 1
11/19/2018
Dr. Dave Kohl
grain falling into a container

Dave Kohl

Whether it is the CEO of a billion-dollar organization, an independent small-business person or a manager in a private or public business, people management can be a differentiator on the bottom line. I have had the opportunity to conduct strategic planning with many businesses. After conducting SWOT analyses to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and evaluating written surveys of workers, management and company boards, it is clear that employee retention is a major issue for many businesses.

Retaining employees has become more difficult due to the red-hot general economy, low unemployment and increased worker mobility. Changes in organizational structures and shifts in employee motivators are also impacting employee retention.

My time spent conducting research as an educator, managing a business and interacting with other business owners and employees of all demographics has led me to conclude that employee retention is most difficult to manage in the younger generation of workers. Let’s examine some of the strategic shifts from the old-school generations versus the new-school generations.

The younger generations consist of the millennials, Generation Z and the self-proclaimed Generation A. We will focus our attention on the millennials as the younger generations have yet to fully reach the workforce.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an analysis of the 18- to 28-year-old demographic in 2016 finds that these employees had an average of 7.2 jobs during the first decade of their working life. Another interesting survey finding is that 91 percent of millennials expect to stay in a job less than three years, according to Future Workplace.

It is estimated that losing a millennial employee costs an organization between $15,000 and $25,000, according to a survey conducted by Millennial Branding. These costs are primarily related to training investments, productivity disruptions and other activities related to hiring and retaining the workforce. One CEO indicated that this estimate was more likely near six figures; however, this was in an area with high income levels.

Because of increased life spans, this is the first time four generations are active in the workforce. This is creating tensions in the workplace dynamic. The old school of thought regarding organizational structure was more about control of employees, delivering orders and monitoring output. They also put more value on job descriptions. The new generation wants an organization with structure and defined responsibilities. Generally speaking, they enjoy being part of creating their own job descriptions.

Hopefully, I have piqued your curiosity concerning generational differences. In the next column, I will discuss more of these generational issues and perspectives.

Dr. Kohl is Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Finance and Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Dr. Kohl has traveled over 8 million miles throughout his professional career and has conducted more than 6,000 workshops and seminars for agricultural groups such as bankers, Farm Credit, FSA, and regulators, as well as producer and agribusiness groups. He has published four books and over 1,300 articles on financial and business-related topics in journals, extension, and other popular publications.


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