From Summer Jobs to Sunset Jobs: Time to Redefine the U.S. Workforce

It’s been an interesting week in labor news. First, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics detailed that there’s a chronic shortage of skilled labor to fill data and computer jobs here domestically. CNBC reported, “By 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer science–related jobs available in the U.S. but only 400,000 graduates with the skills necessary to fill them.”

Business meeting, reviewing dataIt’s been an interesting week in labor news. First, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics detailed that there’s a chronic shortage of skilled labor to fill data and computer jobs here domestically. CNBC reported, “By 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer science-related jobs available in the U.S. but only 400,000 graduates with the skills necessary to fill them.”

Second, the Economist noted that teens having a summer job for spending cash, saving up for a car or school, or other purposes peaked in 1978 – with 72 percent of U.S. teens holding such employment. In 2016, the figure had fallen to a paltry 43 percent, primarily for two reasons: First, “parents tell their children to study, take courses, volunteer or practise for sports that might help them compete for college places.” Second is a changing job market — namely higher minimum wages force employers to look for more permanent employment and a safer (proven) worker, often not a youngster.

And third, and perhaps the most profound of all, the 21st Century in America is introducing an entirely new “life” stage, “the new old” or “pre-tirees”– who are beginning to change and challenge the 20th Century pattern of education, work, retirement. Last century’s three-stage pattern for work made sense when life expectancies were not much extended after useful employment. Today, forcibly retiring folks at 65 is unsustainable and breeds resentment. Why should older able workers have to retire, when such people still want to contribute professionally — and increasingly need to do so — from 65 to say, 70, 80, 85 and onward? Stressing here, should they want to do so.

Everything needs to change in society to meet this pattern … pensions, of course. But also management. We should reset labor workforce expectations — “peak earning years” do not need to presage full-blown work stoppage. Many over 65 would willingly choose to work at least part-time, because they either have to financially (many retirees are ill-prepared with savings) or simply don’t want to be idle — and they can’t seem to switch gears from professional work to volunteering or hobbies and being alone and isolated.

So all those Baby Boomers working in summer jobs in the 1960s and 70s, well perhaps it’s time to have this generation in sunset jobs in their fields in the 2010s and 20s. With Generation X and Millennials doing so behind them.

Instead of kicking higher-salaried mature folks out the door whole scale, why not offer them, or incentivize them to “pre-retirement” jobs — instead of “early retirement” and no job. Unleash a consulting economy. Enterprises benefit from multi-generational decision-making, institutional history and business experience — innovation is hardly the domain of only the young and less experienced. Innovation belongs to everyone, and work in one’s profession is for the most part enjoyable.

Look, we have a huge shortage of computer science and data professionals in the U.S. economy — and probably other fields, too. We can either find ways to fill the education gap so that these jobs and skills — and well-paying jobs — stay at home. We can allow undocumented and foreign students graduating with these skills to stay in America– and ensure they are welcomed here. And, we can lessen the haste to show older workers the door. Reverse that mindset entirely: it’s time to keep near-retirees in growth fields — perhaps all fields — engaged and working for the health of the bottom line.

And for the health of a whole lot else.

How to Train and Retain Your Millennial Workforce in 2017

As we wrap up budget season and plan for 2017, one question should be on the minds of sales leaders: Is your company prepared to effectively train and retain your Millennial sales force?

Millennial marketerAs we wrap up budget season and plan for 2017, one question should be on the minds of sales leaders:

Is your company prepared to effectively train and retain your Millennial sales force?

As of 2015, the Millennials are the largest segment of the workforce. They learn differently, work differently and think differently than previous generations. And as Generation Z begins to enter the workforce, many sales organizations will have four generations working side by side:

  • Baby-Boomers (1945-64)
  • Gen X (1965-80)
  • Millennials (1981-95)
  • Gen Z (1996-2010)

So, is your company well positioned to handle the needs of your Millennial sales representatives?

Consider how your company stacks up against the following statement:

To inspire the millennial learners of today, sales training must be accessible anytime, anywhere and in ways that are structured, yet flexible, personalized, interactive, stimulating and social.

To compete in the war for talent, effectively on-board, develop and retain Millennials, we believe that the above statement outlines the absolute minimum for leading companies over the next two to three years.

Let’s break it down:

1. Accessible Anytime, Anywhere

Millennials want answers now! Millennial learners have grown up as digital natives; Millennials turn to Google for instantaneous response to any burning question they may have. Whether during the workday, or at 9:30 p.m., “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

2. Structured

Millennials crave structure. Many started in structured soccer at the age of three and grew up with parent-arranged “play dates.” No other generation has grown up with this much structure. As a result, Millennials continue to yearn for structure within their careers. Contrary to popular belief, they are not looking for “participation trophies,” but rather, want to compare how their results stack up to the developed competencies for their position. They expect structured sales processes from which they can learn, master, and be measured against.

3. Flexible

Millennials prefer to learn from a variety of channels and formats: e-learning, mobile video, virtual classrooms, and podcasts should be used alongside direct coaching and instructor-led, in-person training.  A comprehensive curriculum that leverages a variety of these formats engages Millennials more effectively, resulting in greater retention of training concepts.

4. Personalized

Millennials have been told they are special. Perhaps by their parents, but definitely by the data-driven, hyper-personalized business world around them. As the most digital savvy generation to enter the workforce, they have an unconscious expectation that onboarding programs will be personalized as well. Companies can meet that expectation by beginning the onboarding process with an objective assessment, creating a Personal Learning Portal (PRP) and converting to a customized curriculum as outlined above.

5. Interactive

Millennials have grown up with control and continuous feedback … so it’s no wonder that interactive learning appeals to this generation. They crave a learning environment where they can interact with their coaches, as well as collaborate with their peers. To start, we recommend push/pull learning. A simple example would be to “push” a series of objections to the millennial learner and ask them to effectively handle the objection by video recording their response through their smartphone (see process graphics below). Statistics show that the millennial will practice their response 5.6 times before sending.  The manager then either prompts the learner to do it again or grades the response and enters the results into their Personalized Learning Portal.

  • Manager/Coach pushes a video objection to the salesperson/learner
  • Learner receives the “push” learning exercise and begins recording their response on their laptop or smartphone
  • Learner records their response, reviews it and decides whether it is good enough to send “average learner discards approximately five practice tries before sending best effort)
  • Manager/Coach reviews video response and decides whether to: Prompt for new response and Grade conversation
  • Manager/Coach grades response and posts to Personalized Learning Portal
The sample images above are a product of Rehearsal VRP
The sample images above are a product of Rehearsal VRP.

6. Stimulating

Content is everything and Millennials want to understand the “why” and connect training exercises to real-world application. Therefore, you must stress the real-world benefits of each learning experience. Let them know what they can expect to take away from their time investment, such as the skills they will develop, and how it applies to real-world challenges.

7. Social

Given the popularity of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat, etc., it’s safe to say that millennial learners thrive in social environments. They are comfortable collaborating with one another and have no problem sharing personal experiences with their peers.  They place a high value on social currency (i.e., “Likes”), which is a different kind of motivational force than money.  As such, leaders who make a point to single out someone’s practice video (see No. 5) and share it on a company “Knowledge Web” will not only help other employees learn from their peers, but also motivate the employee who created the practice video to continue their good work.

While embracing the needs of the Millennial generation may seem complex, we believe that the maxim “progressive improvement is better than postponed perfection” applies. There are two types of companies we see competing in the war for talent:

  1. Those who complain about it
  2. Those who are doing something about it

At Butler Street, we specialize in developing comprehensive learning curriculum for your sales, recruiting and customer service organizations leveraging a wide variety of formats and incorporating into a best-in-class Learning Management System (LMS). It starts with our Comprehensive Learning Assessment. Click CONTACT to learn more.

Click here to read PI Blogger Bill Farquharson’s recent blog post on Millennial Sales Speak