Companies are having to adapt their workforce management and motivation strategies to fit a new generation of employees, says Steve Johnson, principal at Johnson Stephens Consulting. Money alone is not sufficient to motivate Gens X and Y, he says.
"New generations want more feedback that lets them see their career path more clearly," he says." They want to know that what they are doing makes a difference." These workers also are concerned about an employer's sustainability policies and they want time for life outside of work, he says.
Johnson led a roundtable on this topic at the recent conference of the Warehouse Education and Research Council in Orlando. "One of the key things that came out of this discussion was the importance of cross-training younger employees and empowering them to do more than just one process, he says. "They want to be responsible for an entire task, not just for one step, so that they can see and take ownership of the outcome," Johnson says.
Keeping new employees motivated is more difficult in today's environment because so many retirement age workers are not able to retire or are even re-entering the workforce, Johnson says. "Companies need to get creative about making sure that younger workers see their place in the organization and that they are included in decisions about how their jobs are structured," he says.
This can help avoid a loss of productivity due to job security concerns, he says. "About one in every four workers today are looking over their shoulders, waiting for the next layoff," he says. "One estimate says that 2.5 billion person-days were lost in 2009 to this phenomenon, tagged "presenteeism," to indicate workers whose bodies are on the job but whose minds and focus may be elsewhere.
One way companies are seeking to improve productivity is with labor management systems, which are designed to fine-tune a company's labor standards and improve the job performance of individual workers. This last capability is one that companies need to handle carefully to avoid a perception of "Big Brother Is Watching You," says Andy Recard , vice president of labor management solutions at TZA, who also was interviewed at the WERC conference. While younger workers say they want more feedback about their performance, they are not necessarily comfortable with continuous electronic monitoring, he says.
"Often in the past companies have kept performance records but they have been done using manual calculations. With LMS solutions, these calculations are very dynamic, very specific and very granular, so individuals are provided with very accurate and fair standard performance metrics."
Additionally, LMS systems also pull data from other sources, such as a time clock or other attendance records, "to provide a true, overall picture of an employee's performance," he says. "With a shortage of skilled workers and with healthcare costs going up, companies need to be able to objectively evaluate employees so they can hold on to workers that are really helping meet the corporation's goals.
These systems can also support incentive or pay-for-performance programs.
"Pay for performance still works well if it is tied to specific performance metrics," says Johnson. "No one would go to a ballgame without a scoreboard, but a lot of work places have no scoreboard."
"When done right, incentives can be very successful," says Recard. "I have seen them increase performance another 5 percent to 10 percent above the engineered labor standard." When poorly managed, however, incentive programs can lead to very poor morale or culture, he warns. "Companies need to make sure their management is trained and prepared to work in the highly charged environment that performance incentives can create."
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