Winning workforce strategies for a new generation of talent

As millennials start to flood the IT workforce, organizations must make dramatic changes to their workforce strategies to attract, retain and engage a new generation of talent.

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Redefined for a new generation

Outside of technology, organizations need to redefine themselves and emphasize their cool factor, says Jewell Parkinson, head of HR for SAP North America. "When it comes down to it, what we're trying to do is redefine what it means to be 'cool' at SAP. To reach talent that may have heard of us, but who don't believe they'd fit in because we're not a hot new startup; we're emphasizing that the work is fun and rewarding and that they'll be challenged and find mission and purpose if they work here," Parkinson says.

Culture is a key differentiator for millennials as they look for employment, says Parkinson. This generation wants more than just a paycheck - they want to see that their work directly impacts a greater corporate mission and vision, and they want to be recognized and rewarded for meaningful work. "We are emphasizing culture as a key enabler of our long-term success. We want to represent the mission and values of our employees through our culture authentically by providing meaningful work a fun, challenging environment and fair pay," she says.

Streamlined recruiting and hiring

One area SAP's focusing on is improving processes around recruiting, hiring and performance management, according to Parkinson. A simplified, streamlined process makes it easier for great talent to find their place at SAP, and for SAP to identify and attract hot talent.

"We want to find the simplest, most intuitive and harmonious process for attracting and hiring talent, and also focus on improving our dialogue and feedback process once they're hired. Millennials are looking for ongoing mentoring and coaching, so we're emphasizing informal dialogues around performance instead of the twice a year performance reviews," she says.

Simplify the work itself

Parkinson says simplifying the process by which work is done is another focus for SAP. This involves making remote work opportunities, flexible work schedules and other work-life-balance-friendly policies available to more talent to support the new way work is done.

"We want to make getting work done easier for all our people through cutting-edge tech, through easier access from any location, through our mobile device strategy. For us, looking at ways we can remove complexity and obstacles to productivity is a huge part of this strategy," Parkinson says.

Increase diversity

With five generations of talent in the workforce at once, it's important to focus on diversity, Parkinson says. Whether that means inclusivity based on age, race, ethnicity or sex, diversity must be a crucial part of a successful business strategy.

"All of this diversity is impacting the workforce, and there's a huge opportunity to grow our reach and our knowledge base by recruiting diverse talent. So we've introduced awareness programs around diversity and around understanding and identifying the unconscious biases that exist and how to combat those," she says.

Emphasize learning and continuing education

What employees fear more than anything is becoming irrelevant; that their skills will become obsolete, says Parkinson. To address that, she says SAP is taking a bullish approach to ongoing learning to keep skills fresh and employees engaged.

"We want to have a very holistic learning experience to keep our talent motivated and their skills relevant. We're organizing the experience so that it's much more role-based and targeted to their specific career path, but also working on making it easily accessible through mobile technology, social media and collaboration. We've also put analytics in place so we can see outcomes and measure the ROI of these initiatives," she says.

A clear path for growth

Finally, showing workers that there's a clear path for growth and development within an organization is key to attracting and retaining millennial talent, Parkinson says. Part of that is an increased focus on transparency so workers know where they've been as well as where they're likely to go.

"We want to be able to see what skills they have, what their potential is, how upwardly mobile they are, what their pay is compared to others in the company and in the industry as a whole. Are they engaged? What are they learning and what do they want to learn? How can we best support those desires? Clearing a path for growth will make sure we're being proactive, not reactive, to changing market conditions," Parkinson says.

Final Thoughts

Implementing successful workforce strategies and leveraging cutting-edge technology won't happen overnight, but by doing so, businesses can more effectively compete in a fast-paced, ever-changing IT business landscape.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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