Engagement meter (Photo: Olivier Le Moal/Essentials/Getty Images)

Photo: Olivier Le Moal/Essentials/Getty Images

The most critical issue facing our industry today is attracting and retaining people. At least this is what we continue to hear. However, I think the issue is more nuanced than that, and it’s important to identify the correct problem in order to solve it. I believe a more accurate problem definition is as follows:

From my perspective, the most significant challenge today is with an older generation not seeking to understand the emerging expectations of a new generation and implementing changes needed to engage this generation.

According to extensive Gallup research, there are six emerging workplace expectations of millennials. These are six big shifts that every employer needs to be aware of and react to. I’ll be exploring each of these in future articles. In this article, I want to simply lay a foundation.

Most business owners and senior leaders in our industry are baby boomers (55-73) and Gen Xers (40-54). Generally speaking, I don’t see these generations trying to understand the new generation of workers. In fact, I see just the opposite. They’re expecting millennials (22-38) and Gen Zers (22 and under) to “suck it up” and conform to them, not the other way around. There are exceptions, of course, but they are rare.

Because of this, these older leaders approach the attract-and-retain-people issue with a focus on getting people in the door (recruitment) and appeasement (their version of retention). After all, that has been a proven formula for their entire lives. Until now.

Some of you are reading this and saying to yourself, “Are you kidding me? These spoiled, lazy, entitled snowflakes who don’t show up for interviews need to be understood and coddled even more? Give me a break…” I understand this reaction, but I also know that it leads us in the wrong direction.

I know many baby boomers who have left the industry. That’s an option. Another option is to be open to change. That’s a better option, actually. After all, if you’re a boomer, your children and grandchildren are probably millennials and Gen Zers. Wouldn’t it be good to understand them and learn how to engage them in the workforce?

Besides, what’s the alternative? Millennials are now the largest generation of our workforce. To remain viable, it might be a good idea to understand this workforce. However, much of what has been written about millennials is not accurate, and employers are making bad decisions in an effort to appease them.

According to Gallup, millennials are the least-engaged generation, which is not an indictment on millennials but an indictment on us. Only 29 percent of millennials are engaged at work, 55 percent are not engaged and 16 percent are actively disengaged. That’s not good. In addition, 21 percent have changed jobs within the last year, six in 10 are open to different job opportunities, and only 50 percent plan to be with their company one year from now.

Here’s the thing: Millennials aren’t changing jobs to move up. They’re changing jobs in search of an employer who understands them, cares about them and where their expectations will be met. They have the luxury of doing so because they can. Millennials are unattached, unconstrained, idealistic and connected. The reality is that they don’t need you and your job. They can go anywhere and do anything. If we don’t engage them, we will lose them.

Let’s continue this discussion next month.

Now go forth.

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About the Author:

Phil Harwood is a Senior Advisor with Tamarisk Business Advisors. Contact him at

1 Comment on "High Performance: Solve the labor crisis by identifying the correct problem"

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  1. Excellent article Phil…you nailed it! You can object to gravity all day long, but see what trying to ignore or defy it gets you!

    And that’s from an old-timer in his 60’s that gets it!