Square Peg in a Round Hole…or How to Fit a Nontraditional Workforce into a Traditional Workplace

Last week, I was at the UPSTART LIVE Spring Summit New Strategies & Solutions in the Global War for Talent as the opening second-day keynote speaker of the conference. This event had a unique focus—it was highlighting HR recruiting in the Oil and Gas industry.  Since I was keynoting the opening on the second day, I decided to make good use of my time and attend some of the first-day presentations.

The conference had a sweeping range of topics and interactive sessions along with peer-to-peer round tables. (Jeff Hurt, you would have been pleased.) Because my subject matter for my address was around the generations succeeding together in the workplace, I was very interested in some of the generational success stories shared by several of the corporate participants.

It was like adding fuel to my tank … a lot of my long-held concepts were confirmed as I continued to listen, learn, and grow.  Now I want to shout from the mountaintop because I am so excited to share what I have learned. For years, I have been saying that in our world today when we talk about the generations in the workplace, we have to realize that the core conflict arises from trying to fit an increasing nontraditional workforce into a traditional work environment.

Here are a few things I discovered at the conference:

1. LinkedIn is where the future of recruiting lies. Attending this session was so amazing and informative. Chris Kelleher, senior sales manager at LinkedIn shared the power of LinkedIn sourcing tools and employment branding services.  He mentioned  that companies and organizations must have a strong brand presence on LinkedIn and candidates need to get active in using key words and updating profiles.

2. There was a lot of emphasis placed on the knowledge gap. Back 30 to 40 years ago, there was a tremendous hiring of engineers who stayed in the oil and gas industry. These Boomers have gained a huge amount of knowledge and experience in that industry, and they need to share the knowledge before they retire. Some people have suggested mentoring programs, but I was excited to hear David Kent speak. David is the founder of Houston’s Oilpro.com, which is an oil and gas social network launched to bridge the industry’s generation gap. David said that Oilpro is an online community of oil and gas professionals interested in connecting with colleagues, advancing their skills, building credibility around their expertise, staying current, and exploring exciting new opportunities.

3. I got excited as I heard about all the innovative things that oil and gas companies are doing to KEEP the talent.  Here are some of the findings and solutions:

Meyerland Harris HR at HEB grocery stores, which hires many Gen Ys and Gen Zs, shared these suggestions when managing the younger workforce:

1. Explain your company’s vision

2. Prioritize community service

3. Develop in-between steps and titles

4. Give encouragement and regular feedback

5. Be flexible with schedules

6. Provide educational and personal development

 

Laura Ramey, VP of HR at Crestwood Midstream, shared her experiences working with Boomers. She said that the most important thing to remember when engaging Boomers is to remember to give them attention and recognition. Boomers like to know that they are still in the loop, and that they are motivated by being valued and needed. (How about that for switching perspectives?)

Edda Tinis, the Learning and Development Director for Air Liquide, has worked on programs that successfully increased retention rates for both Gen X and Y employees for more than 10 years.In 2000, Air Liquide created a two-year rotation for all new college  hires. The programs consist of four different rotations each lasting six months.  In addition to the tech/operations/rotations, new hires have training in really interesting and necessary subjects such as networking, career development, the FISH Philosophy, negotiating skills, teamwork, CPR, safety and risk management, volunteer opportunities, and my favorite business—etiquette.

After hearing all this great information, I decided to shift my keynote address and put the focus on Gen X.  I challenged Gen X to take on the leadership role by understanding that the conflict arises from trying to fit an increasingly nontraditional workforce into a largely traditional workplace. Gen X can be the leaders of creating the new work environment by using their knowledge, creativity, and skill to lead, manage, and guide both the Boomers and the Gen Ys. (Thank you, Edda, for giving me the fuel.)

So, I appeal to you, Gen X. It’s up to you to help all of us understand and value the strengths and differences of each generational group—leverage the strengths of each and create a work environment that values differences.

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