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The Changing and Diverse Workforce

19 January, 2016 - 15:28

Human resources should be aware that the workforce is constantly changing. For example, in the 2010 census, the national population was 308,745,538, with 99,531,000 in 2010 working full time, down from 2008 when 106,648,000 were working full time.  1 For full-time workers, the average weekly salary was higher the more educated the worker. See  Figure 1.6 for details

Figure 1.3 The average weekly earnings for workers in the United States increase with more education. Source: Data from US Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Usual Weekly Earnings of Wage and Salary Workers,” Table 5, Economic News Release, July 20, 2010, accessed August 19, 2011,

Fortune 500 Focus

Multigenerational is here to stay, and Xerox is the leader in recruiting of Generation Y talent. This age group has been moving into the labor market over the last six years, and this major demographic change, along with the retirement of baby boomers, has many companies thinking. Fortune 500 companies know they must find out where their new stars are coming from. In recruiting this new talent, Xerox isn’t looking to old methods, because they know each generation is different. For example, Xerox developed the “Express Yourself” recruiting campaign, which is geared around a core value of this generation, to develop solutions and change. Joe Hammill, the director of talent acquisition, says, “Gen Y is very important. Xerox and other companies view this emerging workforce as the future of our organization.” 2 Besides the new recruiting campaign, recruiters are working at what they term “core colleges”—that is, those that produce the kind of talent they need. For example, they developed recruitment campaigns with specific institutions such as the Rochester Institute of Technology because of its strong engineering and printing science programs. On their company website, they have a specific tab for the recent college graduate, emphasizing core values of this generation, including the ability to contribute, support, and build skills. With its understanding of multicultural generations, Xerox has created a talent pool for years to come.

It is expected that over the next ten years, over 40 percent of the workforce will retire, and there will not be enough younger workers to take the jobs once held by the retiring workforce. 3  In fact, the American Society of Training and Development says that in the next twenty years, seventy-six million Americans will retire, and only forty-six million will replace them. As you can imagine, this will create a unique staffing obstacle for human resources and managers alike, as they try to find talented people in a pool that doesn’t have enough people to perform necessary jobs. The reason for this increase in retirement is the aging baby boomers. Baby boomers can be defined as those born between the years 1946 and 1964, according to the Census Bureau. They are called the baby boomers because there was a large increase of babies born after soldiers came back from World War II. Baby boomers account for seventy-six million people in the United States in 2011, the same year in which the first of the baby boomers have started to retire.

The impact of the baby boomer generation on our country and on human resource management is huge. First, the retirement of baby boomers results in a loss of a major part of the working population, and there are not enough people to fill those jobs that are left vacant. Second, the baby boomers’ knowledge is lost upon their retirement. Much of this knowledge isn’t formalized or written down, but it contributes to the success of business. Third, elderly people are living longer, and this results in higher health-care costs for all currently in the workforce. It is estimated that three out of five baby boomers do not have enough money saved for retirement, 4 meaning that many of them will depend on Social Security payments to meet basic needs. However, since the Social Security system is a pay-as-you-go system (i.e., those paying into the system now are paying for current retirees), there may not be enough current workers to cover the current Social Security needs. In fact, in 1950 there were 16 workers to support each Social Security beneficiary, but today there are only 3.3 workers supporting each beneficiary. 5 The implications can mean that more will be paid by current workers to support retirees.

As a result of the aging workforce, human resources should keep abreast of changes in Social Security legislation and health-care costs, which will be discussed in "Compensation and Benefits". In addition, human resource managers should review current workers’ skill levels and monitor retirements and skills lost upon those retirements, which is part of strategic planning. This will be discussed in "Developing and Implementing Strategic HRM Plans". Having knowledge about current workers and skills, as well as predicting future workforce needs, will be necessary to deal with the challenges of an aging workforce.

Human Resource Recall

Have you ever worked in a multigenerational organization? What were some of the challenges in working with people who may have grown up in a different era?

Another challenge, besides lack of workers, is the multigenerational workforce. Employees between the ages of seventeen and sixty-eight have different values and different expectations of their jobs. Any manager who tries to manage these workers from varying generations will likely have some challenges. Even compensation preferences are different among generations. For example, the traditional baby boomer built a career during a time of pensions and strongly held values of longevity and loyalty to a company. Compare the benefit needs of this person to someone who is younger and expects to save through a 401(k) plan, and it is clear that the needs and expectations are different. 6  Throughout this book, we will discuss compensation and motivational strategies for the multigenerational workforce.

Awareness of the diversity of the workforce will be discussed in "Diversity and Multiculturalism", but laws regarding diversity will be discussed throughout the book. Diversity refers to age, disability, race, sex, national origin, and religion. Each of these components makes up the productive workforce, and each employee has different needs, wants, and goals. This is why it is imperative for the HRM professional to understand how to motivate the workforce, while ensuring that no laws are broken. We will discuss laws regarding diversity (and the components of diversity, such as disabilities) in "Diversity and Multiculturalism",

Figure 1.4 Demographic Data for the United States by Race Source: Map courtesy of the US Census Department.

"Recruitment", "Selection", "Compensation and Benefits", and  "Retention and Motivation".