Many years ago I gave a presentation to what was then called the Syracuse Chamber of Commerce on the overall subject of Employee Retention. It was a 3-hour presentation that I didn't get paid for but did it for the publicity and the practice. Today, I'd definitely get paid if I were doing this live.

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Instead, for now I've decided to do it as a series on this blog. I had titled my original presentation Understanding the 21st Century Workforce; thus, that's the overall theme of the next six posts, which includes this one. As always these items are my opinions on how I believe things are today. Yes, I've done my own bit of research, but this isn't a term paper so it's my thoughts based on what I've read. I hope you enjoy the series overall.

In my mind, you can't address any real issues until you have an idea in your mind of what employees are like in today's world and what they need and believe. Thus, let's get these things out of the way, since they lead to what will be talked about in the rest of the series.

What is it you need to know about today's employees? Obviously this isn't every single employee in the world; I don't know everyone. But these are general consensus responses I've seen and heard:

1. Today's employees don't trust you.

Why should they? How many employees end up losing their job for no reason whatsoever? How many companies will close at a moment's notice without warning because no one's communicating with employees? How many quality employees get passed over because someone else costs less money, or are from the outside because the company never promotes from within?

2. They know it's not a family .

Family; please! These days it seems like few companies actually take the time to even try to get to know who the employees are. With family like that who needs enemies? The days are gone where a person gets a job at an employer (outside of health care), stays there 40 years and introduces their children, their friend's children and everyone's grandchildren to the system. With companies more likely to get rid of older employees because they make too much money there's never any time for anyone to become "family"... which was always a myth anyway.

3. They don't believe they'll work for you forever.

There's almost no companies in the country anymore where someone knows they can start working at a place without going to college and stay for the next 50 years. Even teachers in some areas of the country are finding that the concept of tenure is being replaced or eliminated because of testing standards on them, regardless of where they happen to be teaching. And having a skill or a degree is no guarantee of longevity anywhere either.

4. They want more input in their job and duties.

Too many companies believe all employees want is money and they'll keep quiet and ride the straight and narrow. These days it's more about being content on the job and being able to have more say and input on what's going on. Let's face the fact that in most large companies they're the ones doing the work every day, so they know better what does and doesn't work.

5. They have more goals and aspirations for success.

What you're seeing with the young and educated crowd is a lot of job hunting early on. They're gathering skills from one place and taking those skills to other places that also end up offering them more money. If more companies don't start finding reasons to keep their own talent they're going to kill any creativity and emotion they could have used for their own businesses.

6. They're more willing to leave a job because of how they're being treated.

Between 2009 and 2012, when the unemployment level was very high, many pundits believed that more employees would stay at their current jobs for fear that they wouldn't be able to get another job. What they forgot is that those people with skills already working had lots of opportunities to move around because a lot of companies were looking for someone with real talent and took a lot of chances. The job market got much younger and more educated as long time employees were forced out for less expensive yet highly talented replacements. The generation that was used to being told how "special" they were lived it and some industries, like banking and other financial institutions, suffered greatly.

This is the introduction to the series. Here are the links to the articles in the rest of the series:

Understanding the 21st Century Workforce – Basic Do’s and Don’ts Part One

Understanding the 21st Century Workforce – Basic Do’s and Don’ts Part Two

Understanding the 21st Century Workforce – Basic Do’s and Don’ts Part Three

Understanding the 21st Century Workforce – Communications & Growth