For the first time in history, there are four generations – Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y - working side by side (AARP, 2007). Each generation shares a common set of formative events and trends which generally impacts the way they see the world – including the workplace. Labor shortages, delayed retirements and the economy are just some of the reasons different generations are blending in today’s workforce (AARP, 2007). This recent shift in workplace demographics has implications for many work environments across the country, including public and private child welfare agencies. In an effort to successfully meet the needs of children, youth and families, social work administrators will need to acknowledge the challenges resulting from varying generational perspectives and identify unique opportunities for multiple generations in the workplace.
A well-trained and dedicated workforce is critical to meet the needs of at-risk children, youth and families (Zlotnik, Strand & Anderson, 2009). As workforce trends shifts, child welfare agencies have to take a closer look at the recruitment and retention of staff, management approaches, trainings, and agency policies to ensure they reflect the needs of a multigenerational workforce. Ninety percent of states indicated experiencing challenges in both the recruitment and retention of child welfare staff (Torrico Meruvia, 2010; Whitaker, et al., 2004). Recruitment approaches across generations can differ. For instance, some generations may use Linked In and other internet resources to conduct job searches while others may still rely on in-person networking or newspaper ads. In addition, agency work-life balance. However, agencies may also find that young parents, grandparents or employees caring for their parents may find policies allowing telecommuting or flexible hours important when seeking a position. These types of options can help to both recruit and retain employees.
With the changes in the workforce, child welfare supervisors can observe their staff and see how generational differences influence their work. Administrators of a multigenerational workforce must also be prepared to manage staff with different needs. Supervisors can consider their own management and communication styles (e.g., email, in person meetings, etc.) when it comes to interacting with different generations. For example, Generation X and Generation Y’s preferred method of communication is email, while most Baby Boomers and Traditionalists prefer personal and telephone interactions. An administrator’s management approach can affect a staff’s level of engagement which may, in turn, affect the services that children, you and families receive.
As the workforce continues to evolve, there will be more changes in work environments everywhere. The younger workforce—Generation X and Generation Y—will begin to increase as more Baby Boomers and Traditionalists retire. However, as a result of the economy, we may also begin to see some Boomers working part-time in their retirement years. In fact, eight out of ten Boomers expect to work part-time even after they retire (AARP, 2007). This trend will significantly contribute to multiple generations in the workplace.
Inserts from 2013 Winter Issue of Practice Perspectives– The National Association of Social