Editor's note: Follow Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good on LinkedIn, where this article first appeared. LinkedIn members can read, like, share and comment on Good's posts.
Our workforce is changing – and it’s changing fast. Every day, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65. And just as quickly as they retire, millennials are entering the workforce to replace them. This year alone, nearly 2 million students graduated from college.
This generational shift has significant implications for any company or leader. As we look to address this, it’s critical we understand the challenges and opportunities. Here are three challenges for leaders who are grappling with this momentous change.
After all the well wishes and a few tears that come with any retirement party, the next emotion that arises is usually fear: “Decades of experience just walked out the door. Did we do enough to pass along all that institutional knowledge?” It’s a great question, and leaders need to address it head-on.
Take a look at Duke Energy’s nuclear organization, which has more than 6,000 highly skilled, highly trained employees – nearly half of whom are eligible to retire over the next five years. Some have worked at their plant since it was built 30 to 40 years ago. It’s critical we capture their knowledge.
To do that, we’re taking an “all of the above” approach – job shadowing, mentoring, lunch-and-learn sessions and more. What I’ve been most impressed with, though, is the partnership that’s gone into this knowledge transfer. Often, our retiring baby boomers worked with millennials to share the knowledge in new ways – like building wiki files, creating videos and even developing a “Megawatt Fever” board game to help millennials understand how our industry works – accelerating the ability to learn.
The generational shift change calls for us to be disciplined and creative about knowledge transfer. It’s central to our workforce strategy and continued success.
Tapping into the wisdom and passion of employees – in every demographic group – is always important to long-term business success. This is vital during this historic workforce transition.
All employees, regardless of age, want to be respected, valued and put in a position to succeed. The younger employees I interact with certainly express enthusiasm for learning and making a difference in their company and community – and want to do it now.
Leaders need to tap into this spirit, and many companies, like KPMG, Publix and Hilton Worldwide, have put great engagement programs in place to capture millennials’ enthusiasm and spirit. At Duke Energy, we created a New 2 Duke employee resource group that gives new employees a way to get rooted in our culture, engage other employees and bring new, creative thinking to issues facing our company. More of these programs are needed.
It’s often said millennials care deeply that their work means something. They want to have a purpose that matters beyond a paycheck. That’s true at Duke Energy, where our newest employees are impatient to make a difference, and I love it.
This workforce shift is occurring at the same time as many industries, including mine, undergo a transformation of their own – driven by major changes in technologies, consumer expectations and other market forces.
Most millennials enter the workforce tech savvy and flexible in how they get work done. They can work in teams on a project basis, or alone. They are productive in the office, at home or on the road. And they grew up multitasking in a digital world. These traits allow them to succeed in today’s fluid, fast-paced business environment where customers want to communicate in real time through social media and smartphone apps, and have easy access to convenient, personalized services.
Smart companies need to be agile enough to create the kind of environment that appeals to millennials and their work expectations. That’s a challenge for a business like mine that is complex, engineering-driven and regulated – but we are embracing it. We need to design workplaces and career paths that allow us to leverage their unique skills and interests. Regardless of industry or company, we must anticipate, innovate and adapt better – and faster. The ability for employees to be flexible, to work well in diverse teams in a variety of roles, is critical to our success.
Our challenge as leaders
Workforce transitions are difficult and often don’t go smoothly on their own. We need to pay close attention to demographic shifts, take an active hand and develop the right strategy. If we do, I see great opportunity in capturing the unique talents and enthusiasm of our changing workforce to deliver on the possibilities ahead.
Follow Lynn Good on LinkedIn, where you can read, like, share and comment on Good's posts.