According to government reports, the unemployment rate in the
U.S. has fallen sharply since the Great Recession and is currently
well below the post-war average of 5.8%. Whether that number is
accurate or reflects – as some insist – that many Americans are stuck
in part-time jobs, or have given up finding work altogether is a topic
of lively debate. One thing that is not debatable, however, is that
there is compelling evidence of a shrinking talent pool of skilled
labor … resulting in a “war for talent” that is all too real.
Some workforce projections state that
more than two million science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics (“STEM”)
jobs will go unfilled by 2020. What’s more,
according to related surveys, 74% of college
students feel their education is failing to
prepare them for future careers.
Part of the issue is the majors most
college students choose. STEM disciplines
don’t even make it into the top-10 list of
most popular college majors. What does?
Business administration is number one, with
psychology, nursing, general biology, and
teaching rounding out the top five.1
Adding to the challenge, new employment
trends like “gig workers” affect the talent
pool even more. The number of gig workers
– contingent or temporary employees who
move from project to project and company
to company – are quickly growing and
now comprise a significant portion of the
workforce. In fact, the U.S. Government
Accounting Office says 58 million workers
fall into this category. That’s nearly half of
all workers in America. While contingent
workers can bring significant and specific
skills to the workplace, they also bring
risks with a company’s ability to protect
Multiple generations, multiple opportunities
There is hope for companies that are hungry
for talent. For the first time in history, the
workplace encompasses four different
generations of workers, each with their own
unique experiences, skills, motivators, and
Making the most of this multigenerational talent pool, of course, has its challenges. Just
as individuals have strengths and weaknesses, generations have statistical differences. For
example, the following chart illustrates how well boomers, Gen X and millennials (Gen Y)
perform in various roles within an organization.4
To address these strength and
competency variables, HR and talent
professionals need to promote a
collaborative and rewarding environment in
the workplace. In doing so, they can better
engage employees and build strong, united
teams. But can they do that?
The good news is that, despite
generational differences, these three
generations all share the same top five
expectations of their employers:5
1. Challenging projects
2. Competitive compensation
3. Advancement opportunities and
chances to learn and grow in their jobs
4. Fair treatment
5. Work-life balance
Armed with this knowledge, companies
can navigate the war for talent with an
increased awareness of the workplace
factors that will attract and retain the best
candidates over the long term.
Hiring to win
According to the Society for Human Resources
Management, companies determined to
win the war for talent are focusing on certain
Market a strong and compelling employment brand.
Savvy candidates will evaluate company brands
before applying for or accepting a job, much in
the same way they evaluate consumer brands
when shopping. Your organization’s hiring
managers must be prepared to have honest
conversations about every aspect of the job.
Otherwise, companies will lose talent.
Use a broader scope of sourcing pools.
In addition to apprenticeships and in-house
training programs, many organizations are
considering cross-industry hiring with fresh
eyes. Employers can maximize quality hires
if they take a broader view on where talent
comes from. This includes investigating the
contractor – or gig worker – pool in their area.
Gig workers can provide a quick infusion of
talent for specific projects or current needs the
Increase the use of talent analytics to
evaluate the “best and brightest.”
HR and hiring managers will continue to
seek better ways to get their arms around
data and develop true insights about future
and current employees. It is common practice
for companies to analyze customer data to
help them make better strategic decisions.
Candidate information will increasingly get the
“big data treatment” so recruiters can quickly
and easily locate the best people for the job.
Improve the candidate and hiring
Today’s job seekers know their worth and are
aware of the competitive landscape. They see
opportunities everywhere and, if one employer
takes too long to respond or makes it difficult
to apply, job seekers will quickly move on to
another job opening. The best companies
work to build a positive connection with the
candidate from the first contact point. For
more insights on this topic, read the “Heads
in the Cloud: Mobile and Social Recruiting”
article also in this issue.
Creating a winning workplace from day one
Once hired, a positive onboarding experience
for the new employee is another key to
retaining top talent. Besides being trained
in general diversity and inclusion principles,
managers should be trained to be keenly aware of
the differences between the generations. Training
sessions can help managers and employees:
- Understand each other and work more
- Create effective multigenerational teams
by publicly identifying each person’s skills in
the group. For example, “Richard has 12 years
of experience in graphic design which may
benefit your group’s presentation.”
- Develop clear goals and expectations for
- Hold all members accountable for their
individual group participation. For example,
“What role did you play in this project?”
- Offer ongoing formal feedback to modify
behavior and performance. Meet with each team
individually to monitor its success and challenges.
ADP® can be your partner
It’s time for business leaders and HR professionals to stop fearing the war for talent and start
winning it. ADP can help you assess your workforce with our human capital management tools,
expand the training available to your people, investigate new sources of talent and untapped
worker pools, and provide insight on what unites employees across generations.
1 Stockwell, Carly, “Same as it ever was: Top 10 most popular college majors,” USA Today, October 26, 2014.
2 Beach, Gary, “CIOs, Facing IT Skills Gap, Eye the Gig Economy for Talent,” The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2016.
3 Parker, Carrie, “Live Spotlight Presentation: The Future of the Workplace – Evolving the Next Generation of Workers,”
The Futures Company, October 28, 2015.
4 Giang, Vivian, “Here Are the Strengths and Weaknesses of Millennials, Gen X and Boomers,” Business Insider, Sept. 9, 2013.
5 White, Marion, Rethinking Generation Gaps in the Workplace, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, 2011.
6 Maurer, Roy, “Five Recruiting Trends for 2016,” Society for Human Resource Management, February 1, 2016.
- HR Management,
- Human Capital Management,
- Talent Management
- Research for Human Resources Professionals