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May 23, 2005
Five Trends That Will Reshape the Face of Your Workforce
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re are now 34 million Americans over the age of 65 and 1.5 million Americans over 90. By the year 2035, there will be 1.4 million Americans over the age of 100.

"Think of the gargantuan challenge for our companies and for our country," Harriet Hankin told a workshop Monday at WorldatWork's annual conference and exhibition in New Orleans.

Increasing longevity is just one of the major issues that will change the face of the nation's workforce in coming years, said Hankin, author of The New Workforce: Five Sweeping Trends that Will Shape Your Company's Future.

Part of the crowd Monday outside of the Exhibition Hall at the WorldatWork 50th Annual Conference and Exhibition at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.
In the next 10 years, companies will start encountering a shortage of qualified employees, and there will be a need to get more people above retirement age back into the workforce, she said.

Studies have shown that workers over the age of 55 take fewer sick days and are more loyal than their younger colleagues. "The challenge will be how to recruit them and retain them," said Hankin, national director of business development for Willis, Inc.

It could mean taking such innovative steps as shortening the work day or even creating "nap rooms."

In addition to longevity, the other trends discussed by Hankin were:

  • The decline of the nuclear family and the rise of alternative households. Surprisingly, the fastest growing employee demographic is the single male head of household. "Now, you can't ever know what's in a person's home," she said. "It could be anything from no one to a commune."

    The changing nature of households makes flexibility--and inclusiveness rather than exclusivity--a key component of any benefits plan.

  • Four generations working side by side. These consist of the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and the Baby Boom Echo. Successful companies will take advantage of the relative strengths of these generations to create a multi-generational workforce.

    However, each of these generations has competing needs and expectations. "Cafeteria-style compensation plans could be in the future," Hankin said.

  • A diverse and blended workforce. Race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation--the workforce is growing more diverse faster than ever before. Successful companies will not only tolerate diversity, they will embrace it

  • Spirituality in the workplace. Hankin said she doesn't mean religion, per se, but rather "creating a workplace where people do their best work."

    "Find a way to bring respect and trust into the organization," she said.

    In 1970, workers said the most important element of their jobs to them was pay. Thirty years later, employees said the three most important elements were the ability to realize their full potential, a good and ethical organization, and interesting work.

    "The more we know about what motivates employees, the more we can come up with policies that work," Hankin said.

    More coverage of WorldatWork's 50th annual conference and exhibition is available in our special section.

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