Volume: 2 | Issue: 1

Generational Differences in the Workforce

A luncheon titled “Closing Generational Gaps: The Quest for Fulfillment,” was held in November, which was sponsored by the SPE Gulf Coast Section’s Projects, Facilities, and Construction study group. Charles Wilds, founder and president of SOS Group, presented on the need for oil and gas companies to do more for their younger high performers to instill their loyalty as the average age of the overall workforce continues to shift. The age range of today’s workforce spans from first-year out of high school to last year before retirement. Expectations, standards, values, beliefs, and even diction vary from one generation to the next.

Wilds identified some of the greatest leadership challenges faced by the oil and gas industry today. With the generation gap widening, it is important for companies to understand how differences between these age groups can be viewed as opportunities. “For the first time in modern history, the employers are managing four generations of workers,” he said.

Finding ways to best position teams for positive and productive change is an important step for companies to take. Understanding the necessary transitions, who should lead, who should follow, and how to motivate younger generations of workers are important questions to be asked, Wilds said.

Both baby boomers (ages 50 to 64) and millennials (ages 20 to 34) make up the largest number of today’s workforce (Table 2). As the experienced baby boomers retire, millennials are entering the workforce and are being pushed harder and faster to fill the gap. “Today’s situation is inside out,” Wilds said.

With the shortage of trained, skilled workers, younger employees change jobs more rapidly with the highest achievers leaving on average within 28 months of starting with a new company. More access to job postings on the Internet, new global opportunities, and increased salaries work against a smooth transition for tomorrow’s workforce. “Turnover of employees costs on average 50% to 150% of an individual’s annual salary,” Wilds said. With this in mind, companies are pressed to transform their work environments to not only capture and use the older generations’ experience, but also to improve the staying power of younger recruits.

Oil and gas companies can strengthen their offerings to younger generations of workers by offering collaborative work environments. “They want mentors,” Wilds said.

Helping millennials advance in their career quickly may instill loyalty on an employer’s behalf. Leaders who ask what their employees want and who recognize that younger high performers seek access to mentoring in their career will instill more loyalty within this age group. In turn, it will ease the transition of the overall workforce within the next 5 to 10 years.



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