By  on July 2, 2007

Hiring a new breed of employees has become a daunting task for executives.

So as the makeup of the workforce changes, Baby Boomers must adapt in order to retain employees, said Barbara Marchetti, president of C-Suite, an executive search firm, during a recent seminar titled "The Changing Workforce: Boomers, Gen-X, Gen-Y."

Turnover at many apparel, fashion and retail companies is in the double digits, taking place predominantly at entry-level positions. And hiring new employees can be expensive. It costs about 2.5 times the individual's salary to make a new hire, with additional costs for loss of customers, business and damaged morale.

"This is not a human resources issue; it's a management issue across the board," Marchetti said. "Just because you have people doing the hiring for you doesn't mean you should bury your head about the issue."

Managers can no longer solely focus on the characteristics they looked for in potential employees 10 years ago. "The day of 'my way or the highway' is over," she said. "The new generation doesn't respond well to that philosophy. They will walk away. But we desperately need them."

Deeply rooted in their careers, the Baby Boomers invented the 60-hour workweek to compete with their peers. "This [Baby Boomer] generation is now dealing with aging parents and guilt over not spending time with their children when they were growing up. And these issues are entering the workforce, leaving the Baby Boomers asking, 'How do we balance this in our life?'"

Generations X and Y have made it a priority to figure out how they will balance work and their social life. "People used to pay their dues by working long hours. You can't expect that now from those we manage," Marchetti said. "The sense of belonging to a corporate family is not there anymore."

These groups want a casual and friendly work environment and want to work for people who understand them. And if they don't receive a supportive and structured atmosphere, they will go somewhere else. "They are willing to leave their company to advance, where Boomers would stay to advance to the next level," Marchetti said.Consisting of 75 million potential employees, Gen-Y is entering the workforce head-on, but leaders have no clue how to handle them. As children of the Baby Boomers, these young adults were raised to rationalize their actions and discuss their feelings. Jam-packed schedules of extracurricular activities taught this generation how to multitask, and with the Internet they are used to getting instant results.

"Rather than change jobs, many of the Generation Y will just leave that career all together," Marchetti said.

Meanwhile, it is becoming harder to grow leaders organically when teams change every 18 months. "My fear is, what is the management floor going to look like? Senior management is gone in 3.2 years. We are left with a great strategy but no one to implement it," Marchetti said.

In order to attain success at both the top and bottom line a company must have the right people working for it. "The right people go beyond skills, but are people you can lead," she said.

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