Workforce  work·​force | \ ˈwərk-ˌfȯrs  \



Definition of workforce 

1: the workers engaged in a specific activity or enterprise – the factory’s workforce 

2the number of workers potentially assignable for any purpose – the nation’s workforce


The Problem of Workforce 

It’s a rare week in our office when we don’t hear someone making a comment about workforce. We often hear, “I can’t find anyone to work.” or “People don’t work like they used to.“    These are common complaints, and hugely serious ones for a community in which 40% of its businesses serve a seasonal tourism market.

But what is the issue of workforce? Is it Quantity or Quality related?   Perhaps it’s a little bit of both.

I’d suggest that any discussion related to workforce start with an understanding of the reciprocal relationship between an employer and an employee.  Both parties enter a relationship with needs. The employee obviously needs a job for the earnings and benefits it provides. The employer needs help performing their particular trade or service.  And that’s typically where things fall apart. Just because each one needs the other, doesn’t mandate that the relationship will work.   

After years of listening to the woes of hiring and managing workforce, I’ve arrived at a startling conclusion.  The Millennial generation is not the laziest, most shiftless and unreliable generation ever.  In fact, I believe, it is just the opposite.  Just as the Baby Boomer generation shocked the Silent Generation with world changing innovation, the Millennials will open our eyes to advances we can scarcely imagine.  But it will be an uncomfortable adjustment. At this writing, there are more Millennials in the workforce that Boomers. That means the Boomer manager is now faced with supervising a generation of which he/she has little understanding.   So how can managers address this generation gap and get the job done? Let’s start with a few shifts in our mindset about workers.

Employees are assets

None of us would ever think of neglecting a prized piece of equipment by failing to do scheduled maintenance or service.   Why not? Because we know what it costs to replace it. So why isn’t that true for an employee? You’ve invested time and money into hiring and training that person.  Treating them as less than a valuable asset is a recipe for losing them. Employees need routine maintenance too!

Employees need training on job expectations

Employers routinely express frustration with employees who can’t “stay off of their phone”.  It’s obvious the differences in the generations here. Start by realizing that that employee grew up with a phone or electronic device in hand, it is a part of who they are, and they likely never considered it an issue.  I also hear employers bemoan the fact that workers don’t “see the things that need done.” They don’t because they literally don’t. The way you trained a boomer is not the way you need to train a millennial. It doesn’t make them bad- just different.  Be specific in your expectations and hold them accountable. You won’t be disappointed.


Employees need to be engaged

A few weeks back someone belittled all the “menial positions” in Cody, and that they had no future.  It lit a small fire in me, because that menial position is probably the livelihood of the person with the job.  All jobs, no matter what level in the company they are, matter. If you don’t believe it, consider this. As you are dining in a 5-star restaurant, you pick up your wine glass and observe lipstick on the rim.  At that point does it really matter that the restaurant has the best chef in town, the greatest wine list or the best wait staff? Not at all. The “menial position” in this situation matters more than all of them.  Every employee’s ability, or inability to perform their job is just as important as anyone else’s in the restaurant. Good managers train their staff to understand how the employee’s job fits into the delivery of the entire product or service.   Millennials, in particular want to matter, they want to know how they fit into a larger picture. Engage them and you’ll find success.

Employee rewards aren’t always financial

Sure, everyone works to make money to afford the things they need, but that is only one reason people work.  Embedded in our nature is a deep-seated desire to help others, not for the money, but for the sense of self-worth. And yes, all of us serve other people.  As employers, our ability to empower this sense is by simple, genuine gestures to let our employees know their efforts are recognized. Look around town. You see businesses who have maintained their staff for years.  Others have a revolving door. Why is that? A good guess would be the sense of belonging the employees feel made real by a manager who truly appreciate their staff.

The role of every employer is to assemble a team which can perform the needed job.  So as an employer, it is important to understand each member of your team, what their role is and their ability to perform the task.   In many cases, the quality of the job is more of a reflection on management than on the employee.  

How to Engage and Empower your Employees

(Excerpted from the talentculture newsletter)

  1. 1. Give them a chance to be a leader.

Most people enjoy a challenge, especially in an area which they are confident.  Don’t pass by an opportunity to let your employee lead (own) a task or a project. 

  1. Let them know the big picture.

It is crucial for employees to feel part of something bigger than themselves.  If all they know is their own task, how can they understand its importance in the scheme of things?  Like lipstick on the wine glass … every part matters.

  1. Allow for Growth

We all enjoy chances to grow.  Seek opportunities to stretch your employee’s capabilities by encouraging them to try new things 

  1. Have their Back

There is nothing worse than making a mistake and being left to face it alone.  As an employer, take the opportunity to demonstrate the right way to handle a mistake, teach ways to avoid future mistakes and then get over it.  Your employee will recognize that they (like us all) are not perfect, but can always work toward perfection.

  1. Share the rewards of positive results.

When your business wins, the employees should too!  Create ways to celebrate your successes with all!

  1. Don’t hover!

Have you ever typed with someone looking over your shoulder?  It makes a simple task, much more intense. Teach employees to do a task, then get out of the way!

  1. Adjust your “normal” way to reflect theirs.

Sometimes we make rules or guidelines that really don’t make sense.  Often, they are created because someone misbehaved. If your employee questions a rule, it may not be a challenge, it may really be that the rule doesn’t make sense.  Work with them to design rules to guide behavior.

  1. Point out what they do well and encourage growth in that area.

You can never offer enough genuine praise for a job well done.  Especially, when an employee excels at a particular task. By calling out the quality of their work, you can assure yourself that the same level of quality will continue.

  1. Make failure a learning point, not a threat.

The fear of retribution for failure paralyzes many people.  In fact, it probably causes more errors than it prevents. Good mangers recognize that missing the mark really is a loss of a bit of wages and some materials.  Knowing that frees an employee to focus on doing it well.

  1. Communicate with them.

We all appreciate knowing where we stand, what we are to do and how well we are doing it.  No room for guesswork here. Don’t make your employees guess how they are doing! 


Want to be a better manager?  Start by reading The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly