January 20, 2008

Workplace Flexibility: Employers Respond to the Changing Workforce

Workplace Flexibility Cover Image

For most employers, the world is a different place than it was a generation ago. They must face two undeniable demographic  trends—trends that their predecessors had little reason even to think about. First is the fact that, for the first time in the nation’s history, four distinct generations are working side by side. Second, over the next decade, as many as 78 million Baby Boomers are expected to retire. Their collective retirement spells a worker shortage on an unprecedented scale. Together, these critical factors—increased diversity coupled with a shortage over time of available workers—will undoubtedly drive a wide array of new human resource practices in the workplace.

Employers must develop new recruitment and retention policies. Unprecedented conditions—a multigenerational workforce, a shrinking labor pool, and an increasing demand for skilled workers—dictate that they do so. In fact, many companies have begun to institute innovative workplace practices. Whether it means developing strategies to attract the best talent or implementing incentives to retain workers who already have important skills and valuable experience, employers are striving to make their workplaces as effective as possible.

Starting in 2003, the Institute for a Competitive Workforce (ICW), an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, partnered with the Families and Work Institute and the Twiga Foundation to develop When Work Works, a national education and recognition initiative designed to promote the practices of the most effective and flexible workplaces. These practices meet the needs of both employer and employee. Thanks to funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Awards for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility were created to honor companies that have used flexibility to meet both employer and employee goals. These companies recognize that worker flexibility means success.