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  The Herman Trend Alert

January 16, 2008

System Helps Bridge Generation Gap

We have long suggested to clients and audiences alike that pairing older and younger employees really works, because of the respect the two generations have for each other.

Finally, there is proof that this "buddy system" works to increase productivity and employee retention. Randstad, the Dutch-based staffing company has apparently been "pairing" people, since its inception forty years ago. With a motto of "No one should be alone", the company founder Frits Goldschmeding built his company on the premise that job sharing would optimize productivity. He wanted his sales agents to share one job and trade off responsibilities.

That original concept has now been refined to bridge the generation gap and help young people acclimate faster to Randstad's jobs and work environment. Now a week at a time, one team member will make outside calls, while the other interviews potential "talent" and handles administrivia. The next week they trade responsibilities. The key is that one employee is a veteran and the other is a Millennial, mostly defined as those born 1981 and later.

We know that new twenty-somethings often require high levels of attention and nurturing. The neat part of this "Unit System", as Randstad calls it, is that older workers learn from younger worker as well. Of course, this system only works with "team players", because the work and rewards are shared.

Initially brought to the United States in the late 1990s, this partnership concept was only fully integrated two years ago, when Randstad began recruiting new employees in larger volumes. Of the 600 people hired last year, 420 were twenty-something workers.

The bottom line for the company is a significant reduction in employee turnover to the point where their turnover is 20 percent below the industry standard. "We have determined a clear connection between being in a unit and feeling more successful and productive," says Genia Spencer, Randstad's Human Resources executive. Increases in productivity come from mutual accountability.

Randstad is on the leading edge of this optimal use of human capital. In 2008 and beyond, expect to see more of this sharing and pairing to help Millennials to acclimate.

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