I’m a big believer that he who hath the best people usually wins.
Nothing original there—except if that were the case, by definition, only one company would ever have the best people. The nuance here is that what you really want are the people best suited to work within the operating model you’ve put in place to execute your company’s strategy.
That’s a tough assignment in the easiest of circumstances. But these are far from the easiest of circumstances.
A significant portion of US workers will be leaving the workforce. At the same time, a new generation is entering the workforce with an entirely different set of expectations. According to a PwC report, millennials already form 25% of the workforce in the US. By 2020, millennials will form 50% of the global workforce.

I happen to be a good example of this creeping generational overlap in more ways than one.
I’m old enough to remember when sticking around at the same company for decades was celebrated as an accomplishment. Believe it or not, I worked at NCR for a quarter century. I even have a commemorative silver plate with the words “Thanks for 25 Years of Excellence” to show for it.
Today, however, tectonic shifts are changing the traditional template for employer-employee relations.
These days, anyone keeping a job that long would be seen as lacking in ambition, imagination, and versatility. My daughter, who is a member of the millennial generation, looks at that plate hanging in my den and shakes her head and wonders (again) what on earth is wrong with her dad.
To use a baseball analogy, today everyone wants to be utility infielder. What’s more, while millennials enjoy being paid as much as anyone, they’ll actually take less money in exchange for a greater work/life balance. Long hikes in the woods, traveling around the world, working shorter hours so they can spend time with their families are as valuable to them as the traditional perks of corner offices, regular raises, and promotions. The cliché about resigning to spend more time with your family isn’t a euphemism to this generation—it actually sounds like a good idea.
Here are some numbers to chew on: 
  • Around 42% of people in the US can retire in the next eight years.
  • Within five years millennials will represent 50% of the workforce, according to PwC.
  • 60% of millennials leave a job in less than three years.
  • 56% of millennials say they prefer flexibility over greater pay.
  • This is a global phenomenon. PwC says millennials account for more than 50% of the population in India.
What does it all mean? Increasingly, executives are managing people with an age gap of around 44 years between them. One group is used to working quietly in an office at the same desk. The other collaborates in noisy open spaces across physical dimensions using group chats and cloud-based document-collaboration tools.
This presents a unique set of challenges for CEOs. So, here are a few lessons we’ve learned along the way:
  • Modernize your toolset. Millennials will not tolerate the antiquated stuff people of my generation thought was leading edge. If your organization doesn’t have smart tools that employees can use on their smartphones from just about anywhere on the planet, you might as well roll out electric typewriters. Otherwise, your brightest prospects will defect to your closest competitor before you’ve had a chance to offset the cost of hiring them in the first place.
  • Align your operational capabilities, market strategies and hiring. You can’t execute on a strategy unless you have the right operating model and you can’t execute an operating model without hiring the right people. Today, we’re making a concerted effort to hire more cloud engineers and salespeople around the world than ever before, because you can’t just hope the right people will fall in your lap. You have to go after them, and sell to them just as you would sell to prospective customers.
  • Investing in training matters more than ever. Despite the risks, ongoing investments in employee training pay off exponentially. This is especially true when managing a geographically dispersed staff because it helps develop ties that bind people to each other—and to the company. In fact, we’ve found that more training helps us retain more of our best people.
The future is going to be all about people—your employees and your customers (who often end up being the same people, by the way).
Even for a company that sells to businesses, we’re actually selling to businesspeople, so it’s no different for us. We want to develop long-lasting relationships with the people we hire.
At the end of the day, people will know everything there is to know about your company. In the past, everything prospective candidates knew about your company came from you—your HR people, your hiring managers, and the way you branded your products or services.
Today, prospective employees learn about you through online social networks, job boards, and the like. Your warts will be exposed (as will those of your competitors), but so will your best qualities.
My daughter will never strive for one of those 25-year commemorative plates. But that doesn’t mean she won’t be one of your most productive employees during the time you’re fortunate to have her. If you manage her with that idea in mind, you might just win the talent war in your market.