How to Use Generational Differences to Improve Employee Engagement and Retention
Date Published: Mar 29 , 2023
Today’s workforce is more diverse in age than ever before. There are five generations in our labour market, from people born in the 1930s to those born in this century.
This age diversity lends to favourable opportunities in co-worker knowledge-sharing and the synergy of ideas and working styles. On the flip side, generational gaps in the ways people think and interact can cause disruption and conflict.
Business leaders would do well to incorporate age into diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives - if they have not already done so, and recognize the often underappreciated interplay of generational gaps and company culture. We explore these themes below with a focus on how to use generational differences to improve employee engagement and retention.
The Five Generations
The five generations currently working and their approximate makeup of the workforce are:
The Silent Generation(1925-1945) 2%
Baby Boomers (1946-1964) 25%
Generation X 1965-1980 33%
Millennials (1981-2000) 35%
Generation Z (2001-2020) 5%
When a group of people share similar cultural experiences and live through defining historical events during their formative years, it has lasting effects on their views of themselves and the world. While tendencies will of course vary from person to person, generally speaking, older generations prefer structured workplaces and younger people veer work environments to greater flexibility.
The rigidity scale moves pretty uniformly up and down the generational groups, with the Silent Generation most adopting rules and stricter organizational frameworks and protocols. Conversely, Millennials are more apt for challenges and changes to rules and value autonomous and creative work.
It’s worth noting that Gen Z is just entering the workforce and it is difficult to pinpoint their preferences, but they appear to be following the Millennial trend of seeking independent, flexible work.
Bridging the Generational Gap
Generational differences, if not properly addressed, can create rifts within an organization. By merging your DEI initiatives with growth-oriented company culture, your age-diverse workplace can thrive.
Embrace and Model Inclusivity
Inclusivity is about valuing employee strengths and encouraging their full participation in the company at all levels. An inclusive organization will make all employees feel welcomed and supported regardless of categorical identities, including age.
In particular, leadership that models inclusivity makes workers more engaged, productive, innovative and less likely to leave. While younger workers are unlikely to have leadership positions, it is important to examine how age diversity manifests from the lower to upper echelons of an organization - in particular, is it embraced, modelled and celebrated?
Build Employee Resilience
Between ongoing technological innovations, market uncertainty, supply chain issues and more, it is fair to say that the contemporary workplace is characterized by incessant change.
We know that some generations respond better to change than others, but even the most change-embracing individuals have suffered in the wake of unprecedented instability and uncertainty.
A company that can build a resilient and agile workforce, across all demographics, will secure a competitive edge in a market with razor-thin margins. Implement wellness programs that assist workers with a healthy work-life balance. Get managers to incorporate well-being and stress management into workers’ performance goals.
Harnessing Generational Differences for Employee Retention
Employee retention is a continuous battle in our unstable labour market that has witnessed widespread resignations, layoffs and quiet quitting in recent years.
A multigenerational workforce can be a major asset for employee retention. Here’s how to harness generational differences to improve employee engagement and retention.
Have older and younger workers establish succession planning protocols and internal talent pipelines. Young people want a path for growth and are more likely to stay on the job and engaged if they see it.
Approach your workforce as already containing the next generation of leaders. Encourage older workers to mentor and prepare the younger staff for higher levels of responsibility to solidify their position in maintaining talent.
When You Need Help Harnessing Generational Differences to Improve Employee Engagement and Retention
Harnessing general differences for organizational improvements may be easier said than done. Differing digital aptitudes and communication styles are likely to make generational alignment in the workplace challenging.
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