How To Engage Employees Across Generations

Article by Ken Jeanis

The multi-generational workforce has truly arrived, with four generations potentially working side by side in a variety of sectors and industries. Workers over age 55 are set to become 25 percent of the workforce by 2024, which is a large jump from 12 percent in 1994.

Such is the way forward in the workforce, as people are choosing to work well into their 60s, 70s and even 80s — whether full time or part time. With this growing trend, there are currently four active generations — with Generation Z coming soon — in the workforce:

  • “Veteran workers” born between 1922 and 1943
  • Baby boomers, born between 1943 and 1960
  • Generation X, born between 1960 and 1980
  • Millennial’s, born between 1980 and 2000

Take Simple Steps to Navigate Employee Engagement in a Multi-generational Work Environment

Such a diverse range of ages, experiences, values and work ethics can pose challenges. Yet by learning about each generation’s needs, desires and work philosophies, you can develop strategies and incentives to help everyone work harmoniously — regardless of their birth date.

Explore a Spectrum of Communication Strategies

Communication style could be one of the bigger and more obvious indicators of generational differences. Younger professional generations, like millennial’s and Generation Xers, tend to prefer written communication via text messaging, instant messaging or email. Older generations, however, may be more comfortable with face-to-face conversations or telephone calls. Use as many communication styles as possible to make sure everyone gets important information on time.

Encourage Mentoring and Collaborative Relationships

Many times, employees with differences (such as broad-generational) can find common ground when working together to achieve the same goals. An older employee might share the benefits of experience in working with difficult clients, for instance. A younger employee can help bring an older person up to speed on a newer technology. Essentially, by building a community and collaboration-oriented environment, you encourage your team members to seek and use one another’s strengths for goodwill and the organisation’s advantage.

Generation Z are praised for their mastering of all things digital, and the “Veteran Workers” can share their institutional knowledge. – Mai-Po Wan, How to Manage a Multi-generational workforce

Create a Flexible Benefits Plan

Potentially spanning three-quarters of a century, it makes sense that certain benefits will appeal to people at different life phases. Help motivate each generation by appealing to their specific needs. For example, many millennial’s are driven by maximising technology to enhance work-life balance. Provide mobile devices or a BYOD policy, along with easy remote access to give them the freedom they crave. Older employees might have more interest in staying sharp and learning new skills or software programs, so training opportunities can appeal more to them.

Adjust Management Styles to Connect With Each Generation

Each generation responds differently to authority. While older generations are steeped in a greater respect for and understanding of authority, younger generations prefer a less hands-on or micromanaged approach. At the same time, the younger generations thrive on constructive feedback to help them adjust to any challenges they may be experiencing. This approach does not need to be obvious to anyone else. It is simply a matter of paying attention to each generation’s style and working with it for the best outcome.

For leaders, a good way to approach this issue is to allow individuals to work in the style that’s best for them and acknowledge the efforts of each team member, regardless of their work styles. – Shannon GausepohlTackling 4 Key Challenges of the Multi-generational Workforce

Stay Open to New Ideas to Maintain Strong Employee Engagement

As the workplace is set to become increasingly diverse in the coming years — including and in addition to generational expansion — it is important to remain flexible in your ideas and attitudes. Stay open to understanding everyone’s challenges, strengths and needs to help your team work more effectively and efficiently.

Hiring in today’s atmosphere can be a challenge for a number of reasons. Our Business Pulse Survey on Hiring and Retention shows that all business owners surveyed agreed the most effective strategy for retaining existing employees is to “improve communication & culture.” If you have a variety of age groups in your office it might be time to think about formalising a culture that includes your business communications plan.