With five generations present in the American workforce, employers are often charged with the difficult task of creating employee management policies that need to apply to a workforce with varying experiences, needs and expectations.
Each of the five generations (Traditionalist, Baby Boomer, Generation X, Millennial, and iGen) brings distinct values, expectations, attitudes, behaviors and needs with them to the workplace. Ignoring these generational differences and trying to create one-size-fits-all employee management policies simply won’t work, and could even cause intergenerational conflict. Employers who learn to effectively balance and manage the diverse needs of their multigenerational workforce, however, will benefit of people with multiple perspectives working together to accomplish the organization’s goals.
To view a profile of each generation, check out our infographic: The Multigenerational Workforce.
Employee management strategies for Traditionalists:
While the vast majority of Traditionalists are retired (this generation makes up less than 10 percent of the overall American workforce), those who have remained in the workforce are likely organization leaders and executives. Recent years have, however, seen a number of Traditionalists (especially those who suffered significant financial losses as a result of the 2008 recession) re-enter the workforce in part-time roles to supplement their incomes. This means that there may be Traditionalists in both the upper and lower echelons of an organization.
How to recruit, retain and communicate with Traditionalists:
- Traditionalists prefer a personal touch, and will respond better to in-person conversations or one-on-one telephone calls.
- People in this generation are called “Traditionalists” for a reason: they have more traditional values. They believe that their seniority and experience should earn them a certain level of respect, and managers should consider their words and tones carefully when speaking to employees of this generation.
- Traditionalists that are still in the workforce have typically been in their chosen profession, field or industry for a good portion of their careers, and so have a considerable amount of knowledge and expertise that can be extremely valuable to an organization. To capitalize on this, employers might want to consider setting up mentoring relationships so that younger employees have a chance to learn from Traditionalists before they retire.
Employee management strategies for Baby Boomers:
Baby Boomers, who make up slightly more than a quarter of the American workforce, are likely hitting (or have already hit) the peak of their respective careers and are now actively planning for retirement. But not every boomer wants to retire as soon as their 65th birthday rolls around, and many plan to stay in the workplace for many years past the age they become eligible for retirement, either because they enjoy their work or because they are also concerned about what their retirement income will look like.
How to recruit, retain and communicate with Baby Boomers:
- As this generation gets older, benefits become a bigger deal for both Boomers and their employers: not only are these employees more concerned with the quality of available benefits options, but they are also at greater risk for developing chronic diseases (the treatment of which can result in higher individual medical expenses, as well as more expensive premiums across the plan). Employers with a high population of Baby Boomers might want to consider implementing an employee wellness program that helps employees develop more positive health behaviors and reduce their risks for chronic diseases, and help employers control benefits costs across the organization.
- Flexible work arrangements are also popular among Baby Boomers. Employers in industries that typically have older populations (insurance, airline, construction, etc.) might want to consider offering flexible retirement options or “phased retirement” options. Phased retirement plans allow employees to ease into retirement over the course of one or more years. These plans also allow employers to continue tapping into the knowledge of retiring employees and better plan for their eventual departure. Employers may also want to consider creating new roles for employees in this generation that make better use of their knowledge and expertise, such as roles in a mentoring, advisory or consulting capacity. These types of roles have the added benefit of offering Boomers more challenging work opportunities, something the members of this generation are looking for in their professional lives.
- When it comes to communicating with Boomers, managers should make an effort to keep conversations more relational. Instead of diving right into a topic, start conversations by asking about their families, recent vacations, etc., then gradually change the subject to work.
Employee management strategies for Generation X:
Many Gen Xers are hitting their career strides, so to speak, and are now in upper-management after years of climbing the corporate ladder. They’ve also had a front-row seat to the evolution of the computer age, and are likely to be the most universally tech-savvy generation currently in the workforce.
How to recruit, retain and communicate with Generation X:
- Members of Generation X are comfortable with almost all methods of communication (face-to-face, phone, text, email, IM), but tend to prefer “short and sweet” communications. For best results, keep your conversations with Gen Xers concise, and don’t use a lot of “filler” language or corporate speak.
- Workplace flexibility is very attractive to Gen Xers – these employees are likely juggling a lot of family, personal and professional responsibilities, so employers who give employees some latitude in setting their own schedules or work from home occasionally have a huge leg up when it comes to recruiting employees from this generation.
- Gen Xers really value their independence and autonomy, so micro-managing just isn’t going to fly with these workers. Instead, managers should make sure to clearly communicate goals and expectations up front, and give Gen Xers some freedom to get the job done their way whenever possible.
Employee management strategies for Millennials:
Despite all the bad press Millennials get, it’s a mistake to think that every member of Generation Y expects to develop an app and become successful overnight. Millennials are cautious about putting their trust in a company, and instead are committed to doing whatever it takes to make themselves successful, even if that means they have to hop around from job to job until they find the right fit.
How to recruit, retain and communicate with Millennials:
- Millennials want to feel connected to their employer’s mission and vision, as well as their colleagues, so talking about your company’s culture is a great way to appeal to Millennial job seekers.
- Millennial employees are all about feedback – they enjoyed closer relationships with their parents than previous generations, and want to have clear, open and consistent communication with their bosses as well.
- Professional development is a big deal for Millennials. Just as they want to feel connected to their company’s success, they also want to feel like their employer is committed to their personal success. Training programs, opportunities to attend conferences and mentoring programs are all appealing to Millennial employees. Also attractive to Millennials are benefits like tuition reimbursement or retirement plans.
Employee management strategies for Generation Z:
The members of Generation Z, or the iGen generation, may just be dipping their toes into the workforce, but are already exhibiting a strong entrepreneurial spirit. While Gen Xers might be the most well-versed when it comes to multiple technologies, it’s Generation Z who’s embracing the newest methods of communication.
How to recruit, retain and communicate with Generation Z:
- It might be surprising, but these workers have never lived in a world without the internet. As such, they are used to getting information at lightning speed, and expect the rest of the world to move at a similar pace. Managers should aim to keep messages to iGen workers short, and take advantage of visual content (videos, infographics, etc.) whenever possible.
- Work-life balance is critical to the members of Generation Z – they are more willing to work part-time or on a freelance basis, especially since they are less likely to have significant financial burdens at this point in their lives.
Managing a workforce that spans multiple generations is no easy feat, but understanding the unique social, political and economic factors that have shaped the values, behaviors and beliefs of each generation is key to creating a cohesive and productive workforce.
To learn more about what makes the members of each generation tick, and how to develop strategies that work for your multi-generational workforce, check out the recording of our recent webinar, “Managing the Multigenerational Workforce.”