With the “mass exodus” of the Baby Boomers comes a shift in the demographics of the American workforce as more members of the Generation X and Millennials step into the shoes of the departing Boomers, bringing with them their own expectations, needs, communication styles and more. Employers who figure out a way to successfully embrace and navigate these generational differences will reap the benefits of an engaged, diverse workforce. Those who don’t will likely see some of their most skilled and valued employees move on to those who do.
Deanna Bretado, one of G&A Partners’ experienced human resources advisors, recently offered her insight on the keys to retaining a multigenerational workforce in an article that appeared on Property Casualty 360.
With so much diversity in the workforce, figuring out how to create a work environment that appeals to all groups becomes a difficult balancing act. Some companies remain too firmly entrenched in maintaining the status quo to keep their more experienced employees happy. This makes them appear staid and old-fashioned to younger employees.
Others lean too far in the direction of creating offices that appeal to Millennials, alienating the more established industry professionals. The key is to recognize the value of both groups and then identify ways to appeal to them without favoring one over the other.
While not every person will perfectly match the characteristics of a particular group, understanding the general traits and motivations associated with each generation helps firms identify which strategies will appeal to them.
Gen Xers are generally well established in or approaching the later stages of their careers. They want to be seen as leaders in the industry, and seek recognition and respect among their peers, not just their colleagues. This group also values being able to work independently, a trait that makes them well-suited for the insurance industry.
When it comes to keeping Gen Xers happy at work, employers should seek to provide opportunities for these employees to demonstrate their knowledge, either by recommending them for speaking engagements or asking them to share insights with other team members. Traditional employee recognition strategies like performance bonuses and promotions are also a good way to encourage them.
The entrance of Millennials into the workforce has been extremely well chronicled to the point that what they want seems ubiquitous: A “Google-like” office, bosses who are more like friends and a technology-centric work experience are just a few of their preferences.
But these are part of the sensationalized persona of this generation. Millennials desire to feel connected to the work they do and to see its impact, to have a sense of camaraderie with their coworkers, and to feel valued for their contributions. Despite all of the press, Millennials are hard-workers when motivated, and many feel like their work is a large part of their identity (something they have in common with the retiring baby boomers.) These younger workers are willing to start at the bottom, work hard and gain experience, but only if they can see a clear path to the career they want. If they don’t, they’re willing to move on to a job that does offer one.
To attract and retain Millennials, employers should focus on providing job-based training and personal development opportunities. Firms might consider showing their commitment to and investment in their Millennial employees by sending them for external training or to conferences, or encouraging them to enroll in leadership or business courses.
With many Millennials starting families later in life, having a company culture that encourages teamwork and offers opportunities for employees to socialize can be a real perk for younger employees. Having frequent discussions with Millennial employees about performance and career opportunities, as well as how their individual role fits into the success of the company will help provide them with the personal validation they want.
The key to effectively managing a multigenerational workforce is to recognize the value that each group brings to the organization. An all-Millennial agency may lack industry knowledge and the insight customers want, while an all-Generation X agency may not be able to quickly capitalize on the opportunities new technology offers.
Consider this: A Millennial employee’s social media savvy can help build the company’s online presence, while a Gen Xer’s expertise may result in opportunities for speaking engagements that increase brand awareness among key customer groups. Both skillsets offer opportunities to increase the agency’s exposure, just in different ways.
Companies that find a way to create work environments that appeal to employees from multiple generations will not only have an advantage when they need to recruit new employees, but will also have lower employee turnover and greater employee retention.