Employee Engagement Across the Generations
A lot can be said about the various generations that make up the labour market from which organisations source their human capital, but very few can concretely differentiate between these generations and what drives them. Before the generations and their motivations can be identified and engaged, we need to gain insight into how these eras are categorised and what shaped them.
The graphic below summarises the three main generations which currently make up an organisation’s workforce and example of world events that could have influenced their preferences and motivation.
Engaging Employees from Each Generation
Employee engagement can be a challenging task for any organisation, let alone delving into how to engage those found in each generation group. AON publish a report pertaining to global trends in employee engagement, the results of which were broken down to reveal how employees within each generation responded positively when asked about employee engagement in the work place. The Baby Boomers were the generation with the highest level of employee engagement reported. Next in line was Generation X, and trailing the pack are the Millennials with lowest engagement level reported amongst the different generations. These findings give rise to two questions. Firstly, what exactly does this discrepancy in employee engagement levels across the generations mean for organisations? Secondly, what can leaders and managers do to improve these numbers?
What is quite concerning is the fact that Millennials have the lowest engagement levels amongst all the generations. This cause for concern is driven by the fact that Millennials are taking over as the largest generation to currently occupy the labour market.
Looking at what drives the generations, we start with the Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers value a team oriented environment, dedication, face-time, and overall concern regarding the individual. Employees that form part of the Baby Boomer generation positively respond to managers who go the extra effort to show concern over their well-being. In order to increase engagement in this generation, managers should express concern by inquiring about the different aspects of the individual’s life, preferably on a daily basis.
Those who form part of Generation X place value on diversity, autonomy, flexibility, development and growth opportunities, and a global orientation. For Generation X, as well as the Baby Boomers, a connection exists between engagement levels and identifying with the organisation’s purpose. This connection can be established by outlining how the success of the company positively influences the lives of the individual.
Lastly there are the Millennials. This generation is open-minded and values recognition, feedback, fun, and fulfillment. Millennials are generally more attracted to balanced lifestyles than the other generations and bring an increased level of excitement to the workplace. A report released by PWC highlighted the importance that personal and professional growth are to Millennial employees, being one of the main benefits these individuals look for when perusing potential employers. Flexitime and the ability to control their own schedule was also a benefit highlighted as important to Millennials, weighing in as a stronger influencer than the possibility of earning a bonus. The importance that Millennials place on development and flexible work hours form part of the overall work-life balance that governs the actions and decisions of many of these individuals. Millennials are mainly attracted to organisations who demonstrate the same values and principles as those that the individual possess within their personal lives, with some of the most attractive employers being those who place importance on their environmental and social record. Whilst employees across all generations would consider an organisation aligned to their principles as a desirable employer, Millennials place this higher on the list of things to consider during the decision making process.
Engagement with these employees is aided by highlighting their potential for growth within the organisation, in both a personal and professional sense. Actively interacting with Millennials by providing them with the feedback and recognition they crave will also contribute to increased levels of engagement amongst the individual. Millennials also have a strong link between technology and productivity. Providing them with sufficient resources to utilise technology in their daily activities will also assist in keeping these employees engaged and avoid the feeling of frustration caused by using outdated and ineffective equipment. Organisations are able to further engage with these employees by establishing CSR initiatives. These initiatives will not only boost morale amongst employees as a whole, it will appeal to the desires of the Millennial’s to have a meaningful job.
Organisations would do well with keeping in mind that which motivates and drives members of each generation. This will allow leaders and managers alike to adapt their approaches in dealing with their diverse labour force in order to maximise engagement amongst all employees. When employees are engaged, they are motivated to increase their contribution to the organisation’s bottom line as their success and fulfilment is linked to that of the business.