For the first time in history, there are five generations active in the workforce. Smart and forward-thinking companies are benefiting from a new kind of diversity, Age Diversity. While Age Diversity can bring a lot of unique viewpoints and management styles to your organization, it can also present a host of challenges especially around management, motivation, and communications. I will talk about generational management and communications preferences in a future post. This post focuses on the workplace motivations from each generation as it relates to effective benefits. It is important that you take these preferences into consideration when recruiting, managing and creating benefits packages to meet your “Age Diverse” team’s wants and needs.
We will leave the Silent Generation out and focus on the younger four generations as they occupy much of the workforce today.
BABY BOOMERS-The Third Largest Generation with 44.6 Million in the Labor Force.
Baby Boomers are known for their extreme loyalty to their employers. They understand the hierarchy and strive to climb the company ladder to get to the next level. They are all about punching the time-clock and believe hours worked equals productivity. They tend to expect the individuals they manage to work autonomously and work hard as they do. Thus, they tend to be less comfortable in today’s collaborative work environments which tend to treat all levels of employees as equals when it comes to providing input and feedback.
They have been working a long time, and they expect to be rewarded for their experience with excellent benefits. Most Boomers are in the later stages of their careers, so saving for retirement is their primary need. Even the youngest Baby Boomers have crossed fifty years of age, so health is becoming a concern. The more health benefits you can provide Boomers, the better.
Leveraging your Boomer employee’s experiences is important. While they may not be the most tech-savvy, they can be great leadership role models for younger employees, especially Millennials. Most established companies have a good number of Baby Boomers in leadership positions, and they are nearing retirement. It is critical that your organization has a clear succession plan. Since many Millennials lack management skills, pairing them with experienced Boomer leaders is ideal for both the employees and the company.
Lastly, salary is still paramount to Boomers. This generation tends to be more traditional, so they still respond well to compensation enhancement opportunities like holiday bonuses, raises and incentives based on performance.
GENERATION X – The Second Largest Generation in the Labor Force with 52.7 Million.
Gen X’ers were the latchkey kids. The first generation to grow up in divorced families. Their environment caused them to become very self-reliant. They learned how to fend for themselves. Gen X’ers are good problem solvers. They had the opportunity to break things at home after school and had until mom or dad came home to figure our how to fix it. Gen X employees will question authority much more so than their predecessors. Because they saw their parents work themselves non-stop for their Baby Boomer bosses, they will put their personal lives ahead of their job without thinking about it.
Generation X’ers are very flexible and handle change well. This generation is appreciative to have a “job” because many were affected by the Great Recession thus they are known as dependable and reliable workers that require less direct management.
Gen-X is the first generation that will not benefit from wide-spread company pensions. Therefore, the most valued benefit for Gen X is a 401(k) with matching contributions. Only 33% of this generation is on track to have enough savings to retire, so they plan on continuing to work beyond the Baby Boomer’s retirement age, so cash is king as they seek ways to boost their retirement coffers. They want a competitive salary, and they want to have a clear path to develop and grow their compensation over the next decade. If you do not provide this clear direction, they will leave and find it elsewhere.
Gen X is indeed concerned about job security. However, they also want to be able to find a job that provides them with some hint of a work-life balance. To feed this need, Gen X’ers appreciate paid vacation and sick days and, a flexible work schedule which could include working virtually for some percentage of their work week.
MILLENNIALS – The Largest Generation with 53.5 Million in the Workplace.
There has been no shortage of press and blogs about the Millennial generation in the workforce. Our company, D. Knight Marketing and Consulting receives the most interest from organizations wanting help engaging their Millennial employees and customers. This generation is unique and, thanks mainly to technology and they way they were raised, they possess a lot of differences from past generations.
Millennials won’t take any job for, the sake of having a “job,” they require passion to be an essential component. To be passionate, they need to feel like they are making a difference at work. They value companies that have created grassroots community outreach and well-defined CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programs that are woven into the company culture from the CEO down. Your CSR must also be home-grown and preferably created with feedback and input from the lowest levels of the organization and better include Millennials. In the early days of what was mainly referred to as “community affairs,” companies would simply write a big check to dot ORGs like Susan G. Komen and slap pink ribbons on their packages and allot a shiny page about it in their annual shareholder’s report. While these large foundations and nonprofits do amazing work, Millennials are more engaged with the “issues,” not the “charity.” Our company has had great success in helping organizations develop employee-led CSR Action Teams that meet regularly and decide what matters to them and the company backs them from the top down.
Yes, Millennials are different. They’ve been called lazy, narcissistic and even entitled. I have gone on record as saying this is a host of BS. I believe Millennials will go down as the most caring and giving generation ever. Like it or not, Millennials are going to represent over 50% of the workforce by 2020 and 30% of them will be managers and leaders in your organization. You can’t survive without them.
So how do you find them and keep them engaged and happy? In addition to having an impactful CSR program, you should focus on a benefits package with a good bit of paid time off. They want their employers to provide them the work-life balance they crave. Millennials also like organizations that offer flexible hours and the ability to work remotely.
Annual reviews will fail miserably with this generation. Millennials require regular, even daily feedback on how they are doing. These younger employees are continually learning. They are already coming to you as the most educated generation ever. They want opportunities to acquire new skills and grow in their careers. One great way to benefit from your new-found Age Diversity is to start a robust mentoring program that pairs younger workers with more seasoned employees. Don’t overlook this benefit. 44% of Millennials are considering leaving their current jobs right now. If you don’t give them professional development opportunities, they will find a company who is willing to invest in their future.
Millennials As Parents – More than a Million Millennials are becoming moms each year! A whopping 1.3 million Millennials became moms last year raising the total number of U.S. millennial women who have become mothers to more than 16 million. The majority of these moms have children in elementary schools.
DKMC has more than two decades working with schools and organizations that have parents and their children as customers and advocates. The next decade will be a make or break year for these organizations. Parenting styles and communications preferences have changed radically for this generation. Organizations that attempt to do things the way they always have will risk being disrupted into obscurity.
What’s different about these Millennial moms versus past generations of parents? The Pew Research Center recently released a survey of Millennial moms. Here is a snapshot of some of the most interesting findings.
- Millennial women are waiting longer to become parents.
- They are shifting away from marriage with more moms making decisions to raise their kids on their own.
- They have an increasing level of educational attainment.
- Many have moved into the labor force, and more are holding management and leadership positions.
- Millennial moms rated “being a good parent” as a top priority with 52% Millennial moms saying it was the most important goal in their life above having a successful marriage (only 30%).
- Millennial moms are especially confident in their parenting abilities with 57% saying they are doing a very good job.
With more and more educated Millennial moms in the workplace and holding key leadership positions, companies and organizations need to offer benefits that do not get in the way of them being the good parent that they crave and place above all else. Since Millennials are waiting longer to become parents, they will be further along in their careers and should have more expendable income. They will also be busier than ever.
Companies with parent targeted products and services will benefit from these trends if they meet Millennial parents where they are, which includes a strong mobile engagement and influencer strategy. Millennial moms will reward companies and new technologies that will save them time by spending more and sharing their positive opinions with their peers through social media.
GENERATION Z – Graduation from College and Starting to Enter the Labor Force.
Most of the blog posts and training companies focus on Millennials, but Generation Z is right on their heels. Generation Z will surpass Millennials as the largest generation in no time. Gen Z’s were born from the mid-nineties to the mid-2000’s, and it’s oldest members are today’s newest employees. By 2020, they will represent 20% of the workforce.
So how are our youngest workers different? Gen Z watched their Gen X parents struggle tremendously during the Great Recession. They saw their parents lose their jobs, their houses, and retirement savings. Thus Generation Z is more pragmatic and is looking for stability. Gen Z witnessed the instability of startups and personally know people who lost everything trying to start a business after being laid off. They don’t like instability and would prefer to work at a midsize or large business after graduation, as opposed to the minority who would prefer a startup. They are more focused on earning real wages, and working in stable work environments, than those in older generations.
Parent influence was and still is a driving force for this generation. Gen Z looks to their parents for advice and support. Like Millennials, these young employees are accustomed to receiving honest and immediate feedback on their work from coaches, teachers, and parents. They will expect their future employers and managers to continue to provide it.
As your Baby Boomer leaders move into retirement, more members of Gen Z enter the workforce and more Millennials and Gen X’ers move into management roles, your business will need a clear succession plan. You will also need to harness the complementary strengths of young and old generations. Bridging the generations at work and helping each learn from each other is a must if you expect to continue to attract and retain the best people.
Our company D. Knight Marketing & Consulting Group in partnership with Black Rain Partners specializes in Intergenerational Engagement and would welcome the opportunity to discuss your workplace dynamics and provide Age Diversity solutions to help you move your organization forward in 2017. Let’s connect!