It’s hard to be everything to everyone. In fact, most would say it’s impossible. Yet, HR professionals are tasked with this demand every day in their work, faced with meeting the varied needs of an increasingly diverse workforce.
Millennials. Generation X. Baby Boomers. Each generation has its own distinct set of values, needs and expectations. And employers are continually trying to find just the right secret formula for each one. The formula that will not only attract the best and brightest in each generation, but will also keep them consistently engaged, growing in their roles, and ultimately, on track for long-term retention.
But what really makes employees in each generation want to stick around?
Engagement. Or lack thereof. It’s what’s at the heart of Millennial turnover. Recent research from Gallup shows that only 29% of Millennials are engaged at their jobs. Why? Lack of meaning and purpose to their work, dissatisfaction with management style and company cultures, limited leadership opportunities and not enough of mobility.
How can employers combat these issues and keep Millennials moving up the ranks?
- Mentoring: Not only do Millennials want mentors and a coach-like approach from managers, they are ready to be mentors themselves. A recent Forbes article explains how many organizations are seeing great success with Millennials providing “reverse mentoring” to older generations on technology trends and social media. Group and micro-mentoring are also proving successful.
- Training toward junior leadership: Millennials are ready for greater leadership responsibilities. Gallup research finds that “Millennials are more likely than both Gen Xers and Baby Boomers to say a job that accelerates their professional or career development is “very important” to them (45% of millennials vs. 31% of Gen Xers and 18% of baby boomers).” Offer them ongoing learning and training tools – be it through virtual or in-classroom learning opportunities, on-site training or collaborative work with other teams and departments that will hone their leadership skills.
- Meaning: Millennials want to know they are working for and toward something of value and meaning. Evaluate your organization’s mission in terms of how it resonates with your employees, modify, and work toward company-wide buy-in. As Gallup notes: “Employees who strongly agree they can link their goals to the organization’s goals are 3.5 time more likely to be engaged.”
- Flexible, family-friendly benefits: Not only are Millennials homeowners, they’re also now parents and want the flexibility and benefits that will support them in this new role. The Gallup State of the American Workplace 2017 Report states that, “In all cases, millennials are more likely than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers to say they would change jobs for a particular benefit or perk. The differences are most evident for items related to children, development, education and flexibility.” Evaluate your benefits offerings and make necessary changes when it comes giving them the paid leave, child care and flexibility they want.
RELATED: What Your Millennial Employees Want out of Your Corporate Culture
In the prime of their careers, self-reliant Gen Xers have gained the knowledge, experience and expertise they need to take on greater leadership roles at their organizations. They want to see their work shape and steer the business, and they want their role in that change to be clearly defined, recognized and rewarded.
Here are four ways to keep Generation X thriving and committed to the future of your organization:
- Leadership: Make GenXers leaders where leadership is due. And show them that their organization is a leader in its own sector and industry. Generation X holds the coveted “bridge” seat on the generational spectrum and is in a unique position to be in touch with the strengths of both Millennials and Boomers. This perspective makes for great leadership potential.
- Independence: Giving Generation X the freedom and independence to pursue their entrepreneurial instincts within their department and organization, free of micromanagement, will yield high results. Recent research has found that “70% of Gen Xers prefer working independently and among those, 80% say it’s because they value having control over their work.”
- Recognition: GenXers want to be rewarded and recognized for their contributions, both in work and pay. High-profile projects and competitive salary and bonuses are key. “Gen Xers rate this aspect as “very important” in a job search when comparing each generational group with Baby Boomers.”
- Benefits that support “the middle place”: Gen X is increasingly facing the demands of caring for both children and aging loved ones. Providing flexibility and benefits that support them in managing both sides of the care spectrum are critical. According to a SHRM generational study cited in a recent Harvard Business Review article, “flexible work arrangements, including reduced schedules are checked off as “very important” for 66% of Gen X women and 55% of Gen X men.”
Even with some working longer than previous generations, the Baby Boomer brain drain is fast approaching – with an average 3.6 million leaving the workforce annually. In fact, a Gallup poll found that “only a third of the oldest baby boomers (age 67-68) in the U.S. is still working.” The loss of their expertise, wisdom and skill sets will be significant. A 2015 LIMRA study found that eight in ten employers felt their organizations lost experience, institutional knowledge and leadership when an older employee left.
Rather than address the Boomer departure as one that simply requires knowledge transfer, better support and prolong this phase of your employees' careers.
Here are four ways to keep Boomers from leaving or retiring from your organization:
- Mentoring and Training: Establish and reinforce Baby Boomers’ integral role as respected, valued mentors to younger generations. On the flip side, offer Boomers the opportunity to be “reverse mentored” by their Gen X and Millennial peers in areas like technology trends and social media. Provide Boomers with ample, ongoing training opportunities so they are continually given the chance to diversify and increase their skill set – and stay engaged.
- Adapt office facilities: One study showed that 60 percent of Baby Boomers leave their employer due to a health problem or acquired disabilities. Consider your office space, your building, and the tools and technology that could better support Boomers as they face increased physical limitations.
- Offer phased retirements: As this Monster.com article suggests (based on programs offered by federal government agencies), consider creating part-time work opportunities for Boomers where they earn partial salary and draw from retirement benefits, while they continue to mentor other employees.
- Benefits and flexibility: Boomers need to know their health and retirement benefits are top notch and will provide the care they need as they age and face leaving the workforce. Additionally, they need flexibility and benefits that help support them in their role as primary caregiver to senior loved ones, spouses or partners, or adult children managing needs or illnesses. Consider offering senior and backup care as part of your package.
Our workplace is rapidly changing, and so are the reasons why employees in each generation choose to leave their employers. HR must be nimble in adjusting their retention strategies in response. Fortunately, most employees want the opportunity to express why they’re compelled to leave and what will motivate them to stay. Provided we are listening and responding to these needs, retention will improve.
While the strategy behind retaining Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers differs, they all share common themes: the desire for more inclusive cultures, greater flexibility, benefits that support their lives outside of work, and a more personalized workplace experience.
And hopefully, the lessons learned from retaining each of these three generations in the modern workplace will provide greater insight to the fourth newest piece joining the retention puzzle: Generation Z.
HR Leaders Also Read:
- Benefits Greatest Hits for Your Multi-Generational Mix Tape
- Leaving Las Vegas and Surviving the Future of Work
- 7 Key Retention Strategies to Keep Your Top Employees
- Whole Family Care is Here - is Your Organization Ready?
- The Biggest Employee Retention Mistake You Can Make