Diversity Insight

Managing Different Generations in the Workplace

As the economy continues to grow and the job market becomes increasingly robust, many employers around the country are probably starting to get antsy, wondering how they can entice their best employees to stick around instead of looking for a bump in pay or responsibilities elsewhere. Building employee loyalty can be a tough task for managers, but it’s something they can’t afford to ignore, as competition for skilled talent grows fiercer every day.

Source: KatarzynaBialasiewicz / iStock / Getty

Today’s changing work environment is only making things more complicated, particularly when it comes to trying to satisfy and meet the expectations of employees across several generations. In 2016, Millennials became the largest generation in the labor force, and as of 2017, there were more than 56 million Millennials either working or looking for work. Following close behind are the nation’s 53 million Gen Xers and 41 million Baby Boomers.[1] All this makes for a crowded workplace where managers need to keep things running smoothly while also exploring new ways to make their employees feel fulfilled and ensure they have a clear vision of their future with the firm.

What are some of the best strategies for pursuing this goal? A new survey has some great tips for managers looking to make a difference.[2]

First of all, make everyone feel appreciated. It might seem like the easy answer here is more compensation, and while that’s never a bad route, cash bonuses aren’t the only way to say “thank you” anymore. As the survey reveals, for Millennials, loyalty is closely tied to a sense of opportunities for career growth. Eighty-six percent of Millennials surveyed said that their company providing career training and development would keep them from leaving their current position. But if that position is lacking in growth opportunities and the potential for leadership development, 67% of Millennials said they would be more likely to leave instead.

Next, employers need to prioritize flexibility when it comes to learning and advancement. This can go a long way toward creating a culture of continuous, lifelong learning, which is only going to become more essential in the workplace as key skills and competencies change and evolve faster every year. Giving employees the freedom to pursue professional development in whatever format and on whatever schedule is most convenient to them is a great way to adopt this approach.

It’s also in tune with Millennial expectations, given that they consistently rank training and development even higher than cash bonuses on their list of priorities in the workplace. And it’s a great way to keep Gen X employees—many of whom are a few decades into their career and likely in management roles at this point—from feeling like they’re hitting mid-career plateaus or stagnation.

Last but certainly not least, encouraging better communication is key. Employees across generations want feedback, but they differ in how they want to receive it. Millennials prefer to get feedback almost constantly (although only 15% are actively asking for it), while 60% of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers want a less frequent approach and prefer annual or biannual, formalized performance reviews.

Employers also need to make sure that feedback itself is constructive and helpful. With 78% of Gen Xers responding that performance reviews do not yield meaningful growth opportunities and 42% of all employees saying they would grade their employers at a C or below, it’s clear that many managers have work to do to make the review process productive for employees and not just an exercise in box-checking.

It’s helpful to study this and other data to gain insight into what each specific generation values most so that needs and expectations can be balanced effectively across the workplace. In the end, however, there’s more that unites us than separates us, and every manager would do well to remember that all generations want:

  • To be treated fairly
  • Work that provides personal satisfaction
  • Employers that understand personal lives are important
  • Work that is valued by employers and customers
  • A clear sense of purpose from employers

Keep these tenets—and that focus on employee growth and professional development—in mind, and employee loyalty is likely to disappear from your list of management concerns.

Matt Bingham is the VP of Product and Product Marketing at Bridge.

[1] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/04/11/millennials-largest-generation-us-labor-force/

[2] https://www.getbridge.com/pdf/generational-differences-workplace-loyalty.pdf