Analysing Engagement Surveys: What’s the Generational Perspective?

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Engagement Surveys & Generational Cohorts

In working with our clients, whether customizing a training workshop or completing a consulting assignment, we often ask to see the organization’s latest engagement survey. If possible, we ask that the data be given to us divided along generational cohort years. What we want to analyse is whether, and to what degree, the answers differ across the four generations.

Communication is a key area of focus

In general, communication is a key area that employees often believe is not at optimal levels. When you roll in communication with performance management and add the generational perspective, one can really see the difference. It is common for an engagement survey to ask questions such as ‘my manager gives me frequent feedback’ (or some formulation thereof). When we look at the responses from a generational perspective, Traditionalists and Baby Boomers often agree and Gen Xers and Gen Ys are on the other side of the mid-mark disagreeing more so with this statement.

Dividing the Generations – it’s all about definitions

A reason why Gen Xers and Gen Ys differ in believing that they get frequent feedback has to do with how each generation defines ‘frequent’. While Baby Boomers might be alight with the regular cycle of formal feedback once or twice per year, Gen Xers expect feedback at least quarterly and Gen Ys would consider frequent feedback to be weekly or even daily. So ultimately each generation is reading the questions and filtering them through their own generational identities. We frequently see generational differences in the spectrum of responses as they relate to innovation, relationship with direct manager and relationship with senior leaders. Of course, the one area that all generations usually agree on is pay and benefits – it is never enough.

Creating inter-generational action-planning groups

As a result, organizations often take action as it relates to engagement surveys -whether it is to celebrate high scores, or whether it is respond to low scores. Often employees are asked to be part of focus groups so that organizations can determine what changes need to be made. It is important that along with tenure, gender or department diversity that participants also reflect the generational mix of your organization. By having a multigenerational focus group or action planning committee, you can ensure that you are hearing the voice of all employees and that your changes are likely going to resonate with a greater population across your organization.

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