Creating People Practices that Engage All Four Generations

Image: Creating People Practices that Engage All Four Generations

Engaging Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers & Gen Ys

Recently, n-gen delivered the opening presentation and co-moderated the Conference Board of Canada Generations 2014 conference. The audience was mixed, both private and public sector, but the theme was common.

Every participant was interested in finding strategies to recruit, retain and engage a multigenerational workforce, made up of Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Ys. One participant asked whether or not it is possible to create strategies that will tap into the motivations of all four generations.

What Should the Goal Be For Engaging All Four Generations?

Clearly, it is impossible to please 100% of your employee population 100% of the time. So the goal is not perfection; the goal is to ensure that you are not actively disengaging large segments of your workforce. n-gen promotes the creation of integrated human resource and leadership practices that are going to tap into the motivations of Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Ys.

The first step to reaching that goal is to analyse any policy or practice through a generational lens to ensure that all four generations respond positively.  What works for Traditionalists and Baby Boomers does not necessarily work for Gen X and Gen Y.

This can be true of how your organization recruits, recognizes, provides compensation and benefits and how leaders lead their teams every day. For example, how are your managers holding career development conversations? If the conversation is always at the same time as the performance management conversation and it is focused solely on the employee’s development within her role or function, you are likely turning off your Gen Xer and, definitely, your Gen Y employee.

Example: Career Development Conversations That Engage All Four Generations

In career development conversations, managers have to understand how to hold effective conversations across the generations. It is important to be able to ask the right questions in order to draw out what the employee’s career desires might be.

For a Baby Boomer, you might ask “where would you like to be in 2 years from now?”, for a Gen X “what skills are you looking to develop in the coming year?”, for a Gen Y “what kind of projects are your peers working on that you find interesting?”. For every generation, the manager has a career development conversation but the location, timing and content of the conversation varies. How career development conversations are modified to appeal to each of the four generations is just one example of creating integrated practices.

Creating Integrated People Practices

The first step of evaluating your current practices through a generational lens, and then tweaking them to make sure they appeal to all four generations (Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Ys) applies to every human resource and leadership practice from recruitment right through to succession planning.

The second step is to build practices that will appeal to the biggest number of people, most of the time. To do so, make sure that you include a variety of voices and sources – validate your proposed approach through advisory workgroups made up of employees or the affinity groups that already exist within your organization.

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