So You’ve Got Them: Now What? Retaining Your Multigenerational Workforce
Organizations aren’t going to keep people forever. In many cases, long-term corporate loyalty is virtually dead. However, this doesn’t mean that employee retention strategies are pointless. The goal of employee retention should be to create highly engaged employees that stay with an organization longer.
Some critics claim that today’s employees are fickle and quickly hop from organization to organization. But that isn’t necessarily true. Employees will stay with an organization if they believe that they are valued. It’s important to note that “value” is more than an emotional feeling. It’s a rational calculation based on what an organization does for its employees, such as engaging employees in the decision making process, providing timely reward and recognition, and supporting career development and growth
How Each Generation of Employees Measures ‘Value’
Each generational cohort (Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Ys) evaluates and calculates the value of their organization’s people programs and practices differently. Because of the differing generational values, expectations and behaviours, people strategies should not be one-size-fits-all. Instead, they should be tailored to the operational environment, the strategic business goals and the characteristics of all employee groups.
For Gen Xers and Gen Ys, learning and development programs influence how long they stay with an organization. Gen Xers are focused constantly on gaining and maintaining marketable skills. If they cannot learn new skills through informal or formal learning supported by the organization, they may look elsewhere. Gen Ys increasingly see the opportunity to learn as a right, not a privilege. They have been encouraged to believe in and value life-long learning. They expect an organization to provide them with growth opportunities. However, learning doesn’t mean just formal classroom training; it includes job shadowing, peer mentoring, action learning and stretch assignments.
For Baby Boomers and Traditionalists, organizations should consider providing enhanced development opportunities for those who are seasoned in their careers. Many Baby Boomers are interested in continuing to work past retirement eligibility, but only in roles that interest them. If organizations tap into those interests and help to develop their skills, the experienced generations will be more inclined to continue working and will remain engaged in the business longer.
Providing Value to Employees of all Generations
There is no silver bullet to employee retention. Mechanisms used to retain Traditionalists and Baby Boomers, such as pension plans, long-term bonus incentives, and stock plans/options, no longer guarantee that employees will stay for their entire careers. It is important to also consider the non-financial benefits that will motivate and engaged experienced employees such as a flexible and engaging work environment.
Many employees today are looking for a return on their investment in an organization, comprised of short, medium and long-term benefits. This is especially true of Gen X and Gen Y employees. If organizations only focus on creating people practices that appeal to employees who are invested for the medium and long-term, they will have challenges in retaining shorter-term , yet often, high performing employees. People practices need to be designed to be integrated and varied in order to appeal to all four generations of employees, by tapping into generational motivations and expectations. From there, the key to success lies in the disciplined execution of all programs. Organizations that provide employees with a high return on investment will have the greatest success in retaining their top talent across all generations.