Four Generations: Investors Looking for a Return

Image: Four Generations: Investors Looking for a Return

Employees Expect a Return on Investment

Do you know for what return each employee is looking? Why did they join your organization and what do they expect that you as a leader will provide them?

Employees bring their human capital to the workplace. By human capital, we mean knowledge, skills, experience, effort and time. As with any other type of capital, employees expect a return on their investment. The key responsibility of a leader is to figure out what return is expected and, importantly, by when.

Layering on a Generational Perspective to Investments

Traditionalist, Baby Boomer, Gen X and Gen Y employees have differing expectations as to what constitutes a return on their investment. Also, the four cohorts have different expectations as to how quickly they want to see a return on their investments. Traditionalists were long term investors, often giving an organization 25+ to provide a return in the form of a pension and continuing benefits. Baby Boomers will often give organizations years to provide a return as well; Baby Boomers accept the fact that they will have to put in a lot of effort before an organization will provide a commensurate return.

Gen X / Gen Y: Short-term Investors

As the generational cohorts get younger, organizations have less and less time to provide a return on an employees’ investments of their human capital.  Gen Xers will evaluate in the first 90-days, what the likelihood is that they will see a return on their investment in the first 12 – 18 months. If they are confident that what they were told during the recruitment period (as to what the employment deal would be) is likely to come true, then they will invest more and more. Gen Ys want to experience some kind of small return within the first quarter of their employment.

What Leaders Need Do: Be Aware & Plan

Every leader should have a conversation, either during the recruitment or in the first week, with his or her direct report to understand what that employee is trying to get out of his/her work experience. It is important to find out if it is learning and development opportunities, the offered telecommuting options that encourage work-life balance, the chance for growth and promotion, the ability to use the latest technology etc.

Once you know what the expectations are of the employee, you can then manage those expectations. You will be able to discuss what is or what isn’t possible. Then you can create a plan on mutually agreed upon timelines to achieve what is possible. This type of calibration is key to retention and engagement.

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