Tailor your engagement strategy to each generation

Employers are wisely shifting their priorities and resources to improving engagement. Companies do so by focusing on certain employee experiences, or “drivers,” that have a significant impact on engagement.

When it comes to prioritizing engagement drivers, however, most organizations fail to take generational differences into account. Instead, they manage engagement under a one-size-fits-all strategy. This is a costly mistake that contributes to employee attrition and revenue loss.

To increase engagement, a deeper understanding of (and investment in) the personal and professional motivations of each generation is critical:

BABY BOOMERS (born 1944–1962) have always worked and played hard, and they display outward symbols of success. As a result, their values center around professional identity and prestige, while staying youthful and healthy. Increase Boomer engagement by implementing tactics that will improve their:

  • Core career identity: Do they feel deeply connected to their job?
  • Professional status: Do they feel externally validated and rewarded?
  • Physical/mental health: Are they optimistic about their wellbeing?

GENERATION X (born 1963–1981) grew up when life seemed to be falling apart (energy crisis, Watergate, AIDS). These were the “latchkey kids” of divorced, dual-income parents. As a result, Gen Xers value security, mobility (which they see as a means to security) and work/life balance. To improve engagement, focus on their:

Difficult People D
  • Professional development: Do they believe there are real opportunities to advance?
  • Job security and autonomy: Does their employment situation feel secure and within their control?
  • Work/life balance: Do they feel alignment in their professional and personal lives?

MILLENNIALS (born 1982–2000) experienced educational and parental systems rich in praise. Having grown up in a 24/7 world of global events and communication, they are motivated to solve big problems and see blurred boundaries between work and the rest of their lives. To improve engagement, focus on:

  • Feedback and growth: Do they perceive their supervisors as mentors?
  • Meaningful work: Are they enthusiastic about their employer’s impact on the world and the opportunities to solve “real” problems?
  • Flexible work: Can they manage their professional and personal obligations fluidly?

Bottom line: Employee engagement can succeed if companies are willing to adopt a more strategic approach to each generation.