How to Make the Most of a Multigenerational Workforce

186467869Even in an economy where there are millions of people looking for work, finding highly qualified employees can be a difficult task. Keeping them is even harder. This is why the right recruitment and retention decisions continue to be so important to a company’s strategy for long-term success. Yet, developing those strategies could be easier said than done, as there are challenges to doing so.  Though one employee may be motivated by work-from-home flexibility, for another spot bonuses might be the key to their loyalty.

Compounding all of this is the fact that for the first time in history there are four distinct generations working side-by-side: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y (Millennials). These generations each have distinct preferences, demands, and expectations. And though no two employees are alike, there are enough similarities within these generations to help develop a strong recruitment and retention strategy.

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Here’s a guide to each generation, its qualities, and how to attract and keep the employees within them:

Traditionalists (Born 1925-1945). Though 95 percent of this generation is fully or partly-retired, they still have enough of a presence within the workforce to be a factor in hiring and retention plans. Given the fact that they are still working, financial stability is likely important to them, so play that up in the interview to snag their interest. As far as keeping them happy, there are two things that resonate most with this group: respect and acknowledgement. Many of them have been in the workforce longer than some of their colleagues have been alive. Recognizing their level of knowledge and contribution to the business is a good way to keep them happy.

Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964). At 78 million strong, Boomers are a significant part of the U.S. workforce. Many of them are forced to work past retirement age because of financial concerns brought on by the recession a few years ago, so any offer that includes financial security, retirement, and health incentives will resonate with them. As far as retention, it isn’t too difficult; what they want more than anything is respect and autonomy. They don’t appreciate being micromanaged—instead they want the power to make decisions.

Generation X (Born 1965-1979). Well educated and highly motivated, Gen X workers know that the future is in their hands—and they want to feel as though they’re making a difference. They want to work for a company that aligns with their beliefs and philosophies because they want to feel good about where they’re going to work every day. Because many of these workers are in the young family stage, work/life balance is extremely important to them. Offering flexible working options and a relaxed office environment will help their productivity and loyalty, a win-win situation.

Generation Y (Born 1980-2000). Also known as the Millennial Generation, this group was born and raised on technology — one of the key skills they bring to the table. Sometimes perceived as entitled, this group is very willing and open to new ideas with an unlimited capacity to learn. Recruiting workers from this generation will entail “selling” the corporate culture and image, as those are both big draws in attracting talent. These employees aren’t motivated as much by long-term opportunities as by short-term rewards and recognition. Because of their eagerness to learn, they expect to be trained and mentored and may look elsewhere if they don’t get it.

It usually isn’t a good idea to generalize employee behavior or qualities, but the fact is that there are many common characteristics within each generation that inform their work style and expectations. Being aware of them can help in attracting the right talent for your company. And once you learn how to keep them there, you can have four very different groups who bring something unique and valuable to the table — and at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing.

MORE: Are getting the most out of your mature workers?

Jodi Chavez
Jodi Chavez is senior vice president, Accounting Principals.

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