The Dynamics Behind a Successful Multi-Generational Workforce


We’ve all seen them. Articles on social media sites, blogs, newspapers and magazines talking about lazy, entitled Millennial’s. Or the ones about greedy Boomers warping the natural progression of the labor force, staying too long in the career market despite having the wherewithal to retire. There’s also no shortage of articles blasting Gen Xers, and other generational groups. However, if you’re looking to build and manage a successful, modern contingent workforce, you’re better off instead focusing on understanding the differences and motivators attributable to various generational attitudes. Here are a few things to consider about each generation that can help in your pursuit of more effective workforce management practices.

Everyone likes to be heard and understood. Everyone likes to feel as though their employer has some interest in their well-being beyond solely what the worker can do for an organization’s bottom line. With four distinct generations comprising the workforce today—Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z—it can be especially valuable to achieve some fluency in the aspirations, economic circumstances, anxieties and outlook of each generation. It can help you develop better plans, policies and programs and achieve more harmonious workforce operations.

Benefits administration solution providers, BenefitExpress, published an excellent generational breakdown in its recent State of the Workforce Report. Here’s the synopsis of what they suggest are the motivators behind each groups’ career choices.

Boomers—Retirement Goals, Medical Benefits, Flexible Hours

Baby Boomers are remaining in the workforce longer than expected due to insecurities about their ability to sustain their savings throughout retirement. With the last recession having taken its toll on Boomers’ savings just as they were reaching retirement age, they grapple with the fact that longer lifespans require them to stretch retirement savings further. Boomers are attracted to positions with organizations that demonstrate commitment to providing favorable medical benefits, good 401(k) matching so they can work to recover some of the losses they sustained in the last recession and the scheduling flexibility to work flexible hours to stretch their retirement savings.

Gen X—Work/Life Balance, Insurance Coverage, Honesty

Gen X workers grew up as the latchkey generation—the first with a majority of both parents in the workforce. Because of this upbringing, Gen Xers place a premium on carving time away from work to focus on their families. Just in time too as tough economic conditions are driving the Millennial and Gen Z children of Gen X parents to move home after college. The same economic challenges also result in more Gen Xers taking care of their aging parents—often altogether under one roof. This generation also witnessed the radical change in healthcare markets from affordable/accessible in the 80s to today’s high deductible, junk policy environment. As such, they are very attracted to positions that provide a good array of healthcare options like FSA and HSA plans, life and accident insurance coverage. They have a lot more on their plates than their parents or kids. Sensitivity to this reality makes an employer more attractive to Gen X.

Millennials—Debt, Debt, Debt (and Purpose)

Younger and healthier, the Millennial is not as attracted toward healthcare and retirement benefits as their Boomer and Gen X counterparts. This group is the most debt-laden at their young age due to the astronomical rise in education costs their generation has had to grapple with. Despite their heavily debt load, this generation is still highly selective when it comes to choosing a workplace. Perhaps because they’re also the first truly digital-savvy generation, this group is highly attuned to the role their labor plays in the direction of the broader community, environment, etc. They’re notorious for wanting to “get something more” from their labor than just a paycheck. They’re also far more readily approached using modern communication channels like social media and SMS text messaging. Keep all these dynamics in mind when planning sourcing practices to attract this technologically literate and socially motivated group.

Gen Z—Web Natives, Alternatives to College, Mobility

The first, fully web-native generation, Gen Z lives as much in the digital/online space as in the brick and mortar world. However, most of them are still younger than 26, and therefore, most still live at home and remain on their parents’ health plans. Therefore, healthcare benefits are not of paramount importance to them. Moreover, many are averse to assuming the same levels of debt for college as their older Millennial sibs. As such, they are not entering the workforce on the same conventional path. Many are working several part-time jobs or engaged in the Gig Economy. They’re open to positions where they can gain valuable job and life experience in lieu of college or university. Since they’re so tied into the digital realm, they are inherently good candidates for the very tech roles in such high demand today. And, they’re most easily sourced in the online realm by savvy employers utilizing social media and other digital channels to find and attract talent.

There is so much more detail about each generation that can be useful in the design and deployment of a strong and effective multi-generational workforce. We highly recommend the BenefitExpress report as a resource, and nextSource is known for offering expert guidance on sourcing talent in each of these discrete groups. Call us today for more insight.

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