Contributed by: Vittoria Lizzi

The so-called “Baby boomers” are currently the largest generation of active workers.

Research has shown that boomers identify their strengths as organizational memory, optimism, and willingness to work long hours. This generation grew up in organizations with large corporate hierarchies, rather than flat management structures and teamwork-based job roles.

On the other hand, the millennial generation is the largest age group to emerge since the baby boom generation.

As this group grows significantly as a proportion of the workforce over the next 20 years, leaders and recruiters will need to understand them and also make major adjustments in their engagement models.

Indeed Millenials have a drastically different outlook on what they expect from their employment experience. They are well educated, skilled in technology, very self-confident, able to enroll in multi-task and have plenty of energy.

Millennials have high expectations for themselves and prefer to work in teams, rather than as individuals. They seek challenges, yet work-life balance is of utmost importance to them. Millennials do, however, realize that their need for social interaction, immediate results in their work, and desire for speedy advancement may be seen as weaknesses by older colleagues.

So there are two key questions:

1st: Are millennial and baby boomer engagement needs different? Are they different enough to warrant different engagement strategies for each generation?

2nd: I wanted to identify which engagement drivers were appropriate for each generation.

Generational gaps do exist.

Employee engagement differences are likely to exist across generations. These gaps have distinct impacts on employee engagement. While companies have unique drivers within their organizations, there were trends among companies that indicate which drivers are more likely to become a high priority for employers.

Existing research communicates that the timing (without delay), frequency (often), and way in which feedback is delivered (clear and specific) impacts millennials.

Employer reputation is the most frequent engagement threat. This learning suggests that highly engaged employees are proud of the organizations they work for. When perceptions of employer reputations decrease, a similar decrease in engagement spreads throughout the workforce. This finding is profound; engaged employees are emotionally attached to their organizations, and when employer reputation changes, so do relationships of employees with employers.

So organizations will be better positioned to engage and retain their workers simply by committing to understanding engagement drivers within their companies and by recognizing differences across generations of employees.

For managers, the above discoveries should spark important questions as they reflect on their own engagement strategies. Have they been considering the right engagement variables for their organizations? Are baby boomers and millennials still considered one and the same when it comes to engagement?

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