Meeting the Demands of 5 Generations

For the first time in history, five generations comprise the global workforce – Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen 2020. As a result, the operational and financial implications of brand, culture and employee engagement have risen to remarkable levels.

Each generation has unique work styles, motivations, mindsets and modes of communication. It’s exceptional, really, that 20- and 30-year old workers are rubbing elbows with 50-, 60-, perhaps even 70-year old professionals in 2015. Regardless of age, there is one belief shared by all professionals:

Employees desire to work for a company they believe in – a place they trust, care about and respect.

And yet, with the unique demands of each generation varying spectacularly, initiatives must be customized. Cielo hosted a series of roundtable events in fall 2014, headlined as the Cielo Talent Activation Index LIVE! These roundtables brought together senior HR leaders for benchmarking and dynamic conversation. Specifically, attendees from across the globe explored direct examples of how they are meeting the demands and desires of five different generations: 

Internship Programs
A number of companies are transforming their internship programs. From one leader in attendance: “In the U.S., our internship program is top-10. Most businesses are looking to get younger, as are we. We give interns the opportunity to explore director-level or managerial positions and offer formal career development programs should they come to work for our company.”

Spotting potential in young talent, providing opportunities to learn about and shadow leadership roles, then investing in formal career development training if interns become employees inspires a number of strategic benefits: 

  • This strategy can only enhance recruitment, as interns will recognize growth opportunities at your organization well before reaching the job hunting process. This gives them a tie to the organization, and many will first seek employment here prior to looking elsewhere.

  • This strategy also builds brand, as word of mouth will spread. Career growth, training and development are all vital to younger talent either in or entering the workforce. They will take notice of an organization’s dedicated efforts in this area.

  • This strategy brings younger generations and older generations together, giving them the chance to work together, learn from and understand one another.

“Stretch Assignments”
Multiple companies emphasized the importance of encouraging employees, regardless of age, to take on “stretch assignments” – such as applying for open leadership positions, proposing to lead new initiatives and finding other ways to go “above and beyond.” Enabling employees to step beyond the boundaries of their job descriptions has a lasting impact on engagement, motivation and culture, not to mention the growth of your organization.

However, companies that seek “above and beyond” efforts from their talent must likewise invest “above and beyond” in their workforces. Leaders highlighted several strategies that can prove your investment in your employees:

  • Set quantitative and qualitative goals for all employees, clearly presented and evaluated regularly
  • Document, commend and reward achieved goals
  • Specialized, career-development training offered to all employees
  • Formal career development plans/initiatives
  • Intense focus on internal mobility and promotion
  • 100% of employees receive competitive living wages
  • Financial bonuses for employee referrals
  • Conduct yearly/bi-annual employee surveys; act on results
  • Open door policy rooted in all communications; “transparency, transparency, transparency”
  • Schedule flexibility, remote working opportunities

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Get to Know Your Talent!
Five generations in one workplace. Five! There is only one solution: “Peel back the surface-level layers and find out what most impacts each employee,” one attendee stated. Another followed up with sentiment that echoed throughout each roundtable, “Too often we stereotype generations or regions or genders. Get to know your people. Once you truly know your work population and what they seek in an employer, then you can develop strategies that best suit their needs and truly activate their potential.”