Employee engagement differs between younger and older employees. Employers are trying to navigate the needs of Gen Y and, to some extent, Gen X employees. Learning how to attract and retain younger generation employees means understanding what it is about a workplace that these employees desire most. And, conversely, what things are most likely to be so unfavorable that they actually drive away the recruits you’re trying to attract.
Here are just a few of the differences between younger and older employees to keep in mind. Ask yourself whether your organization is making efforts to satisfy younger employees and keep them engaged.
- Younger employees tend to be more optimistic about opportunities for continued learning and growth in their employment. This requires employers to prevent their youthfully optimistic hopes from being stamped out by the embattled bitter employee who can quickly poison the environment with repeated cynicism and distrust.
- Employees of every age crave recognition. Study after study shows that employers that master the skill of providing timely, accurate, and regular feedback rate the highest in employee engagement. The generational difference, though, is the amount of recognition that will satisfy younger versus older employees. Gen Y is known as a “needy” generation for a reason. One study showed that, for every piece of constructive criticism offered (and note that we’re not talking about negative criticism), the Gen Y employee requires seven pieces of positive feedback if there’s any chance that they’ll even hear the constructive one. That’s a whole lot of pats on the back. So many, in fact, that positive feedback almost has to be scheduled into the daily calendar of managers if they hope to ever really give a sufficient amount of compliments.
- Younger employees also tend to take more pride in working for their employer and are more likely to recommend their employer to a job seeker. This gives employers a great opportunity to promote their organization and their product to potential employees and to customers. There is no better marketing tool than sincere praise passed along by word of mouth.
- Informal interactions are their preferred methods for “team-building,” as opposed to the more formal, structured methods used in the past. This means no more formal “team-building” exercises at the yearly retreat. The otherwise positive and upbeat Gen Y employee will see these efforts as weak attempts to parse together relationships that don’t truly exist.
- Younger employees place a premium value on a sense of “belonging.” If they do not feel that they are truly part of the organization, they quickly become disengaged and begin to look for new work. If, on the other hand, they feel connected to others in the workplace, they have one more reason to work a little harder. Gen Y employees were raised, remember, by Boomers, who played (and likely are still playing) an integral role in their development. Gen Y loves to please others; hence the need for immediate recognition when they do something right. If they don’t feel that they’re connected to others, then there is no one for them to try to please, and no one from whom they can expect regular positive feedback. Ah, it’s a vicious circle, isn’t it?