Engaging Employees: Incentives for All Generations - dummies

Engaging Employees: Incentives for All Generations

By Bob Nelson

Today, the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and the Millennials work side-by-side, which means that companies need to create incentive programs that motivate a workforce that, at times, spans some 50 plus years — a task that is, needless to say, challenging. Companies that meet this challenge head-on gain a distinct competitive edge in retaining as well as attracting the talent they need to be successful. Yes, this requires an investment in time, energy, awareness, and action — but the potential payback is enormous.

The silent generation (born 1920-1945)

Today nearly 16 million Americans age 55 and over are either working or seeking work, representing about 21 percent of the workforce. They are characterized by their decades-long dedication to their employers and are non-risk-takers and conformers. For these workers, formal awards, publicly presented, are greatly valued.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Take a photo of an employee from this generation being congratulated by the company president. Frame the photo. Place photographs of top performers in the lobby.

  • Write a story about the employee’s achievement and place it in the company newsletter.

  • Engrave on a plaque the names of employees who have reached 10, 15,or 20 or more years of service.

  • Acknowledge and personalize significant work anniversaries as well as other individual achievements during a company meeting each quarter.

Members of the Silent Generation also greatly value programs that recognize the contributions and successes of teams, so find ways to give accolades to groups and departments for major achievements. Finally, as Silent Generation workers consider their retirement, they also value recognition programs that offer stock awards, 401k contributions, and even retirement planning seminars and assistance.

Baby boomers (born 1946-1963)

Baby Boomers make up the largest population of today’s workers —76 million and growing — and account for 52 percent of the workforce. This group makes up most of middle and upper management in most organizations.

Boomers like to win, to be in charge, and to make an impact. Having grown up in post-war prosperity, boomers, once the focus of society, now focus on themselves. They are a gold mine of knowledge and very valuable to companies. To retain these workers, you must work hard to provide incentives that this group values.

Among the most valued forms of incentives and rewards for boomers are those that recognize their interest in new experiences and adventures. Boomers also appreciate a self-indulgent treat. Because boomers plan to stay in the workforce beyond the traditional retirement age of 65, employers that recognize boomers’ desire for flexibility and a work/life balance will be rewarded.

Generation-X (born 1964-1981)

Forty million plus Generation X employees account for 26 percent of the workforce. As the “latchkey kid” generation, they are fiercely independent, self-directed, and resourceful. Having entered the working world in a time of downsizing and cutbacks, they are skeptical of authority and institutions. As a result, Gen Xers’ first loyalty is to themselves and to their own careers.

They are the “do-something” generation and seek organizations that offer challenging and meaningful work and an exciting environment. Opportunities that enable young employees to interact with their managers or an organization’s top management are very motivating to the Gen Xer. Gen Xers also want to have fun and find a free-spirited workplace and social gatherings and celebrations very rewarding.

For these workers, ongoing training is not only desired but is also a requirement. They have a nonstop desire for information and continually look to add to their skills, especially technology skills. As such, they will look for employers committed to lifelong learning.

Millennials (born 1980-2000)

Millennials, the youngest generation of workers, are already redefining the workplace. They’re globalized, tech-savvy, and accustomed to being connected to people across the globe and having round-the-clock access to information. They’re comfortable interacting with many cultures, especially online. For them, the borders between work and personal time are blurred (or nonexistent), which means they expect to work during personal time and do personal stuff during work hours.

They also care about the world and want to work for companies that are ethical and honest. They’re extremely hard-working and expert multitaskers. They are a bit over-ambitious, think very highly of themselves, and believe they deserve to have a job that challenges, appreciates, and even entertains them. They are highly interactive, thrive on constant feedback, and believe they deserve rewards and promotions when they achieve.