“The perceived decline in work ethic is perhaps one of the major contributors of generational conflicts in the workplace.”– Anick Tolbize, University of Minnesota
As Generation X and Y employees enter the workforce, Traditional and Baby Boomer managers have been taken aback by their changed work ethic. Younger employees work harder and smarter than previous generations, using technology and multi tasking with ease, but are often demanding of what we’ve termed “Work/Life Balance.”
These young employees crave a job that allows them the opportunities for exponential growth while also allowing time off for emergencies, vacations and new babies.
Many established companies have been caught off guard in the race to attract and retain employees with this different value code. In fact, Gallup reports 60% of millennials are open to new job opportunities, 15 points higher than non-millennial employees.
Progressive companies have begun using unlimited vacation, paternity leave (and even Pawternity leave for new dog owners). Remote work can be a powerful recruitment benefit to attract younger talent. Baby Boomers have witnessed these benefits and now also desire flexible schedules to experience a little more work/life balance.
While Baby Boomers are generally more process-oriented in their work, younger employees are driven by results. An HR led employee recognition program helps managers encourage a positive work ethic in all employees through rewarding and recognition of a job well done.
Let’s look at four key areas where human resources departments are leading the way to engage and retain employees from Generation Y.
#1) Increasing Company Loyalty Among Millennials
“Xers learned that loyalty to an employer did not guarantee job security, from witnessing job losses among parents, who were loyal to their employers and played by the rules.” – Anick Tolbize, University of Minnesota
Younger generations whose livelihood was usurped by forces outside their parents’ control learned to job hop to advance in their career rather than rely on loyalties to a single employer. While they may demonstrate less company loyalty, they greatly value their relationship with coworkers.
Developing a social workplace where employees are encouraged to interact and work together builds loyalty with employees who stay because they enjoy working with friends. A social media tool specific to the workplace, like the one built into our recognition system, provides a platform to celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries and milestone achievements.
Through regular recognition of good work and clear connection between achievements and company goals and values, company loyalty will strengthen and employee retention will improve.
Seven Things You Can Do to Increase Company Loyalty:
- Provide opportunities for advancement and promotion and clearly communicate steps to get there.
- Offer training opportunities for employees to learn new skills and develop a challenging and fulfilling job.
- Hire employees whose values match your company values.
- Create opportunities for better quality of life including flexible schedules, health programs and a fun workplace.
- Offer employees more autonomy and greater control over their job and their contribution to the company.
- Improve communication to be clearer, consistent and available to all employees in a format fitting to their job.
- Implement a recognition program to appreciate employee effort and build a culture of connected, motivated employees.
All of this can be a lot to implement. Often, HR departments are turning to central employee engagement systems where they can provide a single, online destination for employee recognition, skill building and training, communication of company goals, and metrics for tracking performance.
#2) The Most Effective Management Structure for Millennials
A difference of desired management style can cause a rift in teams. Traditionals, Boomers and Xers want their leader to have credibility, while Yers prefer a leader who listens. At the same time, younger workers tend to feel the need to exert authority and be heard, while older employees often feel their opinions should be given more weight because of their experience.
Unlike Traditionals and Baby Boomers, Gen X and Y find it natural to interact with supervisors and to ask questions. Keep in mind that questioning from their perspective does not equate with disrespect, but rather an eager desire to learn and understand.
To best manage a diverse workforce, provide strong leadership and clear instruction, but avoid micromanaging. Keep in mind that while younger employees want regular feedback, older employees may be insulted by it. Leverage your recognition program’s tools and reporting features to help managers develop a style fitting of their unique teams as well as manager feedback and reports to build better managers.
#3) Design Training and Professional Development Methods with Younger Workers in Mind
All generations want to learn more, but they prefer to do so in different forms. Xers and Yers prefer to learn both hard and soft skills on the job, while Traditionals and Boomers prefer to learn soft skills on the job and hard skills through classroom instruction.
A combination of classroom (or video) instruction and on the job coaching works best for everyone. Look for a training system with feedback and assessment capabilities to provide instant feedback to increase the value of your training program. Regular, equal feedback provided by a system trains older generations that feedback is a tool to increase education, not something to be taken personally.
#4) Adapt Your Culture and Communication
While the 4 working generations come from different times and places, common ground can be found through systems and good managing. It is essential for managers to learn to manage Generation X and Y to increase company loyalty and ensure your organization a future when the Boomers retire.
Quality of IT services is positively associated with work-life balance. All generations desire flexible schedules that allow them to set their own hours and take time off for emergencies, new babies and vacation. Telecommuting is a growing trend that empowers employees to do their best work and have a satisfying home life.
Continuity in management and supervisory practice are important for success in supporting multiple generations. Respect competence and initiative by assuming the best of people.
A recognition platform can help you systematically provide different management strategies to employees based on their unique needs. For example, you might recommend leadership training courses to an extremely motivated young employee to accelerate their career in the management direction. At the same time, you might encourage a less focused employee by recognizing small achievements on a regular basis and tying them to overall company goals.
Generational conflict is more likely to arise from errors of attribution and perception, than from valid differences. Over communication is rule in successful intergenerational companies. If you’re unsure of a person’s motive, ask.
A recognition system will help you communicate clearly and regularly and provide reports and guidance to help you be a better manager.
Bond all generations together through teambuilding exercises that allow them to see beyond age and appreciate each other for their unique skills and talents.
Use Social Media
Social media has the potential to fundamentally change the nature and boundaries of voice in the workplace. Immediate feedback from employees on issues that concern them and the organization to improve work, or ignore it with the potential it becomes a focus or outlet for venting and attacking the organization in a public forum.” – Holland, Cooper and Hecker, The Impact of Technology on Work in the 21st Century.
A company social media tool, like the one included in our recognition system, is invaluable in bringing teams together to celebrate achievements and build a connected company culture. It can even help foster a little friendly competition in the workplace to encourage employees to achieve more.
Offer Ongoing Training
Offer lots of training including one on one coaching opportunities, interactive computer based training and classroom courses. Training tools should be centrally located so everyone can find them easily.
Our recognition system allows for uploading of online training programs including onboard training, skill building, leadership courses and more. Built-in polls and surveys provide instant feedback to employees and help managers track progress.
Implement Rewards and Recognition Programs
Smart systems makes it easy to respond to generational differences through tools like gamifaction and training tools while also bonding the organization together, regardless of age, by a common social wall and goals.
A rewards and recognition program provides structure and clear communication of company values and goals while recognizing employees who truly make a difference. These programs help build more motivated employees, more connected organizations and goal-oriented management.
Takeaway: HR has a Significant Number of Options for Engaging Younger Employees
A workplace comprised of Traditional, Baby Boomer, Generation X and Generation Y employees provides a great opportunity for a melding of strengths. Learn more about the multigenerational workplace >>
While the task may seem difficult to start, a system for evaluating employees individually, as a team and as a whole allow HR professionals to increase employee satisfaction and company loyalty.