Boomers and millennials share engagement drivers

Topics: Employee Engagement, Workforce, Strategy

Sarah Strumwasser, Senior Director, Survey Solutions Employee Engagement

While conventional wisdom suggests a fundamental disconnect between members of the baby boom generation (55+ years old) and the millennials (<35 years old), analysis of our National Engagement Database reveals that baby boomers and millennials share many of the same engagement drivers. Find out what this means for your engagement initiatives.

This should come as good news to HR, and to any manager tasked with creating an action plan relevant to employees of all ages. Despite stereotypes suggesting that the management of millennials requires a different-in-kind approach, our regression analysis demonstrates that baby boomers and millennials share four of the top five (and nine of the top 10) most impactful engagement drivers, revealing that there is a broad, common platform for performance improvements in both groups.

This is not to say, however, that there are no differences at all between these two groups. We observe small differences in the relative rankings of the top five drivers. 

For example, boomers are most engaged when they "understand how (their) daily work contributes to the organization’s mission" and "believe in (the) organization’s mission," whereas millennials are most engaged when they believe that their organization "provides excellent care" and "their ideas and suggestions are valued." 

The largest differences between baby boomers and millennials are related to the relative importance of independence and job fit. Generally, baby boomers are more engaged when they "have the right amount of independence in (their) work," while millennials are more concerned that their "current job is a good match for (their) skills."

Making sense of the data

Insight #1: Don't overinvest in age-based engagement strategies.
A lot of attention has been focused on the differences between baby boomers and millennials. 

However, our analysis suggests that a basic set of core drivers transcends the age-culture gap, and that customization of engagement initiatives on this basis represents needless (and expensive) complexity.

Insight #2: Focus on job fit at the beginning of an employee’s career.
Ensure that hiring and recruiting protocols underscore the importance of clearly defined roles and job expectations, and that hiring managers are well-equipped with interview techniques that help assess that fit. 

Managers should also be encouraged to work more closely with their younger employees to ensure ongoing alignment between their responsibilities and skill sets.

Insight #3: Encourage managers to uncover what "the right amount of autonomy" looks like for their staff.
This driver is relatively more important for baby boomers than it is for millennials, but it appears in the top 10 for both. 

What one person sees as autonomy might look like neglect to another; therefore, managers should talk with employees about where the staff needs support and where they might value more independence.

Learn to Motivate Staff with Thoughtful Rewards

Any kind of recognition for a job well done is a good thing—but even a simple pat on the back can significantly improve staff engagement and performance if it's well-timed and thoughtfully executed.

Learn how to keep staff focused and incentivized with the HR Advancement Center's tips for effective recognition.