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Engaging Your Generation X, Millennial, and Generation Z Employees


If you read last week’s post on reaping the benefits of your multigenerational workforce, you know how we feel about the stereotypes commonly bestowed upon employees based on age. To summarize: Many of them are just plain unfair.

This is especially true when it comes to the sweeping, negative characteristics that are broadly assigned to segments of employees grouped by nothing other than the years they were born.

Millennials aren’t loyal. Generation X is too independent to work well with teams. Baby Boomers are technophobes.

Interestingly, two of the most influential Baby Boomers of our time — Bill Gates and Steve Jobs — essentially invented technology as we know it.

But I digress.

The point is this: Amidst all of the discussions around what employees are doing wrong, it can be easy to lose sight of what they’re getting right. What if, instead, leaders take the time to understand what really makes employees unique … both as individuals and as larger generation-based segments? How much could we learn from one another?

When you look at the various stereotypes commonly bestowed upon different generations from this angle, you’ll find that many of them can, in fact, be considered big benefits for businesses.

Earlier, we touched upon this with a brief look at the brighter side of traits that are frequently associated with Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation. It took a little longer to plow through the reams of articles on employees who have followed them into the workforce, but some commonalities definitely did emerge.

Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, is often said to be:

  • Independent
  • Resourceful
  • Self-sufficient
  • Tech-savvy
  • Flexible

According to Time, they’re also leading the majority of growing companies, with 68 percent of Inc. 500 CEOs representing Generation X.

Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, have been noted to be:

  • Hard working
  • Driven by purpose
  • Undaunted by change
  • Enthusiastic
  • Tech-savvy

While millennials are often said to switch jobs frequently, their average tenures are no different than those of Gen Xers in the early 2000s.

Generation Z, born in 1997 or later, are frequently referred to as:

  • Independent
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Fast-moving
  • Good at multitasking
  • Tech-savvy
  • Hard working

One researcher claims that 75 percent of Gen Zers are willing to start at the bottom and work their way to the top, and more than 60 percent would stay at a company for 10 years.

Notice the similarities? Phrases such as “hard-working,” “tech-savvy,” and “independent” are tied to more than just one generation. And for all the discussions about job-hopping among younger members of the workforce, there are plenty of indicators that those tendencies are tied more to age and experience levels than a generation at large.

In other words …

If you want to understand what motivates your employees, you’ll have to look at a whole lot more than potential generational differences. For example, when we measure employee engagement at Emplify, we view results based on generations as well as tenures, departments, and locations … right down to specific teams and managers. In some cases, we spot generation-based insights that leadership can use to move the needle. In others, we might advise a company to focus more on management training or issues affecting a specific team.

Bottom line: To create a true culture of engagement, you’ll need to look past common stereotypes and view reliable data about what makes your employees unique. Using a proven measurement process will ensure you’re identifying precisely what workers need to thrive.

What might that look like? To see what I mean, check out our latest guide: Engaging a Multigenerational Workforce. Many of the insights in this resource stem from Emplify’s latest engagement trends report, where analysis across more than 12,000 employees revealed some surprising trends about what various generations really need to succeed at work.

Get your free copy here for insights you can use to encourage collaboration across teams, tenures and, of course, generations.

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