The Generation Game

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Understanding workplace generation gaps

For organisations seeking to be market leaders, the ability to attract, develop, and retain talent has become a major factor in their capital investments, business strategies, and organisational growth. To be successful, one strategic management issue that organisations must address is the impact of increasing numbers and differences between generations in the workforce, as Bill Cleary, Manager, Talent Operations and Solutions at Deloitte, explains.

Organisations must not only address retention, impact job satisfaction, and move the needle on productivity, but must do so across multiple demographic groups that have different needs, wants, and ambitions. Each of these strategic elements can be enabled by technology, thereby allowing their impact to be measured and quantified.

Each generational group has unique behaviours, expectations, and qualities that will determine their level of responsiveness to a specific strategy.  As leaders, we need to understand these differences and tailor our strategies. The appetite for and impact of each strategy can be directly linked to its alignment with expectations and understanding. If these strategies are misaligned, then the underlying result will be short of the desired outcome and will often be recalibrated against a moving target. To align talent management strategy to generational needs, we begin with data.  The insights gleaned from data provide a baseline against which leaders may build strategies aligned to the unique behaviours, expectations, and qualities of differing generational groups.

Traditional job satisfaction survey results lead us to believe that non-financial incentives are gaining momentum over others.

When focusing on retention, employers often understand expected turnover, while there is a need to interpret and predict unexpected turnover. Each demographic group tends to consider a career decision at different stages, from Baby Boomers looking passively (44%) to Millennials preparing to look (41%) and Gen-Xers already looking (58%). Technology may be aligned with talent strategies to predict and to help interpret those departures that will have the largest impacts, whether in critical jobs or among high performers.

Traditional job satisfaction survey results lead us to believe that non-financial incentives are gaining momentum over others. This trend has been seen in year-over-year survey results as the preference shifts to non-financial incentives, with career progression – or lack thereof – as the leading disincentive. Employees surveyed were asking for more responsibility, more control, and more authority in the workplace, all of which can equate to more power in the compensation arena without having to ask for it. Today’s high performer expects to be compensated at the appropriate level and is able to self-benchmark their own compensation with access to more data in our Knowledge Economy.

Finally, an avenue to address productivity is to measure the degree of alignment between executives and employees, in order to set expectations focused on value-added activities that support organisational goals and objectives. By working towards the same goals, organisations improve focus and reduce wasted effort. Each demographic will approach this differently, and as managers understand and adjust their practices accordingly, effectiveness should increase.

Considering the demographics of one’s workplace and shaping programs, policies, processes and technology decisions accordingly will provide the greatest benefits for today’s market-leading organisations.  These shifts are impacting how we work and how we approach others in the workplace, likely for the better.