How can businesses increase engagement in a multi-generational workforce?

04 March 2020

We are faced with the unprecedented incidence of five different generations now making up the workforce. Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z are in employment and for the first time, businesses must consider the needs and varying expectations of these individuals to ensure that they remain engaged and productive.

In doing this, businesses can ensure that they are successful in both recruitment and retention, a frequent problem for any employer. The CIPD’s Labour Market Outlook Report 2019 highlights that 41 per cent of employers disclosed that they were having more challenges filling in vacancies than the previous year and 33 per cent reported employee retention being more difficult. Businesses need to take steps to increase engagement and recognise the needs of the different generations that make up the workforce. But how can this be achieved?

Offer flexible working arrangements

Critically, businesses need to find ways to ensure that multiple generations remain engaged in their work. One way of supporting this is by offering a flexible working arrangement for the entire workforce. Whilst this may seem daunting and against the ‘traditional’ flow of the working day, this is often be recognised as a shared desire for workers of all ages. Being given the opportunity to work hours that meet the demands of a busy personal life will prove valuable to a range of different demographics within the workforce.

The composition of businesses today are changing too. As recent reporting has found that women hold a third of board roles at FTSE 100 firms, flexibility needs to be encouraged to accommodate everyone. It is essential to ensure that the flexibility and packages offered by businesses work for everyone, tailoring this where appropriate to accommodate the needs of different generations of workers. Importantly too, with integrated technology mapping out a more remote way of working, offering flexibility is key to engaging your multi-generational workforce.

Be inclusive

In order to attract, retain and engage a diverse demographic of talent, your workplace culture must be open, transparent and inclusive. This ensures that all employees are on the same page, aligning their core values with the key messaging and ethos of the business. Indeed, good leadership will assist in driving forward the cultural values of the business, in turn also ensuring that diversity of thought is embedded in the attitude and approach of the entire team, not just within the boardroom.

Deloitte outlines how the future pool of talent will require businesses to mobilize internal resources and strategically leverage technology to assist with this shift. Importantly here, an engaging – and therefore inclusive – working environment may look and operate differently for different individuals within your workforce. For example, a highly digitised, tech-focused workspace may be seen positively by a millennial workforce, who have grown up in the midst of digital disruption.

It is imperative for businesses to recognise that inclusion also involves the recognition that different incentives and benefits will appeal to different individuals. Employees need to be given clarity on the different incentives, opportunities and programmes available to them. Indeed, it has been well documented that financial rewards are not necessarily a key driver for an individual to join a company or make a commitment to stay. In fact, research has suggested that 86 per cent of millennials would consider taking a pay cut to work at a company whose mission and values align with their own.

Invest in offering the right training

Training is important to ensuring that employees feel valued and considered. This is especially important within large corporations, where there is a significant number of employees working across a range of departments, and potentially across a range of continents too.

In order to maximise the potential of your internal talent, offering opportunities for continued learning and development is key. This can include cross-mentoring programmes, where different demographics can re-skill and learn from each other, both from the boardroom down and upwards too. Holding team workshops and internal training sessions can encourage the sharing of rich insight and knowledge as well as acting as a team-strengthening exercise.

As the make-up of your business changes and shifts, it is incredibly important that you continue to listen – and respond – to your employees. After all, if you are not engaging with your workforce, they won’t be engaging with the business.