3 ways to engage the multigenerational workforce

For the first time in the modern age, some companies will have five generations in their workplace. From 'Traditionalists (opens a new window)' born before 1945 all the way up until Generation Z (opens a new window), the generational diversity present in many workplaces can create a range of challenges. It can also present a competitive advantage (opens a new window), if well managed.

Below are three key takeaways from our recent breakfast briefing on engaging the multi-generational workforce.

There’s no substitute for actually asking employees what they need.

1. Presume less, listen more

Of course, employees are people, not generational identities. So don’t allow preconceptions or unconscious bias to influence your expectations of what different  age groups may want and need. This will just lead to a culture of stereotypes. And while benchmarking can be useful for many things, it won’t actually tell you what employees want. In fact, if other companies’ practices are outdated or misinformed (and many may well be), then by aligning your benefits packages with theirs you may just end up perpetuating poor workplace practices. Ultimately, there’s no substitute for actually asking employees what they need.

To better understand what employees really want from their benefits package, we ran a number of tailored focus groups, using paired comparisons (opens a new window), to establish popularity levels of different benefits. (Explanations were provided on the nature of the various benefits to ensure that respondents’ choices were well-informed.) Compelling employees to make direct choices between benefits grants you more insight into what they really value, as opposed to what they think they would like or feel they should cite as important. 

Our research provided some interesting results, including:

  • 40% of participants said non-cash benefits were important or very important when deciding on which employer to work for. 

  • Group income protection was very popular with every demographic. This was more apparent where there had been a pithy explanation of its function and application.

  • While millennials generally lean more towards digitised content and communication, when it comes to financial advice they still very much appreciate traditional face-to-face financial consultation.

Giving employees a measure of choice over their benefits greatly improves their uptake.

  • Many millennials place a lot of value on low-cost benefits – such as buy/sell holiday options, and retail and leisure discounts.

  • Retirement doesn’t feature high on the radar for 16-24 year olds, with only 4% saying it was attractive when deciding which employer to work for. Despite this, 73% of all participants said they intend to retire below state pension age.  

2. Prescribe less, empower more

Less prescription, and more employee choice, equals more empowerment – the key ingredient for higher employee wellbeing.

Our research indicated that giving employees a measure of choice over their benefits greatly improves their uptake. (It’s vital to remember, however, that just as too little choice can diminish engagement, too much choice can have the same effect.)

Wellness funds can be an effective way to transfer ownership to employees and were found to be more popular than specific wellness initiatives. Our survey found that 88% of employees prefer a wellness fund – to spend on a range of options – over an annual company health screen or wearable devices.

Older workers are now often the ‘sandwich generation’.

3. Consider the needs of older workers

The older workforce is an increasingly important group that receives relatively little attention. Many older workers have much more to offer the business. Moreover, their transition into retirement should not be viewed as an abrupt cliff-edge, but as something that can be smoothly managed through flexible working.

Older workers have more care responsibilities than previous generations, owing to increasing longevity. They are now often the ‘sandwich generation’ – with care responsibilities for young children and ageing parents. While employers are typically mindful of the need to accommodate employees’ childcare responsibilities, care duties towards ageing parents should also be considered. This consideration should extend beyond material factors, such as flexible working, and include the financial, emotional and psychological implications of caring for ageing parents.

Of course, employees must never be viewed purely in terms of the generation they belong to. In any case, many generational groups – such as the 19–36 years ‘millennial’ age group – are very broad and actually comprise various sub-groups. Many other discreet factors, such as a company's geography, sector and so on will influence employees’ needs and preferences. What is true across the board, however, is the value companies will find in asking and listening to their employees.

For more information, please contact Chris Rofe on:

Tel: +44 (0)20 7933 2876 | Email: chris.rofe@uk.lockton.com (opens a new window)