Demystifying the Multigenerational Workforce

Posted in Best Practice Thoughts & Culture

Today it seems like all of the focus is on Gen Z’s relationship with the workplace, but are they really the only group that needs our support?

Our data might suggest otherwise.

By the numbers:

In this blog we define the generations as follows:

Gen Z are those aged 18-24 years old, millennials are between 25-40, Gen X are between 41-56, and baby boomers are those aged 57-75.

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A quick Google search brings up over 400 million articles on how to adapt workplace culture to better fit Gen Z, and this certainly isn’t a bad thing.

As McKinsey rightly points out, “Generation Z has entered the working world during a global pandemic and amid concerns over rising inflation rates, recession fears, geopolitical conflicts, and climate change.”

In their spring survey, McKinsey found that Gen Z employees are more likely to hold multiple jobs at once, less likely to feel like they get paid a wage that allows them a good quality of life, less likely to feel recognized and rewarded for their work, and less likely to expect financial stability in the future.

And these feelings carry real consequences (like 55% of Gen Z survey respondents reporting that they’ve been diagnosed or have received treatment for mental illness).

“In fact,” the McKinsey study continues, “on every metric that interferes with effectively performing work, Gen Z reports more struggles than the general population.”

In addition to these external influences, 20% of Gen Z workers said the inability to share their full self at work had a major impact on their ability to effectively perform their work – and our most recent survey found that workers’ inability to express themselves was the leading cause of them feeling disconnected.

While this is certainly a cause for concern, our survey found another very important group that might also need our attention, but likely isn’t asking for it.

Why is connection important?

In 2022, connection is more than a “nice-to-have.” It’s a necessity.

Our research found that 94% of employees agreed that they’re more productive when they feel connected to their colleagues. They’re also 4x more likely to report feeling “very satisfied” with their jobs and were half as likely to leave within the next 12 months.

Feelings of connection translate to higher employee productivity, better employee retention, and even increased positive employee sentiment toward their workplace.

Furthermore, research from the Natural Library of Medicine shows a positive correlation between feelings of connection and better mental health, meaning these feelings of connectedness themselves can potentially help combat the struggles that many Gen Zers are experiencing.

Gen Z and younger workers are actually feeling the most connected. It’s the baby boomers who are struggling.

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As it turns out, our research found that Gen Z employees actually reported feeling the highest levels of connectedness in the workplace of 2022 (64%), compared to millennials (63%), Gen X (52%) and finally the baby boomers (44%).

On the surface this makes sense, as the younger generations were raised with more technology and tend to be more comfortable with it playing a larger role in workplace interactions (workers 18-34 years old said they were even 59% more likely to leave a company than older colleagues if hybrid work wasn’t offered as an option).

This is also reflected in our findings as baby boomers reported the top benefit of being physically back in the office was an increase in productivity, where productivity was noted much farther down the list for Gen Z, millennials, and Gen X employees.

Be mindful of the needs of younger employees, but don’t overlook the needs of baby boomers in the process.

Remember those 400 million Google results on adapting the workplace for Gen Z?

A similar search for how to help baby boomers adapt to our new workplace only returns a fraction of the results – but we can’t overlook the importance of caring for this group as well.

As Forbes points out, baby boomers have an exceptional work ethic and commitment to their jobs, but, more than that, they represent a walking trust of organizational knowledge.

Yet The Washington Post reported that the percentage of workers aged 55 and older fell six percentage points – to 33.3% – of the total workforce early in the pandemic. Their premature absence will leave some very critical holes to fill.

How to support successful knowledge transfer in a multigenerational workforce

Baby boomers deserve a relaxing and rewarding retirement when they’re ready. But just letting their decades of hard-earned knowledge and experience walk out the door when they leave could be downright detrimental to your businesses.

One of the best ways to help encourage knowledge sharing is to set up a buddy system between employees of different age groups.

Be sure to pair up employees in similar departments so their learning will be relevant, and use Enboarder to send timely and topical nudges to your employees to remind them to engage regularly and give them an activity or a prompt to talk about.

When they’re ready to retire, Enboarder can also be used to help make your employee transitions smoother and more successful – Learn more here.

So how do we keep everyone feeling connected regardless of age?

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As always, we need to start by considering that each individual has unique needs and requires different support.

That said, there are some trends that can help:

For starters, continue to invest in your managers, as younger employees are twice as likely to say that their managers make the biggest difference in helping them feel connected.

But also make sure you’re creating opportunities for both spontaneous and organized employee interactions (such as buddy/mentorship programs, team meetings, and even fun events), as all age groups across the board consistently reported that the primary group that helped them feel connected at work was their peers and coworkers.

Our younger employees are our future, so it’s imperative that we learn to create an environment where they can physically and mentally thrive. But it’s equally important to ensure the rest of your multigenerational workforce is feeling supported and connected.

The multigenerational workforce isn’t something to demystify as much as it is something to celebrate.

When everyone feels connected, the benefits of every age group can truly shine together, and that’s something all our businesses need to be successful in the upcoming years.