How to Keep Gen X-Ers and Baby Boomers Engaged at Work

We all know that Millennials have surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, so it makes sense that they’re getting a lot of attention in the press, on social media networks, and on the SHRM blog. But as companies compete to find and hire the most talented of this age group, it’s only natural that more senior employees – the Gen Xers and the Baby Boomers – start to wonder if their work matters anymore.

Earlier this year we discussed how to help legacy employees stay engaged when the legacy culture gets an upgrade. Today, we’re going to look at what you can do to make sure those employees know that there’s still a place in your company for their hard-won experience and expertise.

There’s one caveat worth mentioning, though: while generational stereotypes can offer insight into larger trends, there’s no one-size-fits-all label that perfectly captures every team member on your roster. There are only larger trends that can inform your approach to human resources management and give you a starting point for conversations around employee engagement.

To help facilitate those conversations – and identify those larger trends – we got in touch with Austyn Rask, Research Analyst and Consultant with the generational consulting experts at BridgeWorks. Here’s what she as to say about keeping Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers engaged at work:


Why are Gen X and Baby Boomer employees valuable assets in the workplace?

Like every diverse segment of the population within an organization, Gen X and Boomer employees have unique experiences and traits to offer. The disciplined Boomers wield a fiercely competitive yet optimistic spirit, while the independent, resourceful Xers have mastered a special balance between analog and digital.

An organization is at its strongest when multiple generations can work together and complement each others’ strengths, but this isn’t possible if a company focuses on a single generation – cough, Millennials, cough – and ignores the others.


In what ways can employers balance efforts to attract Millennial talent with efforts to avoid alienating Gen X and Boomer talent?

It all begins with generational awareness, which impacts everything from benefits to engagement—from hiring to retention. Having a perspective on who generations are and how they impact the workplace is essential. Leaders must also make it a priority to keep an open line of communication with seasoned employees. Don’t let yourself get too sucked into the Millennial hype, because there will always be a new generation entering the workforce and bringing change and hype with them, as well.

(Something we’re seeing now with Gen Edge!)


What are some of the unique needs and interests of Gen X and Baby Boomer employees in the workforce?

Here’s a brief summary of Boomers’ and Xers’ needs and interests, and more can be found in the infographics below:

Gen X employees…

  • Value honest, transparent leaders and coworkers
  • Are best motivated through flexibility and time to invest in their personal lives (Basically, time at work = time away from the fam)
  • Desire freedom to exercise independence at work amidst the inevitable team meetings and brainstorm sessions
  • May or may not still enjoy The Goonies and Donkey Kong!

BridgeWorks-GenXTraits

Gen X infographic courtesy of BridgeWorks

Baby Boomer employees…

  • Tend to prefer face-to-face communication (a notable source of tension between Baby Boomers and Millennials)
  • Value networking and building a professional community
  • Appreciate it when their contributions are publicly honored (your motivational secret sauce with Baby Boomer employees)
  • Often enjoy being on the cutting edge of technology to “keep up with the Joneses”

Bridgeworks-BabyBoomerTraits

Baby Boomer infographic courtesy of BridgeWorks


What else should HR directors know about keeping these generations of employees engaged?

With four generations working side-by-side in the workforce, seeking generational understanding is key to developing a team that capitalizes on each other’s unique strengths and experiences rather than perpetuating negative stereotypes.

With 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every day – a trend that will continue for another 11 years – these employees are walking out the door with decades of experience and industry knowledge. Establishing constructive cross-generational relationships and keeping seasoned employees engaged is essential to not losing their wisdom and years of hard work.

Thank you, Austyn! And if the topic of age and generational values in the workplace fascinates you, don’t miss these articles for further reading:

Sarah is a HR and HR marketing and technology writer who analyzes and condenses cutting-edge research and data to help leaders and HR professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and business performance. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.

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