In the previous three posts, we explored different segments of the four-generation workforce: Older workers (65 to 75); Millennial workers (15 to 35); and Generation X to late Boomer age workers (36 to 64). In this fourth and final post, we examine how to retain and make the most of a four-generation workforce.

Strategies for Retaining and Leveraging a Multigenerational Workforce

• Understand your organization’s employee profile and develop training programs that respond to the needs of different generational demographics, even if it means retaining training models that may now appear outdated to younger workers.

• Ensure your leadership team understands and appreciates what every segment of your multigenerational workforce has to offer; leverage each generation’s strengths.

• Initiate dialogues about generational differences; address misconceptions and biases.

• If your organization deals directly with customers, finds ways to match the generational composition of your customer base to the generational composition of your workforce (e.g., older customers often prefer to be served by older customer service representatives and the same holds true for younger workers).

• Phase in retirement by developing job share programs (e.g., employees with very young children are often looking for an opportunity to work on a reduced schedule; by letting them job share with an older worker who wishes to keep working but on a reduced schedule, two generational problems can be addressed simultaneously).

• Create an alumni program for retired employees and provide opportunities for them to continue sharing their experience and expertise with younger workers.

• Carry out a life needs and ergonomic needs assessment to ensure that your workplace is accessible to workers of all age demographics.

• Reward employees based on performance rather than simply seniority.

• Ensure representation from all four generational demographics on hiring committees.

• Involve senior workers, from all departments and in all roles, in training and mentorship programs.

Specific Benefits

Change Management: While there is often a perception that older workers are resistant to change (and in some cases, this is true), older workers have typically also weathered more organizational changes over time (e.g., downsizing initiatives, the introduction of new technologies, rotations in management, the roll out of new policies and procedures etc.) and as a result, may be less not more alarmed when change is introduced. Use older workers as a resource when managing change in the workplace. For example, ask them to share their experiences of previous organizational changes and to reflect on what did and did not work during these transitional periods. Rely on older workers and their organizational memories to help avoid past mistakes and mitigate panic about the impacts of change in the present.

Diversity Training: While some younger workers take for granted the fact that diversity is a resource, older workers may have entered the workforce before the concept of diversity held much currency. On the other hand, while some younger workers may wonder why diversity policies are necessary at all (assuming we are now all equal), older workers often fully appreciate why target recruitment policies and/or anti-discrimination policies are necessary. Create forums for workers of different ages to share their perspectives on diversity issues in an effort to build a more open and equitable work environment.

Information Technology Transfer and Training: Today, a growing number of businesses are facing the fact that much of their old data is no longer accessible and may soon be lost since it is stored in formats, including early digital formats, that many Millennial-age data warehouse managers have never before encountered. Assess the technological know-how of different generational demographics in your workplace and when possible, rely on older workers (e.g., workers who have a firsthand knowledge of formats and systems from the 1980s to early 1990s) to help recover and transfer data to new formats. Likewise, rely on younger workers to help older workers stay up to date on new workplace technologies.

Given the fact that the Millennial workforce continues to grow alongside the workforce over the age of 65, it seems likely that over the coming decade, a growing number of organizations will be home to a four-generation workforce. There is little doubt that organizations that can leverage this multigenerational workforce as an asset have much to gain.