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January 29, 2015
4 min read
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Performance Management, Supercharged



What group of professionals based on generational age do you think is the most engaged in the workplace? If you guessed the very young and the older age groups, you were right. A recent survey by Quantam Workplace identified the most and least engaged groups in the workplace based on age. Among the most engaged were young Millennials under the age of 25 and Baby Boomers over the age of 66. The least engaged were older Millennials between the ages of 26 and 35 years old.

Taking a deeper look into what drives each of these age groups brings up an interesting perspective. It’s not about taking one all-encompassing approach to engage employees. It takes an individualistic understanding of what each employee is motivated by and what impacts their engagement, both inside and outside of the office.

Grouping these motivations by age group is a great place to start. Here is a look into what motivates and engages each age group in the workplace:

Younger Millennials need to be challenged.

Those 25 years old and younger ranked two items in their top 10 engagement drivers that didn’t rank as high for any other age group. They ranked finding their job interesting and challenging fourth place and in seventh place their job allows them to utilize their strengths.

These placed higher than being recognized for contributions by management. Younger Millennials don’t expect to be recognized for their great work right away. They are aware that they have a lot of learning and adjusting to do before delivering truly recognizable workThey simply want to ensure their strengths are being recognized and utilized by those they are looking up to for guidance. Employers who do a good job of this can then challenge this group in a positive way that helps them grow and get to the next professional level.

Professional development is critical for older Millennials. Millennials between 26 and 35 years of age have been in the workforce long enough to have an understanding of their value and what they can bring to employers. However, their development is only just beginning, so it comes as no surprise that professional growth and career development is the biggest driver of engagement for this groupThese are the employees next in line to be managers and leaders, so they expect to be trained and primed for these roles. Older employees who have already been in management positions for a long time don’t see as much relevance in these opportunities for development.  

The study also alludes to the fact that this could also provide some insight into why this age group tends to job hop. Employees who don’t have their needs for professional development met will seek opportunities elsewhere. Employers who can fulfill these needs will not only be able to capture more top talent, but also have many more engaged employees as a result.

Aligning career goals is critical in older age.

After many years in the workforce and plenty of time to cultivate and grow skills within a chosen industry, employees are not as worried about recognition or challenges. Instead, they want to ensure the role they’re in and the company they are a part of aligns with their career goals. Those 66 years old and older ranked their job being aligned with career goals as the fourth engagement driver, while it ranked 15th for the youngest employees. While your youngest employees are still trying to define their career, older employees have a clear vision of what the rest of their professional life should look like.

For this reason, it is critical for employers who want to retain and engage these older employees to show you are on board with their path. It is also essential to maintain their role so that it continues to align with their defined career goals. Perhaps all of the findings in this study can be boiled down to one simple thing: We are all human. All of us, regardless of what generation we grew up in, will encounter similar experiences, challenges and paths along the windy professional road.

We all start out as fresh employees that are eager to play a professional role in the world and learn as much as possible. Then comes a time when family becomes a bigger priority and professional requirements adjust a bit. Eventually, you’re headed towards retirement and it becomes important to wrap up a long career on a meaningful and fulfilling path.

In the end, understanding that we are all only human is imperative to retaining and maintaining engagement of each age group within your office. 
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