To outperform, companies should use distinct communication strategies to engage workers on a generational level, advises Mike Ryan, senior vice president of client strategy at Madison Performance Group, a provider of employee engagement and sales incentive marketing programs.
So-called "echo boomers" account for one-third of the U.S. population, he noted. Born after 1982 and also labeled as Generation Y or Millennials, they are predominantly the children of Baby Boomers and represent the next dominant generation of Americans.
"Echo Boomers, 80 million strong, are the first generation to grow up with computers at home and were plugged into the Internet revolution from the start. This powerful generation is now entering positions of authority and is in the unique position of competing with their ‘parent’s’ generation in the workplace," Ryan observes.
“Boom and Echo Boom labor forces are separated by decades of notable technological, cultural and historical experiences,” he notes. “The real distinctions are their unique value sets and how they influence what they are looking for from employees in regards to emotional compensation. To confront this generational divide, management must recognize their inherent differences and apply recognition methods that resonate with each group.”
Rev Up Communications
While the U.S. has been bouncing back and experiencing some recovery from the 2008-09 recession, Ryan urges business leaders to continue to "rev up Boomer and Echo Boomer communications in order to maintain their engagement during the uncertainty that lies ahead." One tip: Use distinct communication strategies to encourage each generation's engagement. Nurturing the emotional and intellectual commitment of Boomers and Echo Boomers simultaneously is achievable. “It’s all in the positioning," he explained, noting that:
• Young people want their bosses to recognize and acknowledge when they take on new initiatives. Companies should build on their sense of self-reliance and use recognition to reinforce their quest for personal independence.
Tip: Supervisors need to partner with Echo Boomers to help leverage their entrepreneurial instincts and be seen as the enabler and not an obstacle, which can lead to their increased workplace involvement and productivity, Ryan believes. “Jobs will then take on new dimensions for Echo Boomers, demanding more of their engagement, attention and loyalty.”
• Mature workers want to be respected and rewarded for their loyalty, leadership and service to the company and community. “Think stature,” Ryan says. To reinforce the loyalty of Boomers, “Remind them that success is mutual—for them and the firm,” Ryan suggests.
Tip: Having been in the workforce for a lengthy period of time, Boomers are looking for more mental fulfillment "Many Boomers are contemplating the next phase in life and might lose intellectual curiosity—show them that their work is still fascinating," he advised.
Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Gen Y Workers, Under Financial Stress, Value Their Benefits, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, December 2009
Gen Y Poses Unique Management Challenges, HR News November 2009
Benefits for Gen Y. Nadira Hira, writer with Fortune magazine, offers observations about Gen Y employees’ views on job opportunity, loyalty and company benefits.
SHRM Online Benefits DisciplineSHRM Online Workplace Flexibility Resource Page