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Education Article

Jobs for Every Working Generation

Jobs for Every Working GenerationSome businesses have gotten used to a culture where they create a position, post it, interview and hire for it, orient the new employee and assume the employee will fit with all of the job expectations, including the work environment. For legally mandated accommodations, businesses do, of course, offer alternative schedules, work environments, equipment, etc., but beyond that, we pretty much expect every employee to fit within the confines of their job without accommodation.

This article will emphasize the importance of exploring flexibility within every job to not only attract diverse applicants but keep them once they are hired. According to an article by Theresa Agovino entitled "Millennials Hit Middle Age" (2021), "job angst" at work following the resignation of a colleague differed by generation as follows:

Felt lonely or isolated at work:

Millennials 32%
Generation X 29%
Baby Boomers/Traditionalists 13%

Wondered if their pay is enough:

Millennials 65%
Generation X 51%
Baby Boomers/Traditionalists 36%

Realized there are better job options for them:

Millennials 56%
Generation X 51%
Baby Boomers/Traditionalists 37%

It is easy to see that Baby Boomers/Traditionalists are the most comfortable in their work environments and are far less likely to feel lonely or isolated at work. While naturally interested in their pay, compared to their younger colleagues, it doesn’t appear to be a significant factor in their work relationship. And they are better satisfied than their younger colleagues with their current role. All of those statistics increase the younger the generation.

So what does this mean to those of you recruiting and hiring for open positions, and to supervisors orienting, coaching and evaluating performance? You will have to let go of the old ways of assuming everyone will fit into the job and work environment without any accommodation.

Again, while not legally mandated to acknowledge (in this case) generational preferences for the workplace, you would be a very wise employer to understand what different generations need and want in order to be satisfied and, therefore, productive employees. Examples include:

  • Realize that Millennials will be more sensitive to losing a work colleague from their team. What can the employer do to alleviate this likely stress?
    • Announce to the work team what will be happening now that the colleague has given their public notice, allowing that team to absorb the change a little more slowly.
    • Include the work team in the replacement process, e.g., timing, whether the job is remaining exactly the same, whether team members are encouraged to apply for the position, whether any team members will need to adjust their work assignments while a replacement is hired and oriented, whether any of the team will be involved in the interview process, etc. This will give the team a sense of control and, hopefully, alleviate some of their emotional concerns.
  • Make it clear to employees at all times that they are encouraged and welcome to discuss their compensation.
    • Clarify how salary ranges are set per position and reviewed routinely (typically annually), how merit increase percentages are set and applied, etc. That will assure those who are concerned with getting the most compensation possible that compensation methods will always be fair, likely never equal (since a performance component is always factored in), and always based on available budget for the business at large and the department specifically.
    • You will likely lose employees who are always seeking more money, but don’t be bullied into applying inconsistent practices that will only hurt your business in the long run.
  • Associated with the constant desire for more money is certain generations’ inclination to always seek the next job opportunity. While you, as the employer, can try to make employees comfortable in their job, you will likely never be able to fully quell their seemingly inherent desire to experience what else is out there.
    • Remain prepared to lose employees by having some succession planning at every level to replace each of your positions.
    • Succession planning also presents a general plan to your employees indicating other opportunities within the company to which they could gravitate.

While providing each employee with their perfectly desired work environment is neither reasonable nor affordable, customizing it to the extent possible is more likely to satisfy and retain employees. That said, the reasonableness of making noncompulsory accommodations depends on their being selective and fairly distributed. You cannot honor every requested noncompulsory accommodation, for logistical, economic or fairness reasons. Be very clear with your employees what your noncompulsory accommodation practices are and hold to them.

Finally, remember that everyone is replaceable, even though it can be difficult at the moment of loss to remember that. And find opportunities to involve employees in their daily work life, as that is a key retention factor.