Age doesn’t impact employee engagement
Age doesn’t impact employee engagement
19 August 2013: Much has been made of differences between the generations, particularly when it comes to work. But should Gen Y really be so reviled? Do Gen Xers really hide their lights under a bushel? And are Baby Boomers really content to just sit back and reap the benefits of other people’s efforts?
According to Aon Hewitt’s latest Best Employers study into employee engagement, despite all the hype to the contrary, age does not in itself affect engagement and employees of all ages in fact want many of the same things.
What does count, however, is how well managers and organisation’s can connect with their people at an individual level and how willing they are to acknowledge and respond to their employees’ unique preferences. And sometimes, life stage will determine what these preferences are.
“Our study revealed that, among Best Employers – which are those with the most engaged employees – not only were employees of all age groups equally engaged, so were groups at all job levels, from people at the front line right through to senior management,” said Stephen Hickey, Employee Engagement lead at Aon Hewitt.
Highly engaged employees stay longer, reducing turnover and recruitment costs and apply increased ‘discretionary effort’ – that is, they work harder. That translates to a better bottom line. In fact, organisations with high employee engagement achieve 50% higher Total Shareholder Return outcomes than other organisations.
Wellness programs were a common offering amongst 2013 Best Employer organisations and are a good example of how benefits that are focussed on the individual can have a significant impact upon employee engagement.
“Wellness programs fell into two broad categories,” Mr Hickey explained. “Financial education and health and wellbeing. Employees of all ages saw these kinds of initiatives as positive.”
The most popular financial education programs focused on key life events highly relevant to individual employees and aligned them to specific financial goals. This was seen as a way of helping employees maximise their financial position.
“Interestingly, much of the perceived value of the health and wellbeing programs came from simple examples and gestures of caring,” said Mr Hickey.
Along with these more individual focussed initiatives, the survey confirmed the other engagement drivers common to employees of all age groups.
“Career development opportunities and delivery on employment promises were both cited as of major importance. It seems that when it comes down to these broad areas, the generations have a lot in common in what they want from an employer,” he explained.
As well as these common cross-generational drivers, the study did show that different generations do have some specific motivators. And it is the organisations that genuinely understand specific preferences and can tap in to specific drivers that are the most likely to attract and retain the most engaged employees.
“Generation Y was driven by enjoyment of work tasks, whereas Generation X-ers wanted to feel fairly rewarded for their contribution to the organisation’s success. Baby Boomers, on the other hand, were looking for well managed change programs and appropriate recognition for specific contributions,” explained Mr Hickey.
“I think it’s important to note that none of these preferences are mutually exclusive – and they’re certainly not wildly at odds with each other, which is something you hear anecdotally. It seems more likely that these different preferences reflect the life stage, associated responsibilities and experience that a particular age group might be facing at any given time rather than some kind of integral difference,” he said.
“Ultimately, employees of all ages want to feel valued and supported by their employer. And, no matter what their age, that includes through financial recognition, career development or programs focused on their financial and personal wellbeing.”