What today’s blended workforce wants, needs, and requires from employers

If hiring managers and HR departments could magically answer one question once and for all, it would probably be: How do we recruit and retain qualified young employees while also continuing to leverage more experienced, knowledgeable workers? This brings up questions like: Should we let employees wear T-shirts and sandals to work? Or should we keep things buttoned up and focus on a more robust 401k plan instead? Perhaps we do both?

While Millennials recently overtook Gen Xers to become the largest generation in the American workforce, for all the “Millennial hubbub” (and seemingly obsessive focus on them)—they are still only a portion of the entire equation. As a recent report from Firm of the Future aptly observes: “Generation X and Millennial employees are now in leadership positions. Mix those generations with Traditionalists and Baby Boomers, and the result is a firm comprised of an interesting blend of individuals.”

While it’s true that some Millennials enjoy casual work environments, frequent social events, and a few unorthodox perks, it’s also true that many “increasingly see life and work as one entity and are drawn to companies that care about their individual well-being and encourage them to focus on their whole selves.” This is actually true across all generations, as a 2018 Peldon Rose survey of office workers found that 72% of employees want employers to champion mental health and well-being, making mental health nearly doubly more important than equality (48%), sustainability (38%), and diversity (31%).

So perhaps, in order to accomplish the task of “serving multiple masters” the focus should first be in the areas upon which all the generations feel similarly. Technology has no doubt created massive divides, but it also has a unique ability to bridge the gaps.

With that in mind, here are some ways to win over the next generation while continuing to invest in the things that also matter to a seasoned workforce.

 

#1 – Invest in professional development and training

While Millennials may be “digital natives,” it doesn’t mean that older generations who weren’t sitting in high school classes with their smartphones aren’t tech savvy. In fact, this DDI study found that Gen X leaders are better equipped to leverage technology that moves the company forward—since they’re able to combine tech skills with their years of leadership experience and broader organizational understanding.

And they want more. The same study found that Gen X leaders are invested value the personalization and convenience offered by technology-based learning tools and believe technology will “help them make the most of their development opportunities.” Leadership quality rose 46% when technology was used in their learning programs.

According to Gallup’s How Millennials Work and Live report, Millennials also want training and mentorship (along with benefits)—they just want it to be more personalized. Programs that are tailored to their specific needs and interests are a crucial part of keeping this particular subset of the workforce engaged.

 

#2 – Always be thinking of new ways to keep your employees engaged.

Speaking of being engaged, if there’s one fact about Millennial workers in the Gallup report that should concern companies more than any other, it’s this: 55 percent say they’re not engaged at work, the largest proportion of any generation. According to Gallup, this “lack of engagement costs the U.S. economy $284 to $469 billion annually in lost productivity.” That deserves a “Wow. Just. Wow.”

They want their work to be animated by a sense of purpose, which means they have to believe in the company’s mission, feel that their contributions are welcomed, and see that their job is helping them develop personally and professionally. If you cultivate an environment like that, you don’t have to be a Silicon Valley giant to attract younger workers.

While this connection is rarely made, the Boomers are similar in their predilection for “purpose.” According to Firm of the Future, their driving belief is: “Work hard and reap the reward.” These rewards result in a purposeful and participatory attitude toward authority (i.e. an employer). But also note: “If those in charge are acting in unacceptable ways, it is not uncommon to see Boomers rebel. Managing this group entails not only telling them what to do, but also discussing it with them.” Sound familiar?

 

#3 – Be open to remote and flexible work

One of the most notable advantages of technological innovation is its ability to fuel remote and flexible work. “Semi-retired” Boomers can consult from their second homes atop mountains or amidst sprawling beaches, while twenty-somethings can WFH once a week as a “perk” of the job. Women who are raising children have also found it easier to remain connected to the workforce through part-time, virtual work if they so choose. Because work-life integration is becoming more widespread, it’s all about creating a flexible work schedule that can fit into people’s lives.

The Center for Talent Innovation found that 66% of Gen X women and, 55% of Gen X men want flexible work arrangements. And according to this Bentley University study, 77% of Millennials believe that a flexible schedule would make them more productive. Increased flexibility has noticeable results: Companies that allow remote work experience 25% less employee turnover than companies that do not allow remote work (Owl Labs). Within marketing specifically, in 2018, digital marketing was the most hired for role, reports McKinley. And it’s no surprise that marketing is one of the top 10 most common professions among remote workers and digital nomads.

To keep up with a workforce that wants more time and location flexibility, instant messaging and video conferencing tools play a key role in maintaining (and sometimes increasing) productivity. Harvard Business Review reports that 87% of remote workers feel more connected through the use of video conferencing: And this is true and accessible across generations.

 

While it is certainly important to understand the nuances of each generation, and ultimately how to leverage their unique skill sets and experiences, sometimes it’s also good to remember that common threads continue to hold us together, even as technology often puts a blaring spotlight on our differences. Is it our contention that the blended workforce has the unique opportunity to be a forceful one.