How generational differences are affecting retention in today's workforce

January 3, 2022

Managing multiple generations in today's workforce can feel extremely difficult, but understanding the differences and preferences between these age groups can help bridge the divide. The generational gap in any workplace refers to the different actions and attitudes between workers of specific age groups. As more workers retire and the younger workforce slowly grows, it's essential for employers and managers to recognize the distinctive characteristics and desires that make up each individual age group so they can attract and retain employees effectively.

The baby boomers and Gen X

Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, while Gen Xers fill the 1965 to 1980 age range. A unique aspect of these two age groups is the tendency to be more respectful and obedient to authority. While this trend is slowly devolving as the younger generation takes the lead, it's significant to keep in mind. These older workers are also more inclined to be loyal to their companies and have faith in their employers in the long run.

However, there are slight differences between these generations as well. Baby boomers often prefer traditional processes and face-to-face interactions. They highly value job security and being recognized for their achievements. Gen Xers, on the other hand, were born during the evolution of personal computers, so they're generally more comfortable using technology. While they still appreciate face-to-face communication, they often prefer less supervision and greater autonomy.

Millennials and Gen Z

Millennials, born from 1981 to 1996, and Gen Zers, born between 1997 and 2012, make up the younger workforce that is changing several aspects of the workplace. TeamStage highlights Millennials, specifically, as the largest portion of the workforce at 35%, and both of these age groups are known to be digitally savvy and performance-driven.

Because millennials make up such a large sector of the workforce, they are quickly changing the expectations for employers. Not only do they highly emphasize learning and development opportunities, but they also prioritize a healthy work-life balance. However, because of these newfound preferences, they largely contribute to a low retention rate and are generally not as loyal to their employers as previous generations. A study from Deloitte supports this by finding 49% of millennials would leave their current jobs in the next two years for a different opportunity.

Gen Zers are the digital natives of the workforce. They value collaborative relationships, strong core values and, most importantly, flexibility. Because they regularly seek out flexible schedules, they are more inclined to accept and stay at a job with remote work opportunities. FlexJobs reports a staggering 80% of workers would be more loyal to employers if they offered more flexible work options.

Key takeaways

While these generational gaps pose unique challenges in managing the different age groups at once, there are significant benefits in terms of the scope of experience and problem-solving skills available to you. In order to attract and retain employees from all age groups, it's essential to understand the particular aspects involved in each generation and speak to those preferences specifically.