How to Embrace a Multigenerational Workforce
by Morgan Smith – Reprinted by Independent Agent Magazine, October 31, 2014
Which mindset best describes your employees: Work comes first? Live to work? Work to live? My life comes first?
Chances are, it depends on their generation.
For the first time, four generations exist in today’s workplace—prompting discussions about how agencies can attract young talent while also maintaining seasoned professionals.
At September’s Big “I” annual Fall Leadership Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, author, speaker and coach Sherri Elliott-Yeary discussed “how to attract young agents, but also how to build so you’re ready for the future so for the next 20 years.”
As part of the “Engaging a New Workforce—Multicultural, Multigenerational, Multifaceted, Multitalented” session featuring two speakers and a panel discussion, Eliott-Yeary dissected each generation to provide agents with insights and strategies about both short-term, day-to-day work flow and long-term perpetuation planning.
Traditionalist: This generation believes in dedication, sacrifice and approval. Growing up in the depression, traditionalists have an “I don’t have” mentality and shape the attitude behind maintaining the same job until you get the boot. This generation believes you save now in case of the future.
Baby boomer: As the leaders of divorce rates in the U.S., baby boomers harbor a hint of personal satisfaction. A lot of boomers are busy building and moving up the corporate ladder. What motivates boomers? Higher titles, the corner office, nice business cards and a big bonus.
Gen Xer: They’re sandwiched in the middle and have started bridging the gap between boomers and millennials. Gen Xers are more accepting of diversity and were to the first generation to embrace technology. Because the majority of their parents were divorced, they ended with an “I can learn this on my own” mentality.
Millennial: This generation is incredibly optimistic and enjoys working in teams. Millennials believe in growing across the industry and gaining as much experience in every area possible, because they get bored so easily. You can thank technology for that.
But when your workforce is made up with people who all have a different set of needs and motivations how do you engage them, attract them and keep them going?
“Have some understanding and be willing to coach, because sometimes that’s all it takes,” Eliott-Yeary said. “It doesn’t matter what age group it is or where you’re from—you have to be able to motivate and engage in a way that’s authentic and with integrity, because that’s how you’re going to have the winning formula to get the best of the best.”
Elliott-Yearly called it “generational DNA”—year of birth and generational personalities enable self-identification with a generation category that best fits our individuality. That means you could be a baby boomer by age, but a Gen-Xer by personality.
Elliott-Yearly suggested using this insight to ask your staff what generation they feel most connected with—then leveraging that knowledge from generation to generation. What a millennial knows about technology, a baby boomer knows in building relationships. That knowledge transfer can make or break an agency in today’s increasingly multi-generational environment.
Consider the two competing workforces in the economy currently: boomers and millennials. Where boomers are climbing a career ladder, millennials are building a lattice framework. Boomers believe “If I win, I win”; millennials believe “If the team wins, I win.” “There’s an opportunity to have crashing instead of collaboration, but you have to find a way to help them all think they win,” Elliott-Yeary explained.
And what about getting those younger employees on board in the first place? According to Elliott-Yeary, the average number of jobs a millennial has before the age of 35 is 10.2. That means your agency has approximately eight months to woo, engage and motivate employees of this young generation. Help them grow and keep them engaged, developing a working plan for when their to-do list is completed or cross training to keep them enthusiastic about their work.
“In the new workplace, we need to foster diversity and increase engagement if we’re going to reduce the time the millennials leave while our boomers are staying in the workforce longer,” Elliott-Yeary said.