The Challenge of Engaging and Retaining Younger Workers

Gallup report in their recent survey that baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) have increased their engagement levels in the workplace.

On the other hand, the percentage of engaged Gen X employees (born between 1965 and 1979) has declined.

This means that Gen X employees have seen their engagement ratio drop from 2.1 to 1.7 while the baby boomers are up to 2.4.

But the most dramatic decline in engagement has occurred among younger generations, especially the older group of millennials (born between 1980 and 1988). The percentage of engaged older millennials has declined by seven points. This means that older millennials have seen their engagement ratio drop to 1.9.

The younger group of millennial and Gen Z employees (born 1989 or later) have experienced a five-point decline in engagement. This means that the younger millennials and Gen Z employees have seen their engagement ratio fall from 3.1 to 2.5.

How to Inspire and Keep Younger Workers

The generational trends in engagement have important implications for leaders and managers who want to attract, engage, and retain younger workers.

Here are some key actions that leaders and managers can take (adapted from the Gallup research):

  1. Communicate a clear, compelling vision of the organisation’s purpose, values, and goals.
  2. Build and communicate the type of culture that supports these goals.
  3. Focus on managers by revisiting their job responsibilities.
    – Train them to communicate well.
    – Train them to become a leader and to coaching their employees through clear goals, accountability and having conversations weekly with each person they manage. These regular conversations should be about employees’ performance, development, and career aspirations and show how each team member’s work contributes to the bigger picture.
  4. Encourage collaboration and innovation by asking for and acting on younger workers’ ideas and opinions.
  5. Train managers how to manage in a hybrid world.
    – If on-site time is required by the organisation, employees need to receive clear and meaningful communication about the benefits of in-person time for the employee, organisation, and customers.
    – Managers need to initiate team member discussions about coordinating in-person time.
    – In-person office time is particularly useful for young employees who need development and mentoring and who want to feel connected to the larger organisation if it is organised around these themes. For younger workers, development and purpose are keys to developing a mindset that is more connected to the organisation.
    – Leaders and managers must set an example by being on-site themselves.
    Offer flexibility options for employees who need to be on-site full time.
  6. Have managers provide flexible and personalized learning and development opportunities that align with each employee’s strengths, interests, and goals.

By implementing these measures, leaders and managers can increase engagement and loyalty among younger employees, improving performance, customer service and retention.

In the current world of work, engaging and retaining younger workers presents both a challenge (engagement and retention) and an opportunity (fresh thinking, innovation, new skills).