How to Motivate and Retain Different Generations

Jun 8, 2010

Dave Willmer

Research for our company’s recent white paper Workplace Redefined: Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change found that 40 percent of workers of all ages say they’re more inclined today to look for new opportunities outside their firms. To help keep employees happy and improve retention, it’s useful to understand generational preferences in the workplace.

You may be surprised to learn, for example, that baby boomers (born from 1946-1964), Generation X (born from 1965-1978) and Generation Y (born from 1979-1999) are not that different when it comes to what they seek in an employer and how they measure job satisfaction. Following are some tips, based on key findings from the white paper, that can help you boost employee loyalty:

Recognize that salary matters - Many workers feel their pay levels have not kept pace with the contributions they made during the downturn. Of those surveyed, 37 percent said they are not fairly compensated for having assumed a greater workload. Employers should always aim to keep salaries in line with or slightly above what competitors are offering. The Robert Half Technology Salary Guide (available at, as well as association and government reports, can help managers stay on top of trends. Bonuses and other financial rewards should be offered whenever possible to show appreciation for employees’ hard work. Companies with tight budgets might consider extra time off, gift certificates or public praise for an achievement.

Reassess benefits packages - Benefits were also rated a chief priority for workers of all ages. All generations considered healthcare coverage a key concern, rating it a 9.1 out of 10 in importance. The next most valued benefit was vacation/paid time off, followed by dental care coverage.

While you may still be evaluating recent healthcare reform legislation and how it will impact your firm, there are steps you can take now to address the other priorities. Research your current vacation and paid time off allotment to employees. Is it competitive with other employers? Staff members who’ve worked long hours during the recession as well as those nearing retirement age may be particularly interested in more personal time. Dental care can also be an affordable option to add to give your firm an edge.

Promote your company’s stability - The recent economic downturn prompted more employees to pay attention to their employers’ financial performance. All generations surveyed rank working for a stable company and having a strong sense of job security as most important in their current work environment.

As the recovery unfolds, it’s critical to let your staff know of your firm’s business plans and goals for growth. Informing employees that the future looks bright and that you have a solid strategy going forward can be motivating and help with retention efforts. Also solicit staff input and include them in the planning stages for projects, so they feel their ideas are valued and that they have an impact on the process.

Provide learning opportunities - Employees have learned that keeping their abilities current is critical to their professional success. Gen X and Gen Y workers, in particular, said one of their top post-recession career plans is to enhance their skill sets to become more marketable.

Investing in training programs can be a wise move to build job satisfaction and loyalty. Technology professionals, in particular, want to remain on the cutting edge. In fact, it can be essential when dealing with hardware and software products that can become obsolete quickly. Providing challenging work on the job, including opportunities to get involved in new projects and gain additional skills, is another useful move for employers.

Motivating and retaining workers of all ages will become more of a concern as the economy gains momentum. By taking steps now to reinforce your position as an employer of choice, you can build loyalty and avoid losing top talent. This can give your entire firm a competitive advantage because you will have a knowledgeable, skilled base of IT professionals ready to help your company address future opportunities.

Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support. The company has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services.

Tags: RHT, Gen X, Gen Y, baby boomers, retention,

0 Comments (click to add your comment)
Comment and Contribute

Your comment has been submitted and is pending approval.



 (click to add your comment)

Comment and Contribute

Your name/nickname

Your email


(Maximum characters: 1200). You have characters left.