Abstract T he emerging need to efficiently and effectively manage the multi-generational workforce has become in of the priorities for managers. This paper relates to the need of having and engaging in practices that foster the understanding of the difference among generations in order to establish and conduct healthy approaches when managing personnel. The paper also relates to the need of establishing clear sets of goals and strategic initiatives to build a workforce that is engage, productive and fully identify with the organization’s culture.
EMPLOYEE ENGAGMENT IN TODAY’S MULTI-GENRATIONAL WORKFOCE For today’s global workforce of four generations of employees and countless cultures, a careful approach must be taken in order to address the various needs of each individual. Nowadays, managers face the unique challenge of motivating and engaging employees across generations with noticeably different work styles, performance goals, and ethnicity into the same work culture.
Therefore a careful approach will be conducted throughout the paper to show the importance of understanding why employee engagement is important, what drives employee engagement, how to motivate employees from different generations, the trends use to manage difference in generation, the use of knowledge management to transfer information across generations. Understanding Employee Engagement Employee engagement is relatively a new concept among the HR practices.
The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology describes employee engagement as an unclear and ambiguous term for both academic researchers and among practitioners, consequently they offer three different facets in order to clearly display the concept and to be able to draw conclusions on employee engagement. The three facets consist of the psychological state engagement, behavioral engagement, and trait engagement. The first facet of engagement: Engagement as a psychological state, according to (Macey and Schneider, (2008 ) refers to the form of absorption, attachment, and/or enthusiasm.
In the operational level, engagement is measure through four different categories: job satisfaction, organizational commitment, psychological empowerment, and job involvement. Macey and Schneider (2008) noted that when satisfaction is evaluated as a positive feeling, and as a good emotional state it becomes a facet of engagement. Commitment is noted by them as a positive attachment to the organization which is measured through both the willingness of the employee to support the organization and by the personal identification the employee shows towards the organization.
Psychological empowerment encompasses three dimensions, self of purpose, self-efficacy, and feelings of control that lead the employee to action. Job involvement refers to the magnitude in which an employee psychologically relates to the organization and the work performed therein. The second facet of engagement introduced by Macey andSchneider (2008 ) is behavioral engagement and refers to the combination of innovative behaviors, initiative, and the eagerness to find opportunities to contribute to the organization.
It also includes the behavior that goes beyond expectations. The third facet introduced by Macey and Schneider (2008 )is trait engagement. This facet explains that there are two aspects that can contribute to a state of behavioral engagement. One aspect is the personal traits of the individual, and the other one refers to the positive conditions encountered in the workplace. The first aspect, personal traits described by Macey and Schneider (2008) suggests, that positive affectivity, which refers to being enthusiastic and energetic, are part of a personal trait.
The second aspect described by them is conscientiousness, and refers to the individuals who are ‘‘hard working, ambitious, confident, and resourceful”, and the autotelic personality implies the trait in which people engage in activities for their own sake rather than for specific gains or rewards. All these traits are just a reflection of the tendency of individuals to experience work in a positive way and consequently engaging to the organization. The second aspect suggested by Macey and Schneider (2008) refers to the positive conditions encountered at work.
This aspect implies that behavioral engagement is more likely to take place when some conditions such as the nature of the work people do and the leadership encountered at work yield positive attitudes; therefore behaviorally engagement. In conclusion, there is no single definition of employee engagement that can encompass the full meaning of the term. Employee engagement is simply a combination of the facets explained above; employee engagement is the key to create and yield positive results at the work lace, is the treasure any organization wants to possess in order to create competitive advantage and success in general. According to studies made by Gallup, engaged workplaces yield a 38% in productivity and a 27% increase in profitability. Promoting an engaged workforce should be one of the first goals the organization sets. Maximizing the innate talents by taking into consideration the psychological state engagement, behavioral engagement and personal traits engagement of every individual will bear a sustainable organizational growth. Drivers of Employee Engagement Let’s now explore what drives employee engagement.
According to Towers- Perrin (2003), there are certain workplace attitudes that are critical when building a high- engagement workplace environment. Some of the most important ones rated by employees are the following: Senior management’s interest in employees’ well-being, challenging work, decision-making authority, evidence that the company is focused on customers, career advancement opportunities, the company’s reputation as a good employer, a collaborative work environment where people work well in teams, resources to get the job done, input on decision making, and a clear vision from senior management about future success among others.
All of these facts about how to drive employee engagement come down to the kind of culture and work environment the organization longs to build and how well the organization nourishes and commits to its employees. The stronger these attributes are in the workplace, the stronger the level of employee engagement. How to Motivate Employees of Different Generations The workforce is changing at a fast and dramatic way. Ruch (2010) implies in his article Full Engagement; Manage multiple generations how for the first time in modern history, workplace demographics contains four generations.
He is referring to Miliennials, Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers, and Mature which are currently working side-by-side. Ruch (2010) emphasizes in his articles that these four generations are characterized by having differences in personal traits and wants; in general they tend to have different attitudes towards life. These notorious differences might cause, according to Ruch (2010) some friction, mistrust, and communication breakdowns; it might also prevent successful teamwork and cooperation; it might also impact job satisfaction, retention, and productivity among the employees.
Ruch (2010) suggests that in order to manage a multi-generational workforce, it is imperative to understand each generation, and the common experiences and traits that connect its members. After that it is important to draw strategies that would enable the organization to align all employees with the same organizational goals and culture in which age differences are recognized and leveraged. Similar to what Ruch (2010) exposed in his article, another author that points out the importance of knowing how to manage the multigenerational workforce is (Murphy, 2007) She is the author of the article Leading a Multigenerational Workforce.
She explains in her article that the reality of mixing generations in today’s workforce is credited to a vast labor shortage in many industries and the rising average age of retirement. For example, in 2006 Baby Boomers were the most influential and powerful position in organizations around the world. According to Murphy (2007), by 2011, the percentage of Baby Boomers in the workforce is expected to decline while the Millennial Generation is expected to grow. This important shift will impact the work culture since priorities, attitudes, and work styles differ with each generation.
That’s why Ruch (2010) developed three action steps in order to successfully align generations into the organizational goals and culture. The first one refers to the importance of understanding the workforce. If the organization focuses on analyzing the workforce demographics, skill sets, personality traits, and perspectives on the culture, it would gain a better and deeper understanding of the expectations of employees. The second step of action refers to building and maintaining a balance workforce. This step according to Ruch (2010) requires that the recruiting strategies established by the organization must appeal to diverse age groups.
For example, the author suggests that online job boards may have more appeal for Miliennials than Matures, compared to newspaper ads which will certainly have more appeal to employees in the first generations. The third step of action focuses on the creation of an accepting culture. According to Ruch (2010) a culture that appreciates the different traits each person brings into the workplace is a great starting point to involve employees and create a great work atmosphere. In addition, Ruch (2010) suggests the incorporation of multigenerational workforce management as an organizational goal. The author believes this will create a ore effective way to develop and enhance an open door for differences. To facilitate this process an interaction program must be included in order to develop programs that are geared to managers, leaders, and employees at all levels. This way it would be easier for the employees to understand the importance of recognizing difference among generations. If these three steps are put into place, it will certainly bring more flexibility to the organization, also a vast range of skill sets will be available within the workforce; therefore a greater ability to attract and retain high-performing employees.
Three Important Trends to Manage Different Generations It is primordial to examine the three important trades that are crucial for any organization to successfully manage intergenerational dynamics. The first trend is competing for talent, According to Murphy ( 2007), “finding skilled employees” is one of the most critical aspects and sometimes one of the most overlook aspects for top manager in organizations. Only a third of employers have begun to educate managers about ways to utilize this tool.
The cost of replacing experienced workers can range from 50 to 150 percent of their annual salaries when costs for recruiting, orient¬ing and training new employees are combined. (Murphy, 2007). The second trend of this intergenerational dynamics is the reality that lately more generations are working side-by-side. Statistics presented by Murphy (2007) indicated that by 2014, nearly one-third of the total U. S. workforce (32%) will be age 50 or older. An interesting fact is that Millennials are the fastest growing group, comprising 15 percent of the U. S. workforce. By 2011, the participation of Millennial will go up to 25 percent.
In order to recruit and retain the Millennials, organi¬zations will need to understand this generation’s perspectives, needs, communication styles and work ethic. Finally, the third trend focuses on how productivity and business results are linked to work environment. If multi-generations are managed in way where their needs are met, where they feel valued; they will contribute greatly to the organization. They will engage the organization’s culture bringing success in every aspect. On the other hand, generational differences can lead to frustration, conflict, and poor morale.
Today’s organizations have the opportunity to take advantage of these three trends and apply them if productivity wants to be achieved. Managers should also be aware of the differences between generations and from there draw the management style, policies and practices necessary to fulfill the needs of each generation. How to Use Knowledge Management to Transfer Knowledge in Today’s Multi-Generational Workforce This segment focuses on comparing the differences in workforce generations and exposes different methods to teach and share knowledge across generations.
According to Stevens (2010) it is imperative for any organization to design strategies that establish channels of communication that permit the transfer of knowledge from generation to generation. This is a primordial step that must be use by organizations in order to remain competitive and to create a successful work environment for all. Knowledge and intellectual capital is the company’s primary source of production and value. (As cited in Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995). Organization must consider human capital as the most important asset; this asset is the one that will contribute the most to the success of the organization.
According to Steven (2010) human capital is also considered as being “the collective value of the capabilities, knowledge, skills, life experiences, and motivation of the workforce” (as cited in Aldisent, 2002). In other words human capital is the main component and it should be the most valuable asset of any organization. Therefore, knowledge management is as important as capital equipment, land, financial resources and other tangible assets. Stevens (2010) argued that as employees in organizations advance in age, the knowledge and the experiences they acquired are somehow mold to the organization’s purpose and goals.
That’s why communication from generation to generations should be functioning correctly to allow an open communication that shares the maturity of older generations to be transferred to younger ones, hence allowing the organization to remain competitive even tough aging employees transfer out of their positions. “As the Baby Boomer generation prepares for retirement, many firms want to be sure that the knowledge and experience gained by the current leadership does not walk out the door when they do” (as cited in Glick, 2007, p. 11). This is certainly a growing concern among organizations because as baby boomers eave the organizations without properly transferring their knowledge, the organization incurs in an expensive journey to acquire the knowledge and the experience already gained by these employees. Now the question is what is knowledge and why so important?. Stevens (2010) argued that “knowledge management refers to the process of enhancing company performance by designing and implementing tools, process, systems, structures, and cultures to improve the creation, sharing and use of knowledge” (As cited in Gephart, Marsick, Van Buren, and Spiro (1996)).
Therefore, knowledge should be considered in any organization as a vital tool to ensure great performance and a successful work environment. As noted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Workers ages 65 and above make up almost 30% of the labor market in America based on the September, 2009. This shocking reality is just the reflection of declining birth rates and the aging of Baby Boomers. According to a report by Forrester Research, 76 million Baby Boomers will retire in the next 10 years with only 46 million younger employees as replacements (As cited in Lesser, 2006).
This means that the labor pool will have shrunk nearly 60% by 2016. (Stevens, 2010). Shifting workforce demographics are having a notable effect on organizations across a variety of industries and geographies (Lesser, 2006). That’s why organizations now days are looking for more precise ways to approach this situation. The good part about it is that it will bring relevant knowledge and learning challenges that will permit the organization to grow strong.
In some organizations, the number of employees retiring is growing; this is becoming a risk, since organizations need to keep up with their production and quality of its specific business. This challenge of a shrinking labor pool is greatly affecting productivity. A reflection of this situation was presented by American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) and International Business Machines (IBM) which describes that “the majority of organizational learning executives report that the maturing workforce coupled with the smaller labor pools will impact their organization” (As cited in Lesser & Rivera, 2006).
This dramatic shift in the organizational structure leads to the conclusion that in order to properly manage the current situation is crucial to understand what a generation is and why each and every single one of the traits and characteristics are meaningful when learning how to manage a multi-generational workforce. According to Murphy (2007) a generation is a group of people who are programmed at the same time in history. During early years of age, every person is coded with information about what is right and wrong, good and bad.
A generation shares a common set of events and trends, that shape the way they behave, also the perception of life is different. Because each generation is unique each has a different approach and way of thinking about leadership styles, work ethics, and problem solving strategies within others. The basic structure of an organization just a few years ago was something similar to a hierarchy, where the oldest employees held the executive positions, the middle-aged filled the management positions and the youngest employees worked on the front lines.
But today the reality is other. The World War II generation normally works under the Generation X, while Millennials share almost the same positions as the Baby Boomers. Nowadays, these four generations work side by side each day; sharing their own ideals, perspectives, leadership style, and management style. (Murphy, 2007). The challenge is there, but the opportunity is there also to make of this great adventure an opportunity to build a competitive advantage for the organization.
According to Stevens (2010) there are four different generations: The first generation described is the World war II generation, also referred to as silents, traditionalists, and veterans, they were born between 1900 and 1945 during the grey market (As cited in Kyles, 2009). This generation witnesses the invention of television networks and the evolution of marketing. Since this generation was influenced by the Great Depression and World War II, they did not like to challenge authority, were very loyal, consistent, and conforming (As cited in Kyles, 2009).
Therefore this generation did not feel comfortable with top-down management style and they did not like any verbal or written recognition. ( As cited in Kyles, 2009). The second generation described by (Stevens, 2010) is the Baby Boomers, which were born between 1946 and 1964, are nicknamed the “forgotten generation” (As cited in Reisenwitz & Iyer, 2007). This generation experienced post-war stress, consequently, they were not willing to conform like pre-boomers. Their primary “focus was on work and were rewarded for their loyalty and commitment” (As cited in Cennamo & Gardener, 2009).
This generation main characteristic was the inclination to value relationship building. The next generation entering the workplace, Generation X, is described by (Stevens, 2010) as very independent in comparison to the Pre-Baby Boomers and Baby Boomers generations. Generation X, born from 1965 to 1979, went through the increased use of technology and the many social and cultural shifts, also this generation was characterized by being more committed to their careers than to their organizations (As cited in Cennamo & Gardener, 2009).
However, the noticeable independence shown by the Generation X revealed also a marked disloyalty to the organization. (As cited in Kyles, 2009). The last Generation described by (Stevens, 2010) is the generation Y, born from 1980 to 1999, is also referred to as Nexters or Millennials (As cited in Kyles, 2009). This generation experienced economic crisis from the recession in 1981, this generation is also characterized by being comfortable with the Internet and in general to technological advances (As cited in Cennamo & Gardener, 2009).
One of the most noticeable characteristic of this generation is the long for balancing work and life, also the opportunity to advance in the career world, and traveling around the world (as cited in Kyles, 2009). All of these characteristics presented for each generation are just a reflection of the great challenge ahead of any organization to manage employees in an efficient and effective way. The different values, work habits, needs and wants of each generation present a great barrier to successfully engage each generation into one organizational culture.
Therefore, facilitating knowledge transfer within a multi-generational workforce should be a priority for today’s organizations. According to (Stevens, 2010) there are many organizations that have already notice the need to create strategies to transfer knowledge from Baby boomers to the members of Generation Y. (Stevens, 2010) stated that for an effective knowledge management and knowledge transfer to be put in to place, It is crucial to plan. In addition, it is imporatnat to study what are the present needs and wants of the organization and be certain of what is what each generation prefers to learn.
In addition (Stevens, 2010) suggests because of the existing differences between generations the knowledge transfer methods needs to be use accordingly along with the learning styles to accommodate the differences. Formal education and training, apprenticeships, simulations and games, storytelling and conferences, blogs and papers should be use to accurately engage each generation into the process (as cited in Wagner ,2009). For example, technology is the preferred method of learning for Millenials. Millenials are more comfortable utilizing blogs or podcasts to transfer their knowledge to others in the workplace.
Here is with the barriers comes into place. Even though the Millennial generation likes and feels comfortable using technology; the Baby Boomer generation feels lost and impotent. As a result management should be really careful when transferring knowledge. (Stevens, 2010) used a joint study conducted by International Business Machines Corporation and the American Society of Training and Development to show that 60% of respondents utilize mentoring as a method of passing on knowledge, while approximately one-half still use document/heavy repositories as tools for capturing knowledge ( as cited in IBM & ASTD, Lesser, 2006).
According to (Stevens, 2010) the study also emphasizes that mentoring is the most effective way to guide employees into knowledge transfer; meaning that the one-on-one relationship between the mentor and the mentee improves the transfer of general knowledge. In the other hand, (Stevens, 2010) also points out that this method is time consuming and that it sometimes fails to bridge the generational gap because of the pairing of the mentor and mentee is not done taking into consideration the difference among generations.
As a result knowledge transfer might not occur. (Stevens, 2010) also introduces other forms of knowledge transfer including “classroom training led by older workers, fostering learning communities to encourage sharing of learning and experiences between young and older workers, and leveraging multimedia tools, such as audio/video interviewing and story telling to preserve significant learning from aging employees” (as cited in IBM & ASTD, Lesser, 2006).
Furthermore, (Steves, 2010) remarks that In today’s multi-generational workforce, there is strong evidence of reverse mentoring in which younger workers serves as mentors of older workers, (Steves, 2010) states that in certain cases and areas this strategy shows prove of being effective to transfer knowledge. This kind of reverse mentoring is commonly used when “executives need to understand operations or technology that can be shared by younger front-line or tech-savvy employees” (Steves, 2010).
Nevertheless, generational perspectives make it hard to promote this kind of mentoring; this relationship is also necessary to develop and maintain an open minded approach in order to In order to avoid barriers of status, age differences, power and position. As employees advance on age it is imperative for them to receive the proper knowledge to remain productive, efficient and effective in the organization. Definitely, today’s management often do not take into consideration the importance of the human capital and the many benefits that can bring to the organization if used to their potential.
Still, as mention before is critical to understand that knowledge needs to be managed in a way that each generation is taken into consideration; this requires vision and strategy to be performed. If organizations learn to identify and value knowledge and treat it with careful focus, the demands and changing workforce demographics would benefit and will lead them to action, to be more effective and engage to the organization. In conclusion, knowing how to manage and succefully engage the current multi-generational workforce is imperative.
Understanding that promoting an engage workforce should be one of the first goals the organization sets. Maximizing the innate talents, taking into consideration the psychological state engagement, behavioral engagement and personal traits engagement of every individual will bear a sustainable organizational growth. In addition, knowing the different common experiences and traits that connect employees is crucial to create strategies that permit the alignment of employees with the same organizational goals; it will also enable the organization to recognize and leveraged the approaches that need to be taken.
Furthermore, there are different methods to teach and share knowledge across generations that must be taken into consideration. The use channels of communication will enable the organization to transfer the necessary knowledge from generation to generation within in order to remain competitive and to create a successful work environment for all. If all of these aspects are put into practice the organization will display a great competitive advantage since it is utilizing at its potential the most important asset that any organization posses which is the human capital.