Older workers more focused than the young

Jan 10 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Different generations inevitably want different things from the workplace, but according to a new survey, it is younger workers who feel more disengaged from work, not their older colleagues.

The survey by consultancy Hewitt to find the 50 best employers in Canada has found wide variations in what different generations were looking for in the workplace.

On average, in the best companies more than three quarters of workers claimed to be engaged, against just over half at others.

Intriguingly, older employees were more likely to be engaged in their work than younger ones, contradicting the belief that many older workers simply want to coast to retirement.

The average engagement score for those in the most senior age bracket (61 or older) at all participating organisations was 74 per cent.

Scores declined with age, with the least engaged group being generation X (26 to 40 years old) at 61 per cent.

Employees in the lowest age range – 25 years old or younger – were only slightly more engaged at 63 per cent.

"The HR programs at many organisations have been designed by baby boomers to meet the needs of baby boomers," explained Hewitt's Neil Crawford, "so it's not surprising that many younger workers don't feel connected to their employer.

"In order to drive high engagement, organisations really need to listen to groups of employees that differ by age and other factors to find out what will make their work more meaningful," he added.

Labour shortages would mean even more diversity in the workplace, as organisations recruited for a variety of skills and experience, the study stressed.

"A generic approach to workplace policies is no longer appropriate," said Hewitt consultant Ted Emond.

"Programs must be flexible enough to allow a certain degree of customisation so that employees can tailor them to meet their own priorities," he added.

Organisations would need to provide opportunities for training and development, work/life balance, and the freedom to make decisions about how work gets done in order to attract younger employees.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, they would need to offer interesting work, supportive supervision, and opportunities to use existing skills to attract older workers.