How to Integrate Generations X, Y and Baby Boomer Employees

March 24, 2008

As the workforce ages, organizations are faced with challenges in assimilating new workers with older workers who are reaching retirement age.

A study from the American Society of Training and Development shows that 76 million Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, will be retiring over the next 20 years, but only 46 million workers will be available to replace them, most of who are referred to as Generation X, those born between 1965 and 1979, and Generation Y or Millennials, those born after 1980.

For organizations, it presents two situations to consider: how to maintain the needed number of employees given the expected exodus of Baby Boomers and how to manage a multigenerational workforce.

“If the Baby Boomer retirements happen as predicted, will we have enough people to replace them, and will these jobs be attractive to an emerging workforce?” asks Dr. Laura Mastrangelo, an organization and management development specialist at Frito-Lay, who studies workforce demographics.

To slow down the departure of Baby Boomers, companies are developing strategies to lure workers out of retirement when eligible. Yet equally as important, companies are also focusing to gain new, young talent. This will create a multi-generational workforce that will result in both challenges and opportunities for employers.

But does age really matter? “Yes,” says Mastrangelo. “This is something important to look at because there are going to be four generations of people in the workforce now, and each generation has different characteristics.”

However, regardless of whether the challenge is workforce shortage or age variation among employees, one thing remains constant for either issue: to help deal with generational differences in the workplace, organizations must strengthen their recruiting and retention efforts because it is a competitive market for attracting the best employees.

“There’s a big war for talent,” Mastrangelo said. “How do we recruit them, and once we have them, how do we retain them? What do they want? What are they looking for in terms of culture and benefits?”

Some things important to Baby Boomers may not matter to the younger generation. Therefore, as Millennials enter the workplace, organizations need to determine their preferences. New selection strategies and benefits packages may be necessary for attracting quality young talent.

For example, implementing new technology is important, Mastrangelo points out. “Millennials are already there, so companies need to meet their needs.” She also sees work-life balance as an essential factor; things such as flexible schedules and location should be considered.

According to Mastrangelo, organizations need to start tailoring their efforts toward Millennials. “We can’t look at this early enough,” she said. “The workforce is changing faster than what we have the research for.”

At the same time, companies that do not consider older workers for needed talent will be passing up an opportunity to plug any holes in their workforces.

Note: Age and how it dictates recruitment and retention of top talent is a key focus for many organizations. At the upcoming conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), April 10-12 in San Francisco, Mastrangelo will present on generational differences in the workplace. As the symposium chair, she will share how Frito-Lay approaches this issue. She will also be joined by other experts in this area of study from Walgreens and the Human Resource Management Center (HRMC).

Held at the Hilton San Francisco, this year’s conference is the 23rd annual event and is projected to attract more than 4,000 attendees. It will take on a three-day format with full-day sessions on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Source: The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) is an international group of more than 7,000 industrial organizational (I-O) psychologists whose members study and apply scientific principles concerning workplace productivity, motivation, leadership and engagement.

Distributed by Newswise

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