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My fellow Millennials (Gen Y) and Gen Zers were raised to believe that we matter. We are a transparent and accepting group who values diversity, collaboration, the freedom to choose, and work-life balance. We know exactly what we want in a career and aren’t afraid to job hop until we find it.
The 2023 Learning Workplace Report from LinkedIn revealed that 93% of organisations are concerned about employee retention. From a Millennial perspective, it will prove challenging to retain us if we aren’t getting what we need from our jobs. First, let’s get salary out of the way because it does matter—but probably less than you think.
An OECD report from January 2023 Retaining Talent at All Ages states that competitive salaries are an important factor when retaining workers across every age group. On top of that, more than half of young workers worry about financial security and stability. These fears are 1.4 times more prevalent than those of older generations—and it’s warranted.
While members of the five generations that make up today’s workforce agree that salary, schedule flexibility, growth opportunities, and development are attractive incentives to stay in a job, Generations Y and Z have additional expectations that include open communication, setting boundaries around beliefs, and inclusivity.
It’s costly to put down roots, especially in major cities where many attractive roles are located. Since 1983, college tuition costs in the US have increased by 861%, medical care by 468%, and housing by 219%. Additionally, financial aid is down by 6% since 2013, inflation rates are abnormally high, and more than half of us left school with debt. So yes, money matters. We need it to survive in this economy—everyone does. But despite these financial obstacles, only 35% of Gen Zers cite compensation as the top reason they’re dissatisfied with their current jobs, according to a 2023 report on Generation Z from Oliver Wyman. The Adecco Group’s latest Global Workforce of the Future Report revealed similar findings.
Also on the Forum Network: Diverse, Not Divided: Making multigenerational work by Tatiana S Rowson and Mike Mansfield
The global labour force is becoming more age diverse, meaning that we are increasingly more likely to find grandparents and grandchildren working together. But despite this new phenomenon, the issue of ageism still persists. How can we tackle it?
If your organisation offers competitive salaries and young workers are still jumping ship after a few years, I predict something else is amiss. While members of the five generations that make up today’s workforce agree that salary, schedule flexibility, growth opportunities, and development are attractive incentives to stay in a job, Generations Y and Z have additional expectations that include open communication, setting boundaries around beliefs, and inclusivity. Retention is possible; but it’s going to require work on the micro and macro levels of management.
Communicate Preferences Openly
We should be talking openly to one another about our preferred methods of communication. Managers of multigenerational teams can set examples by helping colleagues find ways to clearly communicate. Ask your employees what kind of interactions feel most comfortable to them. Show them that you are willing to step out of your comfort zone.
Here’s an example I often revisit: My dad has decades of work experience under his belt and understands that talking to customers and colleagues on the phone and meeting with them in person is important when building personable, long-lasting relationships. I, however, spent my formative years communicating through text messages and emails. I find this format quicker and more efficient (similar to 65% of Generation Z).
In a work environment, we might switch between methods of communication depending on the goal of the conversation: exchanging emails for a faster, more efficient approach, and meeting face-to-face when the conversation calls for intimacy and relationship-building.
Taboo topics of the past, like diversity and inclusion, mental health, and gender roles, are becoming widely discussed and even encouraged in professional settings.
Just as there is no right or wrong work style, there is no right or wrong method of communication. Instead of expecting colleagues to communicate using your preferred method, compromise to find a non-judgmental middle ground that takes everyone’s preferences into consideration. Try to think of your differences as learning opportunities.
Set Respectful Boundaries Around Beliefs
A wider representation of age groups at work has introduced new beliefs and values into the office. Taboo topics of the past, like diversity and inclusion, mental health, and gender roles, are becoming widely discussed and even encouraged in professional settings. Research has shown “younger generations tend to be more progressive about social issues, as well as more comfortable talking about topics that were previously considered taboo in the workplace.” Generations Y and Z are generally more willing to accept and normalise discussing these topics, helping to reduce the stigma surrounding them; and this activism extends into the workplace. In fact, 21% of Gen Zers would consider changing jobs if their employer is not engaged in social issues, and 75% are more likely to consider jobs that better align with their values, according to the same 2023 report from Oliver Wyman.
And while it’s not necessary for every person in the organisation to agree on or share the same values and beliefs, it is important to understand each other and give young workers the opportunity to represent theirs. The biggest challenge you may face as a manager will involve respecting the varied boundaries of your team members while upholding your own set of values, boundaries, and ground rules.
We need to create environments where every person feels willing to ask for help, share their best ideas, take risks, and prioritise psychological safety. While colleagues shouldn’t impress their beliefs on each other, managers of multigenerational teams can provide ongoing opportunities for workers to share what they stand for and to have difficult conversations at work. Even if the beliefs across your team vary significantly, facilitate discussions about the shared norms that work best for everyone—rather than defaulting to the way things have always been or favouring the preferences of one group over another.
The radical acceptance of other people’s identities is a defining trait of Generations Y and Z. A quote taken from a McKinsey study on Generation Z sums it up: “We each have our own style and way of being, but what binds us is that we accept and understand everyone’s styles.” It’s imperative to create a culture in which people across all ages, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, religions, dis/abilities, classes, personalities, and educational backgrounds can be vulnerable, authentic, and learn from one another.
To foster understanding on a teams-level, managers should create an inclusive decision-making process that encourages open dialogue. During meetings, make sure every voice is heard and considered without favouring one group over another. You can also try to boost inclusivity on the organisational level by talking to your employer about developing initiatives that encourage workers across all walks of life to connect and share their experiences, such as mutual mentoring programmes.
To realise the benefits and power of a generationally diverse workforce, we need to learn how to collaborate and appreciate our unique preferences, habits, and behaviours. Humility is required, but the understanding that there isn’t a single right way to work will pay off in the long run. Managers can take the lead by getting to know their Gen Y and Gen Z colleagues while being flexible about preferred methods of communication, respecting boundaries surrounding beliefs, and ensuring that teams are inclusive and welcoming to all identities.
To learn more, read the OECD report Retaining Talent at All Ages
The deep and rapid changes in the world of work driven by the digital and green transformations as well as population ageing have been associated with greater job instability, with potential costs for companies, workers and society. The unprecedented labour and skill shortages that emerged during the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic have raised further the importance of developing and retaining talent. In the context of a more age-diverse workforce, addressing this challenge will require better working conditions, greater investments in training and tackling difficulties in reconciling work with health issues and caring responsibilities. This report presents evidence on recent trends in job tenure and employee turnover, how they have changed due to the COVID-19 shock and sheds light on why employees quit their jobs. It identifies key employer and public policies that can support increased employment retention through better job quality, health at the workplace, and training and skills.
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