Generational Differences in the Workplace

To keep good employees, you must meet their needs and expectations, and understand what keeps them inspired. Employee needs and expectations vary from one person to the next. They also vary depending on a variety of factors including the generation of the workers. At this particular moment, there are several different generations – all with different worldviews, expectations and needs – in our workplaces.

According to CCHRSC’s  A Portrait of Canada’s Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) Workforce (2009) report, the average age of the child care workforce reveals that, compared with all occupations, the ECEC sector is gaining older workers and losing younger ones:

  • From 1996 to 2006, the proportion of ECEs and assistants workforce aged 45 or more rose from 18.7% to 29% – an increase of 10.3%.
  • ECE’s and assistants saw a large drop in the percentage of workers under 25 – a 6.4% drop compared to 0.3% rise for all occupations.
In this Section:

Young employees

Attracting the next generation of employees

If organizations want to survive they will have to learn how to attract and keep the next generation of employees. Research from the HR Council for the Nonprofit Sector tells us that younger workers value the opportunity to be connected with the impact of the work that they were involved in. Even if they worked in an office and didn't have regular contact with outcomes, when they were given a chance to see the impact it often left a lasting and meaningful impression.

Make sure to create opportunities for young people to feel this kind of connection to the impact of their work.

Young people also valued the opportunity to work with a diversity of people, of cultures, ideas, perspectives, backgrounds and identities. They enjoyed the chance to experience human connections across difference in the organizations they worked with.

Work to create organizations that are inclusive and open to diversity. Create an environment that encourages and promotes difference and healthy opportunities to build meaningful connections across difference. Steer away from prescribing a certain way of acting or "doing business."

Most challenging experiences
According to the same research from the HR Council for the Nonprofit Sector, when asked about the not-so-positive aspects of their experiences, younger workers are frustrated by:
  • Organizations showed a lack of human resources structure and good people management skills.
  • Many organizations had a "chaotic" environment with a lack of structure that created confusion and didn't support the work that needed to get done.

Good Practice:  Create clear strategic and operational plans for your work. Make sure to include human resources planning in this process. Make sure you have the right, and enough, human resources to accomplish your goals. Ensure employees have up-to-date job descriptions and ask them to develop work plans. Implement an effective performance management system and create regular opportunities for feedback and monitoring.

Characteristics of an ideal job
When the participants were asked to describe the most important aspects of their ideal job, they came up with the following common factors (in random order):
  • Challenging work
  • A variety of work
  • An environment that fosters a spirit of creativity and innovation
  • Recognition and reward for high performance
  • Flexibility (in work schedules)
  • Opportunities for advancement
  • Mentoring opportunities
  • Organizational values that align with personal values
  • An environment that involved a diversity of people
  • Good pay (this was not mentioned first at either meeting)
  • A good benefits plan and retirement benefits plan
  • Job security
  • The ability to balance personal and professional lives

Can your organization check off all of these characteristics? Do you market these when looking to recruit new employees into your organization? Is there more that you can do to offer these in your workplace?

Mid-career employees

Good retention practices
Employees who have been with an organization for more than four or five years may become bored or entrenched in their beliefs. In order to retain good employees, enable them to become even better, and to ensure the health of your organization and maintain its ability to change:
  • Ensure that mid-range employees are involved in setting the direction and strategic plan for your organization.
  • Ensure that their jobs are based on the plans of the organization and that the employee can see the results of her or his work.
  • Ensure that they get a good performance review at least every six months and that you listen to, and act on, their ideas, suggestions and concerns.
  • Ensure that they are continually learning and enhancing their skills.
  • Ensure that you talk with them about career planning.
  • Encourage experienced employees to mentor newer staff and volunteers, and, if appropriate, board members.

Older employees

Good retention practices
In addition to the retention practices outlined for mid-career employees, your organization may need to ensure that the following options are available for all staff:
  • Flexible work (flexi-time or flexible work location)
  • Good pension or retirement plans
  • A healthy environment that meets their occupational needs
  • Additional training on new technologies