Employee wellbeing: how to look after a multigenerational workforce
Today’s age-diverse workforce brings with it a wide range of wellbeing issues. How can HR professionals and employers develop an effective strategy that caters to a multigenerational workforce?
It’s no secret that employers, who prioritise employee wellbeing and look after their staff well, are more likely to reap rewards. Not only do their employees benefit from a better work experience and healthier lives, but the business also benefits from attracting better talent, building employee loyalty and improving employee motivation and performance.
Today’s multigenerational workforce
Today’s workforce is growing increasingly age-diverse, with more workers delaying retirement to secure a better financial future – meaning people could be working from their teens well into their 60s or 70s. In fact, over 50s now make up almost a third of our workforce, and the number of over 65s in work is increasing three times faster than the rate of younger workers.
Here are the five key generations in today’s workforce. And it’s not unusual to see all five, working side-by-side, within one company.
The Silent Generation: age 73+
Baby Boomers: age 55-72
Generation X: age 39-54
Millennials: age 24-38
Generation Z: age 18-23
The challenge for employers is that the needs and preferences of one generation can be vastly different to the next – a one-size-fits-all approach to employee wellbeing is therefore no longer enough for a multigenerational workforce.
How different are each generation’s needs?
Take the youngest generation in our workforce today, for example, Generation Z. New to the workforce, they bring a fresh perspective and a new set of skills. Their lifetime familiarity with digital technology is hugely valuable to any business.
But an increasing number are seeking treatment for mental health issues, and many are beginning their careers with the burden of high student debt and anxiety around finances. It’s crucial that employers provide the right mental health support, such as 24/7 helplines, and offer financial education or support.
The most successful wellbeing programmes will be those that recognise the specific needs and expectations of today’s changing and diverse workforce
In contrast, older workers (such as the Baby Boomer generation) are reportedly less comfortable asking for support from their employer around their mental health, and companies may need to specifically work on breaking the stigma around these issues and create a supportive environment where employees feel they can access help without judgement.
And then there’s Generation X. This generation are often seen as status hungry but hardworking, although they do expect the perks that go alongside this. As well as starting to experience age-related health issues they are also known as the ‘sandwich’ generation as they can often find themselves with caring responsibilities for both children and elderly relatives. This can result in financial worries as they struggle with everyday costs, whilst also trying to plan for their own financial future.
The benefits of taking a multigenerational approach to employee wellbeing
If employers want to continue seeing five generations working side-by-side, each bringing unique and valuable experience, skills and talents to their company, they must prioritise their wellbeing and happiness at work.
And the most successful wellbeing programmes will be those that recognise the specific needs and expectations of today’s changing and diverse workforce. So, employers must take the time to focus on each generation independently, in order to understand their needs.
How to develop a strategy for a multi-generational workforce
With so many generations and different wellbeing needs to manage, it may not be possible to provide everything to everyone. Here are some ways you can make sure you are helping the majority of your workforce:
Segment your employees by age to understand the complete make-up of your workforce. This will help you to work out what percentage each group represents and map existing benefit and wellbeing provisions against this
Consider a staff survey to understand your employees’ needs and what they would find most valuable
Review in-house HR data such as exit forms, previous feedback forms and any absenteeism data to identify any recurring trends that can be used to inform your strategy
Within your core package include a few initiatives that are appropriate for the majority, if not all, of your employees
Ensure your managers are aware of and trained in the differing wellbeing needs of the various generations that work for them
Find out more with our guide to managing the wellbeing needs of a multigenerational workforce
To help more employers get a better understanding of the groups making up their workforce, and how to keep them healthy and happy at work, Benenden Health worked with Jane Abraham, health and wellbeing specialist and Managing Director of Flourish Workplace Ltd., to create an employer’s guide on ‘Managing the wellbeing needs of a multigenerational workforce’.
The guide highlights the key wellbeing issues each generation faces – including financial, emotional and physical – and the initiatives employers can put in place to help support them best.
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