Skip to main content

Center Publication

Engaging the Multi-Generational Workforce—Issue Brief

by Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, Christina Matz-Costa, and Elyssa Besen

March 2009—The challenging economy has forced more employers to explore how they can “do more with less” and increase workforce productivity. Employers have significant opportunities to optimize productivity through engagement practices geared to specific generations, according to a new study by Boston College’s Sloan Center on Aging & Work, funded by the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

Entitled Engaging the 21st Century Multi-Generational Workforce, the study explores the drivers of engagement for different generations, including demographic characteristics, factors related to the job, and work team factors. The study reports that older workers tend to be more engaged than younger workers.

“Clearly, with regards to enhancing employee engagement, one size does not fit all,” commented Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, director of the Sloan Center. “The findings of our study suggest that employers who want to enhance employee engagement should consider how to update their assumptions about the importance of the quality of the employment experiences they offer to employees of various ages.”

The findings suggest that simple and cost-efficient efforts can greatly enhance employee engagement, such as, providing strong training and development opportunities, encouraging work team inclusion, offering customized benefits plans, and promoting a culture of workplace flexibility and supervisor supportiveness.

Additional employees most likely to be engaged include:

  • Women;
  • Workers without elder care responsibilities;
  • Workers in good physical and mental health;
  • Workers with a positive self-perception; and
  • Workers with job security.

Specific generational differences included:

  • Gen Y employees (b. after 1980) value access to flexibility for work and family responsibility.
  • Younger Gen X employees (b. 1972 to 1980) look for training and development opportunities.
  • Older Gen X employees (b. 1965 to 1971) respond to having supervisory roles.
  • Younger Boomers (b. 1955 to 1964) value work team inclusion.
  • Older Boomers/ Traditionalists (b. before 1955) respond to supportive supervisors.

» Read more findings in Issue Brief—Engaging the Multi-Generational Workforce

» View Recent Publications

» View All Center Publications