The composition of today's workforce is changing dramatically. Improved health and longevity mean people are living and working longer, leading to an unprecedented situation where workplaces may contain four or five generations of employees. Each generation brings its own perspectives, values, and priorities. With such diversity comes great potential, but also challenges in engaging and integrating all employees. Successfully fostering an age-inclusive culture is key for organizations that wish to attract and retain top talent across generations, spur innovation, and remain competitive.
Today we will explore several best practices for effectively engaging the multigenerational workforce.
Fostering Intergenerational Contact and Collaboration
Studies show intergenerational contact and collaboration in the workplace can yield numerous benefits. It builds understanding between age groups, reduces stereotypes, and enables sharing of knowledge and skills. Organizations should provide opportunities for intergenerational teamwork through strategically designed training programs, mentoring initiatives, workgroups, task forces, and community outreach projects.
For example, Cisco implemented a “Shadow Board” program where Millennial employees are paired with and mentored by senior leaders. Participants report gaining insight into leadership styles, organizational history and strategy while relationships strengthened between generations.
Home Depot fosters intergenerational teams by assigning “Youth Captains” to train older workers on using technology. Older employees share institutional knowledge and expertise with younger team members. This enhances collaboration, leverages the strengths of all generations, and ensures knowledge transfer.
customized training that met needs of employees at different career stages. Mid-career employees could take leadership development courses while newer hires received onboarding sessions. Older workers interested in mentoring were offered train-the-trainer programs. The tailored training promoted professional growth for all generations.
Emphasizing Health and Work-Life Balance
Each generation has different health and work-life needs. Best-practice employers recognize this and implement policies that demonstrate care and understanding.
For young parents, onsite daycare, flexible scheduling, and generous family leave signal a family-friendly culture. Businesses that provide dry cleaning, meal services, and concierge benefits make it easier for busy mid-career employees to manage personal and professional demands. Meanwhile, older employees appreciate wellness incentives, reduced travel, flexible hours, and remote work options.
Deloitte actively assesses the needs of its multigenerational workforce through surveys and feedback. Insights gained led to additions like onsite health clinics providing flu shots and physical therapy, deploying ergonomic assessments and equipment, unlimited vacation time, and remote work. The result is a culture supporting employee well-being and work-life fit across all age groups.
Adapting Recruitment and Retention Approaches
Attracting and retaining top talent across generations requires tailored recruiting and retention strategies. Employers should understand what motivates each generation and develop targeted outreach.
Millennials and Gen Z may be swayed by progressive policies around remote work, social consciousness, diversity, equity and inclusion. Gen Xers often look for flexible schedules, career development, work-life balance. Baby Boomers tend to prioritize supportive leadership, meaningful contributions, and flexibility to transition into retirement.
Strategic retention efforts also matter. Prudential Financial increased its under-35 workforce by 29% in two years through initiatives like a mentoring program, leadership academy, and targeted college recruitment. Meanwhile, to retain its 50+ workers, CVS Health developed roles that let retirees stay engaged as consultants or employees on custom schedules. Adapting practices to meet generational needs boosts engagement and talent retention across age groups.
Promoting Cross-Generational Mentoring
Cross-generational mentoring delivers advantages for mentees, mentors, and organizations. Younger mentees can gain insight from experienced mentors who provide valuable coaching, networking contacts, and organizational perspective. For mentors, sharing knowledge solidifies learning and cultivates leadership skills.
At Abbott Laboratories’ formal initiative, 95% of mentees and 92% of mentors said participation enhanced their skills and network. Mentoring boosts productivity and job satisfaction while enhancing transfer of institutional knowledge before older workers' departure. Cross-generational mentoring also facilitates relationship-building between diverse employees.
Organizations should incorporate mentorship opportunities as a development tool and culture enhancer. Formal programs with training resources, structured activities, and management support increase success. Company-provided venues and team-building events also help connections flourish. Cross-generational mentoring empower individuals and strengthens organizational culture.
Today's multigenerational workforce offers amazing potential. But realizing the promise requires understanding employees’ diverse needs and implementing best practices to support all generations. Encouraging intergenerational contact, emphasizing work-life balance, adapting recruiting and retention, and facilitating mentoring across age groups are proven strategies. With the right approach, employers can create an age-inclusive culture that engages the entire workforce, fosters innovation and productivity, and gives them a competitive edge. Unleashing the potential of the multigenerational workforce is an opportunity forward-thinking organizations cannot afford to miss.
Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.