Talent Management in a Multi-Generational Workforce: Retaining Talent

Retaining Talent in a Multi-Generational Workforce

It’s no secret that recruiting and retaining top talent (regardless of age) is absolutely imperative if your organization wishes to effectively compete in today’s rapidly changing business environment.

As with most issues that are worth solving in a financial institution, addressing the implications associated with a multi-generational workforce requires continuous learning, open and honest communication/feedback, effective change management skills, and most importantly, a multi-partisan and solution-focused effort. Those are the hard parts.

The easy part is that regardless of culture, race, sex, or age, we ultimately all want something simple: to be happy. We want to be happy in our personal and professional relationships, we want to be happy and fulfilled with the work we do, we want to be happy in pursing our dreams, and we want to be happy as we contemplate the meaning and purpose of our lives.

Marshall Goldsmith, a world-renowned executive coach and author proved this fact by enlisting the help of Accenture. In one of my favorite leadership books, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” Goldsmith conducted a research project, surveying individuals from 120 companies around the world. He asked just one simple question: “If you stay in this company, why are you going to stay?” With resounding evidence, the top three answers were:

  1.  “I am finding meaning and happiness now. The work is exciting and I love what I am doing.”
  2. “I like the people. They are my friends. This feels like a team. It feels like a family. I could make more money working with other people, but I don’t want to leave the people here.”
  3. “I can follow my dreams. This organization is giving me a chance to do what I really want to do in life.”

These responses convey exactly what employees want from their employers and what employers can do to attract and retain human capital. But for now, back to the hard part: “how?”

Creating a Sense of Urgency, Understanding & Awareness

  • Identifying and addressing the real issues and tension points that stem from a multi-generational workforce.
    • What is your organization losing because of these gaps? – Top talent? Innovation? Productivity? Market share?
    • What opportunities exist in addressing the issues? – Competitive advantage? Increase revenue/profits? Decrease costs? Efficiency?
  • Understand the broad preferences and motivating factors of each age group or generation in the company. Use employee engagement surveys to help with this process. However, ensure that the results/data can be dissected by age group!
  • Use these discussions to create the “burning bridge” necessary for the organization to buy-in to change. According to Kotter International, 71% of the workforce is actively disengaged, costing U.S. organizations over $300 billion!

Open Communication

  • Encouraging employee self-reflection around preferences and work style is also another critical component. Harvard Business Review considers the following questions as a good starting point in achieving this goal:
    • What are some misperceptions that people have had about you in the past?
    • What do you care about most in terms of how work is done?
    • What are some ways that you tend to communicate?
    • What are your hot button issues?
    • What are some quirks about you?
  • Take this exercise a step further and ask your manager, teammates, and co-workers specifically how to respond to their styles. This exercise will uncover generational biases and encourage employees to adapt their communication methods to better align with the various personality types across the organization.


We'll look at more tips on how to grow and maintain a talented workforce in the next part of my series. And if you haven't yet, be sure to read Part One.

Topics: industry trends