When we look at the components of workplace well-being from a holistic view, factors such as practical responsibilities, workplace design, working relationships, job demands and stressors, policies and practices, and the number of hours worked all play a role. Another factor is how an individual prioritises the goal of living well. One of the strongest influences on that definition is age. What matters most to one generation in terms of wellbeing doesn’t necessarily hold true to another.
In order to foster employee engagement, employers must look at the well-being needs across the generations and then make adjustments and improvements to ensure those needs are being met. Through our Global Perspectives survey, we set out to understand the employee perspective about their place of employment, including whether or not their organisation is doing enough to address employees’ wellbeing needs. While wellbeing was a factor in the past, this year it has emerged as a key driver for engagement (other drivers include leadership and innovation), signaling its importance among today’s employees. Of the 7,295 employees we surveyed across 20 countries, we found that 51% of respondents feel that their organisation cares about their health and wellness. But what about the other 49%? The gap between the status quo and meeting employee needs for health and wellness lies in the employer understanding the differences across generations, in general terms. Here are a few examples, as revealed by our study, as well as those from the Cassandra Report, a comprehensive insights report on generations developed by ORC International’s sister company Deep Focus:
- Generation Y: This group prioritises recognition and reward as a key motivator for engagement and wellbeing. With “no such thing as a 9-to-5 work day anymore,” traditionally, this group has viewed a work/life blend versus balance (work is life, life is work). They are willing to put in the time whenever and wherever needed but in return expect to be rewarded or recognised for their contribution. The data reveals that only 18% of this age group think work-life balance is important when it comes to an employer and a mere 6% say flexible hours is key — most probably because the line between work and life is significantly blurred. Employers need to recognise the efforts and reward and recognise as appropriate.
- Generation X: Show me the perks! This group prioritises health benefits and gym membership as part of supporting wellbeing. This traditionally upwardly mobile and work-for-status group knows they work hard and can hold their own in the boardroom, but they want the benefits and extra perks that go with it. Most likely in mid to upper management or even C-suite, they’ve attained financial stability and want the extras to support a well-rounded career and family life. Like Gen Y, this group also views a work/life blend, and after pay, only 18% of this age group are looking for work-life balance and 8% said flexible hours are key.
- Baby Boomers: This group prioritises being treated with respect and having a platform for their voice to be heard. This group works to live and tends to be job loyal. They have put in their time and, regardless of status they’ve attained, believe time builds experience, and they expect a level of respect for what they do and say. Management, regardless if younger than this group, needs to recognise these nuances. And while they may not be today’s social media influencers or the first to take on the latest tablet or iPhone, the baby boomers’ more traditional values combined with experience bode well to mentoring the next generations of employees to come.
Data like this gives organisation some food for thought when dealing with a multigenerational workforce. For example, if your workforce is largely Gen Y, do you have a solid reward system that they understand and accept? If you have baby boomers in your workforce, do you have a way for them to work with the younger generations to provide mentoring and feedback? This type of segmented data gives organisations the business intelligence necessary to tailor benefits, policies, activities, and daily operations so it may prioritise the components of wellbeing that will foster employee engagement and sustainability.
Job enablers in the modern workplace are mobility and real-time communications. The younger generations are used to working this way because social media, chatting, video conferencing, texting, and email have been a part of most — if not all — of their work life. They expect to communicate after traditional 9-to-5 hours — and they often expect their coworkers to be available and responsive as well. Contrast that view with the mindset of a baby boomer who may have trouble adapting to the always-on work environment, and you can see instances where there could be friction. This friction leads to negative workplace relationships, and that, in turn, impacts wellbeing. In order to affect change, organisations must put processes in place that will help to shift the culture. How does this happen? By rewarding productivity, not long work hours. There are cultural factors that shape how and when people work, so those organisational expectations must be set and then communicated in training materials, emails, and the rhetoric of day-to-day meetings. There is a big need to improve organisational communication — our study revealed that only 51% of employees surveyed said their organisation effectively communicates its health and wellbeing offerings. As such, HR managers and leadership can take this feedback and see how it compares to their organisations.
One way to understand who comprises a workforce is through internal surveys. When you take into account who works in the organization, you can then shape the policies and practices to fit their needs. For example, Gen Y expects that gym memberships with yoga and spin classes are a part of the benefits package. For Gen X, carers, and baby boomers, the quality of health insurance will be a priority. Knowing who your employees are gives you the information to meet their needs. Some organisations we work with have fantastic data and solid succession plans, while other organisations struggle to tell us how many employees work on a specific team. We help address those gaps so that HR managers and leadership can play to the organization’s strengths and make the necessary improvements. Data provides big trends, overriding stories, and profiling information, all of which help to paint the big picture of an organisation’s progress. In addition to knowing who the team is, managers must know what motivates individuals. Global Perspectives revealed that 69% of respondents think their organisation respects differences among cultures, working styles, and backgrounds, proving that a flexible approach is key. And while starting with generational commonalities is important, each employee has a unique story. People who take care of their children and parents will have different wellbeing needs than baby boomers who are of retirement age but have no desire to stop working. Managers must spend time talking to employees — to really listen to what they need and communicate those priorities throughout the organisation.
Beyond the paycheck
Pay alone won’t keep employees engaged and sustained. Organisations must foster a culture of wellbeing. Because our study revealed that only 48% of employees surveyed work for organisations where there are policies and practices in place to help them deal with stress, this is a great place to start. Organisations need to create and then communicate their policies and practices so that each person understands the parameters and benefits. This communication — whether via your intranet, employee communities, email, print materials, or formal meetings — will help continually reinforce an organisation’s commitment to wellbeing practices and policies. Also, the perception of leadership being engaged with staff — whether it be via open discussions/town hall forum to getting involved with athletic events (fun runs are popular in the US) to sponsoring wellness clinics where health experts speak on a variety of topics — is another way to foster employee engagement. Each organisation is unique because each workforce within a company is diverse. To foster engagement, it is incumbent upon managers and leadership to address the wellbeing needs of employees, paying attention to the demands of the job as well as the unique needs of each generation.
About Global Perspectives
In its annual Global Perspectives report, ORC International examines the employee perspective of current HR challenges. The global survey of 7,295 employees across 20 countries gathers perceptions of the employee experience in a range of workplaces. Measuring employee engagement levels and key drivers, ORC International explores and identifies differences in the perceptions between key demographic groups compared to the views of leaders with the front line. The report provides a comprehensive narrative of the findings, including insight into strategies for addressing the pertinent issues and viewpoints from our specialist thought leaders. Download our full Global Perspectives Report.